Culture Shock: Back in The United States

Culture Shock: a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation (Webster Dictionary).

This is hilarious. I can’t believe I’m addressing this. When I came back from the Dominican Republic a few years ago I remember the study abroad organization sent me an email warning me about “culture shock”.  At that time I was going to class walking a little slower, carefree, and not worried if I was late – because I was so used to having that laid back attitude you’ll find in the Dominican Republic. But that was about it as far as “culture shock” was concerned, and I was loving it.

When I came back from Dubai, about a month ago now… I was tired for a week. Trying to fix my schedule. Then, my sleep was back on track and I felt happy.

But there were weird anxieties I guess I wasn’t expecting. For example, driving… Why does that give me anxiety?!  The roads in Dubai are the same as they are here! Going to the store and talking to the lady checking out my groceries?! What?! Hi.

Anyone who knew me before I left for Dubai knows this is strange. I talk to everyone! And I like it! I drive 18 hours home to Minnesota! This doesn’t give ME anxiety!

I assumed I was going to experience culture shock at some point, after all I was out of the country for a year and a half… But I didn’t know exactly how it was going to affect me.  Or how noticeable it was going to be. The socially awkward, scared of the check out lady, and driving to the gas station fears were unexpected.  And annoying.

I determined these anxieties come from the difference in people. America vs. Dubai. They want to talk to you here. And say hi. And say have a nice day. And what are your plans for the weekend? And have a good night. They scare me.

This wasn’t happening in Dubai. You don’t talk to the waiter, or the cashier at the grocery store – because there’s not that same personable feeling you’ll find in America. People aren’t bothered to talk to you and if they do it’s probably something you don’t want to hear. And if you try to talk to them, they get confused –> frustrating.

And driving in Dubai? I didn’t have to drive very much and when I did, everyone drives like they’re lost so you can get away with anything.. Here, people know where they’re going! And I don’t…

Then, it’s having conversations with people who ask about Dubai –> I don’t want to. But it’s also weird to skip over it and talk about anything else. Usually, they throw in their opinions when they hear that it wasn’t my favorite place. But their opinions are so wrong from the real reasons I didn’t like it. And I struggle with defending Dubai and the Middle East or just letting it go.. Letting the people go back to their jaded conclusions OR trying to straighten them out? And how do you do that in a short conversation? I’ll need all day!

The worst one, returning phone calls. I procrastinated on maximum levels about seeing people or calling and catching up. Probably because of the dreaded “How was Dubai?” questions.  How the heck do I answer that?  Ummmmmm, it was nice… ?! OR the “What now?”  questions. Ummmmmm, got any ideas?

Add it all up = anxiety.

It’s an unexpected adjustment being back, for sure, BUT that does not take away from how incredibly happy I am to be in America. I feel like a huge, billion pound weight has finally been lifted off my shoulders and I can sit down, look outside, and not think. Just breathe a happy, light breath. A very fresh, flowery breath actually. And that’s the feeling I’ve been craving and dreaming of for a while, so for it to be happening is better than anything! For now, you can find me smelling the flowers, catching the rain, and staring at all the nice people <3flower

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