Reverse Culture Shock? Really?



[I am in the bread aisle in a Target, and enjoying every minute of it!]

Since moving overseas seven years ago, I've often heard expats describe their reverse culture shock experiences.

After years of shopping in outdoor markets or small, one-room stores, they arrive back home to the US and enter into a Super Target. They are overwhelmed with the variety: 100 different types of cereals, an aisle full of different types of breads, 30 types of mustard. Suddenly, overwhelmed with the extravagance of it all, their eyes fill up with tears and they leave the store with an inner promise that they will conquer the "shock" and return another day.

I remember when I first heard this.

"What, in the world, are they talking about? We grew up here, in the US, and a few years away cannot erase the history we have. This is our home. WE ARE AMERICANS."

I must admit that every time I've returned the US, I have pretty much skipped gleefully into every Target I've encountered. I love the variety. I don't feel overwhelmed, and I thank God that I am American.

It's true that there is not one store in Armenia that comes close to comparing to all the wonderful things that Target can sell to us. When we first arrived in Armenia, we spent months trying to figure out where to buy things in the city. No one from our organization had ever lived in Armenia, so it was our job to figure everything out.

One day after spending the entire day just trying to find a shop where we could buy enough hangers to accommodate our American wardrobe, Nick had a dream while sleeping. In his dream, he had spent days walking the Armenian streets in pursuit of the long lost hangers when suddenly, the clouds cleared, and before him a appeared a beautiful, bright Target. Red bulls eye glittering in the moonlight. Angels' voices singing. The stress had lifted. He was "home" in the aisle where he could choose: wood or plastic hangers? Trouser or shirt hangers? Child or Adult size?

Today, I boarded a plane to come back to the US for just one week. Purpose: Surprise my sister for her 30th birthday in Chicago.

I have not stepped foot on American soil for a while. I almost immediately experienced reverse culture shock.

While I am in Chicago, I will take some time to document some things I notice.

Why share them with the world on my blog?

Well, I realize that the "shocks" I experience also reveal how our American culture is different from the East. I somewhat feel what it's like to be a guest, a foreigner, in this country. What do they go through to learn OUR culture?

I realize that I'm an American, and I do quickly "fall back" into our cultural lines. But, do you really know what those lines are?

Let's see what I feel and experience over the next few days! Chicago, Miracle Mile...Here I come!