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culture shock in America



I’ve heard it said many times that the biggest culture shock of all is returning to your own country after an extended time away. For me, having lived and traveled nearly 20 years overseas thus far, Reverse Culture Shock has hit!! Let me count the ways:


BIG SIZE… everything!




What’s big? Big drinks / big meals / big convenience stores / big candy bars / big people / big land / big houses / big trucks … America, it’s BIG all over the place.


typical empty street Stateside…


2.  Where is everyone?


I’m staying in a very very large residential area. It stretches for blocks upon blocks, for miles in fact. But I rarely SEE ANYONE. Where are the people who live here? Where are pedestrians? In fact, where is anyone? I sometimes wonder if a lethal virus has swept through and wiped out everyone.
Further afield, out of the neighborhood, ‘in the world’ it’s nearly the same. While cycling along the county’s 35 mile Pinellas Trail, I do occasionally pass a few people but not many. Cycling along the roads, the beach, in the city I do share the road with some cars, not loads, but I still see relatively few actual people around.


Having just arrived in the US from Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan this lack of people is truly ODD. It’s the result, no doubt, of low population density. Which brings home the fact that SE Asia is a highly populated place. Apparently I’d forgotten to notice for the past several years. In Asia there are simply lots of people around. All the time. Everywhere. Just is.


my niece’s 21-yr-old friend was murdered while pregnant!


3.  Someone got murdered AGAIN?! VIOLENCE:


The 1st week I was back in the States I heard a news report- A Man Was Fatally Shot By a Robber While Working At A Small Convenience Store Yesterday. What?!


Last week- On Jan. 8Th, in Tucson, Arizona a young man opened fire at a political speech, Shooting A Federal House Representative In The Head and killing 6 people including a 9-year-old girl and a Federal judge. Really.


This week- A 21-year-old friend of my niece’s was shot in the stomach by her ex-boyfriend, killing both her and the baby she was carrying. The murderer then carried the dead girl up to his room and laid in bed with her! Sick but true.


WHAT?!!!! Are you F..ing kidding me?!!! You mean people here have to worry about getting shot? And killed?? THAT is not even something that crosses anyone’s mind the places I’ve been living in Asia for 20 years. Getting killed working at a convenience store?! Getting shot at a small public political speech?! Having a pregnant woman shot in the stomach?!


I am simply astounded. Not the life I’m used to immersing myself in.


Chilly Chilly!


4.  I’M COLD !


This pesky weather factor I was well aware of before embarkeding on my journey back to the States. My body LOVES HEAT. My most comfortable temps are 85-95F / 30-35C. I like it. My body and respiratory system like it. Tropics forever for me.


So I knew that even southerly Florida in winter was gonna be TOO COLD for me. And it is. I’m now dealing with 55- 65F / 12-18C. EH ??? ouch!! Sometimes the temp rises to 20C or falls to just 2C. Either way it’s WINTER to me.


Unfortunately, knowledge of the fact does NOT make it more comfortable or easy to deal with. Almost every day I get cold, certainly when I go outside, but often inside too. Luckily I do have a heater in my room, so I can stay warm at night sleeping. I also brought a huge wardrobe of warm clothes for inside, outside, cycling. I’ll just have to layer up and deal with it! At least it’s not BELOW zero!



Other sad facts of living in the cold:


I’ve already lost my tan. 12 years of tan, POOF, gone in a mere month.


My skin is confused about the sudden and total wrap-up. It’ used to AIR. SUN. CIRCULATION.


It’s hard to keep tabs on my fitness level while my body is constantly hidden under layers of clothes.


Cycling is nearly a torture: not only is the air cold, but somehow I’m ALWAYS every time riding into a cold headwind. Holy freezing! What’s up with that?!


Luckily this is temporary else I might fall into depression. That could be an actual physical / chemical condition, not just emotional- Vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunshine. Luckily I’m a happy person and not prone to fall under the sway.



5.  My nose is bleeding


OUCH! DRY AIR! I’d forgotten that particular detail: low humidity, which is even more particularly dry inside heated homes in winter. Immediately upon arrival in the States, and for 2 weeks, every time I’d blow my nose I’d have a bloody tissue; I’d wake up in the middle of the night with severe inner nose pain from the dry air. I’d have to constantly wet my nostrils and tried several ‘rescue techniques’ including rubbing chapstick up my nostrils and wearing a bandana over nose and mouth to capture the humidity from my warm re-breathed air until I’d feel I was suffocating from lack of fresh oxygen. Even now my poor nose is bleeding from time to time.


I checked the humidity facts online here vs. SE Asia: Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali all 75%-95% humidity. Ahhh, nice moist air.  Florida right now 48%. ohhh.. half. So there you have it, my nose is accustomed to double the humidity here.



6.  I must be a freak- I travel. Eh?


Thus far, the response I receive from most Americans when I tell them about my life of travel, is more or less hostility.  I can literally watch them back off, close up and treat me with distain. I assume they feel intimidated? Or find me un-American?


It’s a FAR FAR CRY from the responses I get daily when meeting people in Asia. Both locals and travelers seem happy, friendly and excited to meet me and even more so when they hear about my travel life. I’m used to people LIKING ME for my travels. NOT treating me like a ‘bad guy’ STRANGE.


Knock, knock… Lash, can you talk??


7.  Uber Privacy, ya!


People knock on my door here when they want to talk to me. Even my relatives. Even if my door is open. And they don’t enter until-unless I verbally invite them in. In addition, as a prerequisite to talking they first want to know IF they’re interrupting me, IF I have time to talk to them before they start a conversation, or even ask a question. It all seems SO POLITE. I have to chuckle…


What I’m used to in Asia is people barging into rooms, blurting out questions and conversations at me regardless of whether I’m writing, working online, reading, sleeping or even already talking to someone else.  Asians interrupt, assume you’re available to talk to them any time and every time. They don’t see anything you’re doing of equal importance to talking to them.


Actually just a  short time ago that was another continual annoyance and surprise to me. Now that I’m back to ‘respect for privacy.’ of time. and space, it all seems sooo ODD. But good odd.


everyone just ignores me! hmph.


8. Nobody cares  ?


Suddenly, strangely, nobody’s asking me, “Where you going?” It’s sooo ODD.


 Ironic too. Just one short month ago I was continually annoyed at the constant stream of repeated ‘nosy’ interrogations, even by stranger:
“Where you going?” “Where are you from?” “Where you going?” “Where are you from”“ Where do you stay?” “Where you going?” “Where are you from” “Are you alone? “ “ Where do you stay?” “Where are you from” “Where are you from” “Where are you from”


Then, BLAM, return home, and NO QUESTIONS. BY ANYONE. Not even family. The initial affect was feeling that nobody cares about me. Then I remembered how much I hated people always ‘getting into my business’ by asking where I was going. With that realization I quickly got accustomed to nobody paying any attention to me, American style.


These are just some of the most obvious ‘shocks’ I’ve been dealing with on my Stateside visit.
For a change of pace next week I’ll elaborate on what’s GREAT about my trip. Read that post: Flip Side of Culture Shock in America


Lash, reporting from the road


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  1. Aaron & Candace

    I completely agree Lash. I suffer the same thing. Also the political environment has changed so much. Hence the reason I'm not going to move back any time soon.

  2. LASH

    Interesting to hear others have had the same experiences! And very interesting to experience your own country/ people from such a different angle. I also have no intention or interest in living Stateside! Just passing through, thank you! cheers ,Lash

  3. Suzy

    I always find adjusting to the dry air of Colorado hard after coming back from places like Italy. I usually have to load up on the moisturizer at night, but that's not the case when I travel most places.It's funny what you miss and don't miss.

  4. LASH

    Hi Suzy,

    Oh, nice to hear I'm not the only one who's more comfortable in humid than dry climate. I thought I was the only American who prefers humidity! cool.

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