Just Hold on We’re Going Home
10 Signs You’re Having Reverse Culture Shock
By Emma White, Syracuse University
Coming home from study abroad means a lot of things. It means returning to friends and family, back to your schools’ campus and the normality of your life before you had this experience. It also means a lot of reminiscing, starting every sentence with “Well when I was abroad” and having your friends hate you for it and probably some boredom. You start to pick up all the differences between the place you’ve called home your whole life and the place you just called home for 3 and a half months.. some good, and some bad.
1. Being totally and completely obsessed with the city you studied abroad in There’s no better way to describe coming back from study abroad than being totally and completely obsessed with the place you studied abroad. Every sentence begins with “When I was in London” and story somehow relates back to that time you were abroad. It’s a trump card thrown on the table because in the story you’re telling, you were abroad. You’ve already planned weekly dinners with all the people you went abroad with and have already told anyone going to your study abroad city next semester that you’re going to be jealous. I know I’ll be that girl liking every Instagram, Facebook post, tweet etc. relating to London in the slightest way.
2. Driving Minus the fact that I was welcomed home with my car not starting and a visit from AAA (obviously the first person I wanted to see when I came back to the States) I was honestly pretty nervous about driving again. Not only was it the longest I had ever gone without driving but that whole driving on the other side of the road thing really sticks in your head after a while. Just as I had finally gotten used to crossing the street not only was I expected to follow a completely opposite set of road rules, but I was going to be behind the wheel while doing so! I felt like I should be issuing a PSA or something, or have a bumper sticker that said “Driver is returning from London” like you would have a “Student Driver” or “Baby on Board” sticker. Needless to say, I’ve managed to stay on the “right” side of the road, and without any fatalities I might add!
3. The Dollar This is something I don’t think anyone returning from a semester, or any significant period of time, is complaining about. Swiping your credit card without the looming transaction fee is a great feeling. There is something comforting about knowing that you’re not just pretending the conversion rate doesn’t exist, only to remember later, but that the price listed is really the price! No strings attached!
4. Food Talk to just about any study abroad student going home, ask them what’s the first thing they’re going to do and the answer will probably in some way involve food. Missing your favorite foods from home is up there right behind missing family and friends. More specifically, ask a study abroad student what they’re going to eat at home and the answer a good amount of the time will involve bagels. Do not underestimate the power of a good bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich. And what goes better with a bagel sandwich than iced coffee. Also high on the list of things I’ve missed from home. More generally though, the availability of ice water in restaurants especially is enough to make me miss America. I swear the English have replaced their body’s need for water with beer, leaving me dehydrated for roughly 3 and a half months.
5. Having a light wallet When I exchanged all of my money back over and finally got rid of my English pound coins, my wallet started to seem unusually light. I’m not sure what the etymology of the word pound is, but if it has anything to do with our weighting system I can see why. Now if I have no cash in my wallet it would seem that well, I’m out of luck. However, in so many instances when I thought I was out of cash I would find 10 pounds in change. I may still have a few of those one pound coins lying around somewhere and I wouldn’t be surprised if out of habit I tried to use it one of these days. Can you blame me?? Reverse culture shock people!
6. No accents It got to the point in London where the accent lost their flare. After a relatively short amount of time, their speech which tends to be extremely fast and a little mumbled, became clear as crystal. And if you had to ask me if the person talking next to me on the tube was English, I probably would not be able to tell you one way or another. After a while, they were just talking.
7. Pointing out Americans A skill you acquire after living in a place like London is the ability to point out as one of my teachers would call “ugly Americans”. You know those people who wear their American flag sweatshirts and fanny packs to a foreign country and wonder why people aren’t over the top excited to have them there. These, even the less obvious ones become easier and easier to spot. When riding the tube and a group of Americans come on yelling and being obnoxious you give them the look of “Ugh you Americans”, only to remember that you’re that group of Americans also.
8. Phrases Certain phrases over there just stick. Half because if you were to say “in line” instead of “queuing” you would get looked at as if you had 3 heads; Half because some of them or just more fun! Cheers isn’t something you say just when toasting someone’s latest accomplishment or a big event, it can be used in the most mundane ways. If you were at a store, which had no relation to alcohol, cheers would be a more than acceptable way to say thanks. These English really know how to brighten up the little things (and find a way to relate it to the pub), my kind of people!
9. Options The struggle that exists in America of not knowing what to get for dinner, ice cream or even cereal rarely exists in London. “35 flavors of Fro-yo” does not exist in Europe, instead there are two, and you better hope you like original tart or the other flavor they’re specialing that month. You want a specific type of cereal you say? Well I hope you like Special-K or Frosties (the UK version of Frosted Flakes) because with the exception of a few others, those are the options. For some this could be a nightmare but for others it may just limit your time spent in a grocery store. The sight of a grocery cart filled to the brim of various chips, snacks and other items is basically unheard of. In fact, I’m not sure I saw a grocery cart for over 3 months.
10. One stop shopping This may be the most American thing about me (besides a love for iced coffee and Dunkin Donuts) but having a place to buy toothpaste, a snack and a DVD was definitely taken for granted before I went abroad. Having to get those three items in London would have seemed like a daunting task and one which would have taken much longer than any imaginable trip to Target or Stop and Shop.
You expect to have to adjust to the place you’re studying abroad but you don’t expect to have to adjust to coming back home.