Reverse Culture Shock
So a little while ago I came “home” to America to visit my parents and grandparents and friends from high school for christmas. The plan was to spend two weeks with my mother and grandmother in Florida and the rest of the time in Milwaukee Wisconsin where I was born and raised to visit my father and step family. After a long and rigorous semester that encompassed many stressors and tragedies I wanted to come home more than anything. It wasn't until two days before my departure from Paris that I realized: I don't want to leave. I wanted to go but I didn't want to leave. This realization began with the fact that my boyfriend took a 40 minute train ride to come see me in between his classes and exams even though he could only stay 15 minutes and then had to leave again. But he came to say goodbye before I left, and it was the saddest 15 minutes of my life. Now, we haven't been dating very long but the thought that soon we’d both be breaking from our busy schedules and finally getting some free time and not be able to spend it with each other was heartbreaking. I wanted to stay and have more adventures.
Anyone who has ever traveled from Europe over to America knows that its much harder than the flight from America to Europe. For whatever reason, it takes longer. Not only that, but it feels about 5 hours longer than it’s listed to be. I arrived at the airport in Charles de Gaulle in Paris about 3 hours early because I thought it would take me forever to get through luggage drop-off and security. I was wrong and was left with a mind-numbingly dull 2 and a half hour wait. When the plane began boarding, I felt relief that finally something was about to happen. I wanted something to happen, anything really, so that I would have something to write about. Of course, if there is a God in this universe than it surely was mocking my wish. Just as I thought I was boarding my plane, I noticed the ramp descending downwards towards the ground and not towards the plane I was led to believe was ours. The line was long and we staggered slowly in the line down the stairs and out into the bitter cold of the tarmac. Here, we were packed onto buses and transported past what seemed like the entire airport. The bus ride took about 30-40 minutes, (no joke), But we finally made it to a huge plane residing in the middle of a dead and grassy field. In all, it took us longer to board and even longer in the plane waiting for our turn to fly, so much so that our flight to Detroit was about two hours late. And just my luck, my layover in Detroit happened to be two hours as well! (Also my luck, the plane contained about 20 babies, no exaggeration, who were not the most pleasant humans I have ever met on this planet). After landing, I was met with other travel abroad students who also had connecting flights, who I leapt through Detroit airport with imitating a pack of gazelle.
Because it was the first moment I touched ground in the US coming from another country, I had to go through customs before catching my second flight to Orlando. After customs, I had to pick up my luggage AGAIN from the luggage belt and recheck it, followedfinally by going through security once again. If you’ve ever been to Detroit’s airport you’ll know that the terminal is really fricking long. Proud to say I ran the whole length of it in under 5 minutes to catch my next plane mid-boarding; sweat dripping down my back.
I arrived in Orlando at close to midnight, and was treated to Denny’s by my mom.
Immediately it came as a shock to me at how many people are overweight in America compared to Europe. Now I’m not trying to say anything against people who are over-weight and I understand that some people are just built that way or have a health issue, but theres a difference between a genuine health problem and a health problem that they create themselves. In America, it is more socially acceptable to eat junk food and sit and watch TV 24/7. Whereas in Europe, eating healthier is more accessible and promoted and genuinely sought after. Not to mention that in Paris specifically the walking alone is enough to keep you in shape. It was probably THE biggest difference I noticed when returning home, that and the fact that staff in places like restaurants and airports were a tad more rude than in France. Or perhaps I’m generalizing too much, yet I come face to face with it everyday so there must be some sort of distinction in what I say.
One day into America and I was already depressed. I felt myself reverting into an old high school persona as I drove around seeing sights connected to bad memories. Everything I had worked hard to become while in Paris suddenly disappeared and I was my anxious and timid person I always had been before leaving. I didn't think it would affect me this much.
Even now as I’ve returned to my home in Paris I am struggling to regain what I had worked on initially in the fall, and have suffered from it in my relationships with others. For whatever reason my home in America now seems toxic and as much as I love the people there, they don't seem to understand my need for where I feel most comfortable in my own skin, as they will never leave and venture out from that place.
And honestly I don't know if they ever will understand.
Perhaps I’m generalizing too much once again.