For the second time in the past 2.5 years, I made the flight home to the land of LALA, mostly because lots of my friends are maturing at a more rapid pace than I and are bearing children, but also to see lots of lovely familiar faces (but that jibber jabber is for another post).
I’ve been home since I’ve left, and that was after an even longer period of time than this time, however this trip actually felt quite a smidge different than the first. I’m not quite sure why, but it did. It was mostly in the realm of culture shocking my pants off in the weirdest and most microscopic ways. While you may laugh, these are real things that made me feel like a foreigner in my own land of reign. Super weird to you, and even super-er weirder to moi.
Landing In America and Still No English.
For some odd reason I had a layover in Dallas on my jaunt home to LA. Why that makes sense, I have no idea, but I did. After getting through security I had to empty my bladder so I went to the restroom. While I was doing my business, all I heard being spoken around me was Spanish. I know I’m in Tejas, but it was so bizarre to me. Here I was in my own country, land of (obviously many languages, but…) English, and still none in sight, aside from the TSA people that were so cheery and talkative. I’m so used to Korean making up the white noise in the background of my life these days, and when a different language was being spoken my ears perked up, yet still no super understandable cigar to be found.
Fondling Money & Pressure To Order At Starbucks.
This was perhaps my 2nd day home and the oddest of the odd in my book. We’ve got Starbucks aplenty in the Koko, though I actually don’t go much, unless it’s the holidays or I’m homesick or I’m with my lassie, Veny, and we only eat and drink American things together. It’s our thing.
Well, I was home and I really had a hankering for a Starbucks visit. I’m usually a weird person at the counter on any given day because I usually always order 1 of 3 things, but sometimes I feel like I’m gonna be spontaneous, and then I’m not, then there I am standing there trying to make up my mind, then spit out a wild order of “I’ll have a tall cafe latte. Oh! nonfat!” (Nonfat milk is like nonexistent in Korean coffee shops, so I forget).
This time I still ordered my nonfat tall latte, but that wasn’t the issue. Rather it was the swiftness of the process that caught me off guard. I felt so pressured from the second I stepped in front of the girl taking my order, to blurting out my order to fumbling with my dolla bills. For some reason the fact that I had dollars in my hand opposed to wons made me nervous, then throw in coins. Eeeesh! It was weird. I’m just used to muttering “tall capay latte” and it still sometimes getting lost in translation just because I’m a white face staring back at the scared-of-foreigners Korean face, and then forking over some wons, and it just being an all around slower process.
But like, 2 minutes later my beverage was ready. I was shocked by the efficiency. In Korea, there will be like 5 people making one drink and it’ll still take a year to receive. Blown away, off I happily walked with a puzzled 5 minute encounter giggling in my brain.
When Collin and I had our rendezvous, I had this feeling reassured when he told me some of his most uncomfortable moments upon returning to the States involved paying for things. Phew!
Another Starbucks Soiree.
I went to another Starbucks with sista, this one being the little setup in the local Vons. Much like Cori made fun of me for saying “bye bye” to everyone while we were in Thailand, Jacquie made fun of my way of ordering my tall iced Chai tea latte (one of my 3 staples). Apparently I was talking to the barista like he was a moron and I needed to speak as if I wasn’t in Asia anymore and he was in fact a capable human being. Well, apparently I didn’t realize I was talking in a drawn out dialect. It’s become a way of life that is unbeknownst to me at times. Adjustments people!
Supermarket Window Shopping.
The morning I went to the DMV to renew my drivers license (I’ve got a great new picture, BTW, and I no longer weigh the 105 lbs. I never was), was also the one day my mother let me cruise around in her vehicle. I took the liberty of showing myself around the neighborhood and those adjacent to see the new popups since I’ve been gone. I was pleasantly surprised. But that’s all besides the point.
I took a trip to the local Trader Joe’s, because I miss it so, and I just have a love for supermarkets. They’re actually one of my favorite things to see when I travel because they’re so unique everywhere you go. Another aside, sorry. Well, I went to Trader Joe’s and I just wandered the aisles to look at all the things that I just can’t get in Korea. This was my preliminary visit to Trader Joe’s. I had to mentally prepare myself for treats to bring back with me. I told this to my sister and she thought I was so weird. I literally just wandered, read labels that don’t require me to Google Translate and checked out the new delicacies that have been added to the shelves.
I definitely felt weird whilst doing this and then exiting without dropping a penny. It’s the little things, like being able to read a label and know exactly what a product is before purchasing.
Nail Talk Jibber Jabber.
On mine and Kayla’s day of wandering in the sun, we also went to get our nails did, something I haven’t actually had done since I was in Vietnam 2 years ago and got them done for $2. I’ve become my own personal manicurist and pedicurist and I thoroughly enjoy it.
In nail salons people sit and talk talk talk, mostly about how the nail polish shade they’ve chosen is going to change their outlook on life for the week, or the latest celebrity gossip, and this was the first time I was acutely aware of all the chatter going on in my vicinity. As I said before, I basically swim through the white noise of Korean being spoken everywhere, so actually being able to fully understand everything being spoken around me made me so aware of how stupid most people sound. I’m obviously guilty of the celebrity gossip because I love it, but seriously, most people just need to STFU because they sound like idiots.
No Crayon Pop.
Only mah peeps in Korea will get that play above there. Anyways…
Korean magazines looks like a crayon box vomited all over paper with flashy bubble print and exclamation points everywhere and guys with makeup adorning cover after cover. There’s also very rarely American magazines in sight over here. So, while Jacquie and I were strolling through Westwood, we passed by a newsstand. I had to stop and peruse a few because I was just so excited to see American magazines in English and without the Crayola effect.
I also had a couple incidents where I couldn’t put down the Us Weekly or People at the check-out counter. There’s just something special about having the Hot or Not, Who Wore It Best? gossip in your hands as opposed to a link on the interwebs.
I’m sure there were more exciting culture shockers that popped up, like just how capable of eating cheese for every meal I really am, but these are the ones that were super apparent to me, and when I told others about them they couldn’t help but laugh in my honor. Living abroad is weird, but returning back from abroad is even weirder. Are there any subtle but mind-blowing reverse culture shocks you’ve experienced?! Do tell, because I’m sure it’s happened here too!
10 thoughts on “Culture Shocking My Pants Off In Reverse”
Hilarious stories! When I returned to the U.S. after living abroad for over a year, I found the my English had degenerated into the most basic combination of subject and simple verb. Imagine the shock of the taxi drivers when a white blonde girl says in a perfectly American accent, “I go airport”.
hahaha That’s awesome! I was at dinner with my old boss and co-worker and told him I was curious about the “deeperness” of the project he was telling us about. I then said “I know that’s not a word, but I can’t think of the word now, but you get it.” Their reply…. “depth?” lol. It’s amazing how your English goes to shit once you’re over here!
hahaha omg the part about the supermarkets is me too!! I love going to supermarkets in general, but when I go back home I just feel so overwhelmed with all the choices! And I need to go on a pre-trip to take notes haha. Great post, I’ll be doing a similar one when we go back to the US in a few months! 😛
i know! the choices and being able to know exactly what something is hahaha. i’ll look forward to your’s when you do! 🙂
Haha going back to the US for you after so long in Korea must be very strange. I’m looking forward to seeing what its like going back to London again. I can’t wait to hear English around be again! (or other languages, like you did) =D
i know, being away from it for so long makes hearing it again like information overload. just talking everywhere lol
I can so relate to this! I’m actually home right now and finding so much of this rings true. I felt really overwhelmed by using coins the other day. And to be honest, I’m putting almost everything on my debit card to avoid cash. I’ve been away for 3 years now and I kind of feel lost when I come home. It’s so bizarre! Oh and now that I’ve been around meters for so long, I’m so confused by feet!!!
yea, you know, last time i went home i put everything on my debit card, but for some reason i didn’t this time, maybe that’s why it felt so different. and it’s so true. i went to meet friends and i had to make sure i was following her while we were driving because i just couldn’t remember where some things were and then my phone wasn’t working so i felt so helpless lol. it’s def a bit of a trip! i kinda felt the same way you did about meters about celsius. i switched my temp on my phone to celsius so when i went to tell ppl how cold it was back here i wasn’t speaking in fahrenheit and they were so confused lol
I loved this- it brought back memories of my reverse culture shock when I left Korea ( after not being back to the UK for 2 years) a few years back! I definitely went through so much weirdness. I remember going to the cinema and I guess I kind of forgot where I was. As I came out of the cinema I was suddenly hit by all this loud speaking in English (I could understand everything agh!) and all these white people walking around. It was really disorientating! I guess I got over it all and life in England became normal again..then I moved back to Asia..!
Hi Joella! Sorry, I read this when I was running around and totally forgot to respond! Whoops! But yea, and it’s weird when you tell people about the minor things that seem so big to you they kinda look at you like you’re cray cray, but reverse culture shock is a weird thing! I’m glad other people can relate 🙂