December 31, 2013

Reverse Culture Tremors

I am currently at home in California for the holidays, and there is nothing better than spending Christmas with the family (especially if you get to go to Disneyland).

Disneyland Christmas lights and Sleeping Beauty's castle.

I thought coming back home would be an especially smooth transition seeing how I came home for a visit last summer, but nevertheless I forgot how we do things in California.

While the term shock seems a bit extreme, since I remembered almost immediately, "oh yeah things are different back home," they did take me by surprise. For this lighter, easier transition back to Americanness, the word tremor feels more fitting than shock.

Here is a list of my reverse culture tremor experiences:

1. Strangers are nice and ask you about your life.
My first interaction on American soil was with the border control police officer, and after asking me the required questions, he started to ask me how I liked going to school abroad, if it was very different from American schools, and if my classes were in French. A stranger hadn't asked me about my life since I'd been back in France.

2. Servers are way too friendly and involved in your eating experience.
Along the same lines, I went out to lunch with my parents and our server was just way to nice to us. Plus, the manager even came out and made sure we were having a good dining experience. It was a bit much, but very typical.

3. Tax is not included in the list price.
While at Disneyland, I wanted to buy their famous dill pickle. The list price was $2.99. I got out my five dollar bill and was expecting two dollars and a penny back. Imagine my surprise when suddenly the cost was $3.23! I had forgot tax is added after the fact in my homeland.

4. Things change.
Going back home, despite knowing better, I always think things are going to be just as they were before I left. This is of course not the case, and I was pretty surprised to learn that one of the local radio stations has changed names. Luckily, one thing always stays the same; my great family is always happy to have me home.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Hopefully cultural tremor free.


  1. Great Blog - So glad you are home for the holidays - Dad

  2. I have similar reactions whenever I come home from England!

  3. Hope you enjoyed your holiday break back on home turf. As ever eaten & drank too much for my 3rd Ch'timi Christmas & new year. Doesn't seem that strange any more & getting used to the escargots.France is like another planet, no matter where you were born. Still loving it here in ch'Nord. After 3 years my French grammar & accent still rubbish, but can just about make myself understood. Only real improvement is my French & Ch'ti insults & swearing - usually reserved for use getting on & off the trams. Joyeuses fêtes et heureux, prospère et saine nouvelle année. Dépêcher de rentrer, car nous avons besoin de plus de nous Anglos, que nous sommes tous appelés, peu importe, nous sommes d'Amérique, Royaume-Uni, ou mon cas en Irlande du Nord (même si la moitié de ses habitants à cause de mon Ulster / accent écossais insister je suis écossais ), pour ennuyer les Français, et les faire glisser dans ce siècle. Mdr. Time to open another bottle of La Choulette Ambrée, & teach the puppy dog more bad language in Ulster/Scots dialect. Thank gawd Pascale the love of my life is very tolerant & can translate most of my ramblings. Santé, slainthé!

    1. Joyeux fêtes à toi aussi! Enjoy that delicious beer and good luck in the new year!

  4. I'm looking forward to experiencing some of these tremors when I go home next month!

    1. Yeah it is always nice to go home, even if these little Ah-ha moments make it feel a little less like home, if you know what I mean. Luckily family seems to somehow avoid cultural tremor-ness.


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