Tuesday Topic: Going back to the US after adapting to your host culture

Chrysti in England asked this question in the comments of the last post, and I thought it was a great one for this week’s Tuesday Topic: How do you handle going back to the US after adapting to living in your host culture? I have found it to be challenging for the first couple weeks or so because people tend to think I’m being different on purpose!

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)


5 Responses to “Tuesday Topic: Going back to the US after adapting to your host culture”

  1. 1 Ashley L January 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I agree with you that those first couple of weeks especially are hard as you try to remember the various cultural norms! People around me have been a bit more shy perhaps and haven’t necessarily mentioned my doing things differently, but I certainly struggle a lot with feeling very out of place! One tiny example was on a recent trip where I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to bus my own table at Starbucks! I know that sounds so silly (of course you bus your own table!) but I couldn’t see a place to put dirty dishes and totally forgot that I was supposed to pass my plate back to the barrista at the bar. I felt so awkward trying to figure out what to do! That is a tiny little thing, but there are always so many moments like that!

    One thing that I have done, even though people haven’t outright mentioned my new-found awkwardness, is just to laugh with those around me and tell them that I am in the midst of a strange transition of remembering how to live in my own culture. I’ve tried to explain to friends and family that after striving so hard to fit into my host culture overseas, it takes me a bit of time to get back in the groove. I also think it is good to be open with the fact that our experience overseas really has changed us. Our friends and family back home have been changed by their life circumstances since we’ve left, and we’ve changed too! A lot of times we get thrown off when we expect people back home to have stayed the same and they haven’t, and I think it throws them off when we change, despite the fact that all of us change over time, no matter if we live overseas or not.

  2. 2 Chrysti H January 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I’ve found the language to be a big thing the last time I was in the US. It had been a year since I first moved to England, and surprisingly British English is very different from American English. For about two weeks or so it was a struggle to think of the American words for things like the hob, trainers and double cream (stove, athletic shoes and heavy whipping cream).

    I ended up apologising a lot when I would slip British words in. I told my friends and family that I’m not trying to do it on purpose… it just happens because I’ve lived in England for a year now. I also tried to laugh about it when friends would tease me for “sounding British.” I also had to make a concerted effort to switch back to American English for my time in the US. It was not easy at first!

  3. 3 Shilo January 12, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Rest extra and give yourself lots of grace! Each time we go back something new strikes me, and I can never predict what it will be. Just take it in stride, there’s no right or wrong.

  4. 4 Ashley L January 12, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Well, if it’s any consolation Chrysti, I wouldn’t bug you about it! I’d think you’re cool! =) I was on a team with a British friend for a year and got an absolute kick out of it and found it very hard myself to keep from speaking a bit of British English with her influence. But it would have been really weird if I started to speak British English in Russia on a team with mostly Americans, so i tried my best to resist the very strong temptation to use words like swimming costume, etc. =)

    And I totally agree with Shilo about giving yourself rest and grace. Good word, Shilo.

  5. 5 Phyllis January 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    At least British English and American English are basically the same language! I have a terrible time not using Russian words when I speak to Americans. The last time an American visitor asked me how many children I have, I could only stare at him for a while, and then finally hold up four fingers. I feel very limited when I can’t throw in Russian words to what I’m saying in English. And that was just answering simple question!

    I’ve also been trying to think if there’s some way I can kind of catch myself up before the next time we go to the states. Last time I was completely lost in so many conversations, just because I didn’t know anything about new technology, TV shows, current events and such. Any suggestions?

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