Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Reverse Cross-cultural Experience

Ellie and I have been back in Vienna just two days, and already I feel settled in and back to a normal routine. I'm still catching up on laundry...but other than that, I've slipped back into speaking German, navigating public transportation, reconnecting with friends and other daily routines.

Being back is giving me a chance to reflect on my recent trip back to the States. It had been over two years since I stepped foot on American soil and longer than that since I'd been back to Connecticut, my home state. Overall, we had a very wonderful and special time visiting with my family. Ellie warmed up to my parents more quickly than expected (she has some stranger anxiety) and it was really fun having all of the cousins together for Halloween.

There were, however, some funny and awkward "reverse culture shock" experiences I had, especially the first few days. Here are a few:

  • I had to get used to hearing English everywhere I went. When I first got off the plane, I didn't even notice that a gentleman was talking to me because he spoke with an accent and I just assumed it was a foreign language. I wasn't used to being able to understand everyone around me! 
  • The sales people in the U.S. are SO helpful and friendly. I have gotten so used to being ignored by sales people or waiters or having to work hard to get a question answered, it really threw me off to have sales people approached me and genuinely seem to want to be helpful. They were so friendly, it almost started to annoy me! I thought, "I just want to get my shopping done. Why does everyone keep asking me if I need help?" At Trader Joe's, I asked the salesman if they sold a particular product and he responded, "No, I'm so sorry, we don't. But thank you for asking!" What?! Thank you?! I almost laughed out loud.
  • The amount of choices at the store in America is huge and, for me, a bit overwhelming. I can definitely see the benefits of having lots of choice - you have access to almost anything your heart could possibly desire. But on the flip side, finding what you want amidst so many options takes a lot longer. In Vienna, I can get my shopping done a lot faster because I have less to choose from and I typically know what to expect on the shelves. I would have been completely lost wandering around Stop 'n' Shop and Costco without my mother's help!
  • They give you bags at the grocery store and bag your groceries for you! I honestly forgot about this.
  • Worshiping in English isn't quite the same as it used to me. I thought that maybe being back in an English-speaking church, where I could sing songs in my native tongue and hear preaching in English, would be refreshing and perhaps even emotional. However, it surprised me that I actually really missed speaking and hearing German.  I had trouble focusing on the sermon because I didn't have to concentrate as hard to understand the words, and I missed singing songs in German. It wasn't the reaction I expected.
  • A suburban life can be very sedentary. Living in the city, I am very used to doing a lot of walking. I love that it keeps me active, even when I don't have the time or motivation to exercise. However, during my visit home, I went from sitting on the couch to sitting in the car, to sitting somewhere else. I missed all of the walking! Towards the end, I took a few walks with Ellie just to get out of the house. (At one point, I asked my mom if I should walk to the grocery store, and she assured me it was too far away. I guess I wasn't used to judging distances that I normally drive!)
  • "Pumpkin spice" is out of control. Apparently, this flavor is so popular that any food product that could possibly be made with pumpkin spice is marketed to the American consumer. I found this hilarious, but also a bit enjoyable. I saw pumpkins spice english muffins, candy corn, coffee syrup, M&Ms, muffins, beer, and swirl bread....and the list could go on!
  • Halloween. Enough said. In Vienna, some people have Halloween parties or celebrations, but rarely. It was fun to dress Ellie up in a cute costume and to parade around house to house for candy. It definitely brought back lots of fun childhood memories.
I could probably keep writing, but I'll wrap up there. It was a great visit and I was so thankful for the chance to visit. Here are some photo highlights for you to enjoy!

Playing in the leaves. (This was short-lived, because I was paranoid about ticks!)

Storytime with Grammy

Meeting goats at the petting zoo

Making a clay impression of Ellie's foot as a Christmas ornament at the Clay Date


Ellie and her oldest cousin, Kylie

All 7 cousins at the pumpkin patch

Ellie and cousin Tyler

The cousins in their Halloween costumes

My brother gets creative, carving his pumpkin with a drill

Ellie touches the Atlantic Ocean (well, the Long Island Sound...but they're connected)

Hanging out with Aunt Crista

The lit pumpkins

Hiking and enjoying the fall colors

Ellie and Grampy