Friday, May 2, 2014

My Top Reverse Culture Shocks Part 1

If you've ever moved back to your home country after spending a long time abroad, you're bound to encounter some reverse culture shock. Suddenly, your own country is unfamiliar and foreign and your expat life seems normal. So after two months back home in America, here are my biggest reverse culture shocks!

1. So. Many. CHOICES

Fionn and I are constantly amazed by the variety of choices here in America. Shopping for tortilla chips becomes overwhelming as I browse a gigantic aisle containing every kind of chip imaginable. If you are hungry and want to eat out, there are 20 different restaurants right outside your door. Want throw pillows? Every color and style is right here.

Walking into a place like Wal Mart still boggles my mind a little bit. It also begs the question, do we need all this?

2. Life is so much more convenient

Convenience is one of the tops words that springs to mind when I go to describe America. You can get everything drive through, from food to ATMs to dry cleaning. If you need something, a big box store probably has it. If you're willing to pay, someone is probably willing to do it for you.

This is such a contrast to Germany. There, if we needed something specific we either had to try to find it online or lie, beg, steal or cheat to get it locally, like during last year's heat wave and all the stores sold out of fans and we ended up sharing one with a neighbor. If you wanted something outside the norm, offering to pay more wasn't going to get you anywhere. For example, I once called a Vietnamese restaurant and asked to order summer rolls (the tasty shrimp and greens rolls wrapped in clear rice paper). The German guy taking my order promptly responded, "No! That's too hard to make. Pick something else!"

Dreams of delicious summer rolls were dashed that day

Situations like that made me really creative, but it also made me really annoyed. I appreciate the convenience of life in America.

3. There is so much water in American toilet bowls

Ok, this is weird, but this still freaks me out a little. WHY is there so much water in American toilet bowls? Can't we design a more efficient toilet system??

4. No one recycles.

I hated the complicated German recycling system, and I CAN NOT believe I'm saying this, but I do kinda miss recycling. As annoying as German recycling rules were, I felt better about separating my trash and recycling it rather than just chucking everything into the trash. I'm actually investigating recycling options in our new town.

5. Driving in America is much calmer than driving in Germany

After driving on the Autobahn for 2 years, I have to say-Germany has some really aggressive drivers. Tailgating, flashing lights, zooming around to pass and nearly hitting your car...I HATED driving in Germany. Since I've been back in the States, I've done multiple road trips and even driven through big cities like Atlanta. I haven't yet encountered the kind of aggressive, stressful driving that was the norm in Germany. 
It is SO nice!


Fionn and I are off to a wedding this weekend for one of our good friends we met in Bavaria (it's being held here in Georgia!). But I'll be continuing from Reverse Culture Shock list on Monday!

Happy weekend, everyone :)


  1. That's interesting. I hate driving in Germany too but I always thought it would be even worse in the U.S. as the cities are just bigger there which means more traffic and more stress. Interesting to know that that's not the case ;)

  2. I can feel you on all of these! The biggest thing like you said is the convenience thing. Its amazing how much more convenient everything is in the US versus Europe. Regarding the toilet bowl amount of water- you can adjust this to save water. All you have to do is add volume into the back of the toilet (like a brick or something) because it fills based off volume. Not sure of the exact process, but I know it has been accomplished at my house by my hubby!

  3. I find driving in America more pass you from every direction on the highway and they're constantly switching lanes! I know exactly what you mean about all the choice in supermarkets - when we first moved here it took me ages to shop! And as for the convenience...I'm kind of getting used to all that now. Maybe I'll miss it if we ever leave?

  4. I have only been on the Autobahn (not driving myself) twice, and both times were pretty terrifying, especially since it's the "wrong side of the road" for me, so even just normal over taking seemed wreckless, and merging onto the main road was so confusing because it felt like we were pulling into the fast lane. America does sound pretty convenient - drive through dry-cleaning?? But I'm surprised that there isn't much recycling there!

  5. Number 1 and number 2 have definitely been the two biggest for me! I love the conveniences, but I have been freaking out a bit about the choices. A trip to the grocery store tends to lead to a tiny bit of anxiety.

  6. Interesting list! As I'm currently abroad, I just know reverse culture shock is REALLY going to be tough for me already. I can relate most with #1... I can't even go to the fancy grocery stores here without wanting to cry because who needs to spend an hour looking through aisle upon aisle at the grocery store? Give me a LIDL or Aldi any day :)

  7. The excessive amounts of choice are what get me too. I find myself feeling ridiculously overwhelmed by all the choice and have stopped shopping a couple of times because I can't handle it!

  8. I'm moving back to the States in October, and I'll be posting my own list of things I'll miss, things I won't miss, and things I'm looking forward to. I disagree with you on point #3 though: I'm looking forward to American toilets again. Here's why:

    The higher water level in the bowl means there's less drop height when doing one's business. The reduction in drop height means less splash-back.

    I *hate* the splash-back in German toilets. So many levels of "Ew."