Sometimes home doesn’t feel so much like home – back in the StatesBeijing, Summer 2010

It’s been about a full three weeks since I came back to the U.S. from China, and I’ve actually had a harder time getting readjusted to life in the states than I did adjusting to life in China.  Culture shock is real, and so is reverse culture shock!  Who would have ever thought I would think it weird when lines are orderly like they tend to be here, or when people actually respect your personal space and don’t crowd, or when a public bus is mostly empty. 

I didn’t think too much of these differences when I went to China.  It might be because when you go to a foreign country, you expect everything to be different from home.  I definitely told myself to expect a lot of big changes, so maybe that’s why the differences in China didn’t seem as shocking.  When I went home, however, I went back thinking things would return to normal, that I would be used to everything no problem.  I have to say though, I was more than a little sad about leaving China; I love the little daily challenges that you face there, from something as simple as ordering your food to a more challenging school project.  I thought: the U.S. and its culture is the norm for me, so I can say goodbye to all the daily occurrences that made life in China so interesting for me.  I was wrong. 

On the flight back I kept myself motivated by thinking about the things I was looking forward too rather than what I was going to miss, and one of the first things I came up with was drinking a beverage with real ice in it.  (In China, even in the merciless summer heat and humidity, most beverages are drunk hot because boiled water is cleaner.)  As the flight attendants came around I asked for cranberry juice with ice, and proceeded to drink it as fast as I could, thirsty for a taste of home.  Unfortunately, as soon as the ice cold liquid hit my mouth I realized just how weird it was for me to ingest something that cold.  For the next half hour after drinking, all I could think about was how cold and weird my stomach felt.  It may seem like something trivial to most, but to me a glass of ice had become my enemy.  Welcome to reverse culture shock. 

Even now I find myself reluctant to let go of habits that I had picked up in China, and I don’t always see much reason to.  Thanks to this summer, I go to bed earlier, eat more veggies, as well as many other changes that I find so difficult to describe.  How I have changed and my experiences in China will always, and I think this is for the best, be a part of me.  I want to go back to China soon, and until then, I’ll still be drinking cups of hot water, hold the ice please.

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