Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yet More Thoughts on Repatriation

Our corporate issued repatriation handbook says that moving home can be a bigger cultural shock than moving to the host country.  I guess the theory is that the expat is expecting big cultural differences on the outbound move and none on the inbound move.  This skewed sense of expectations apparently makes for a tough move home.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s been pretty easy “re-acclimating” to the US.  There are things from Germany that I miss (see previous post) and sometimes I sound like a pompous ass accidently saying English words with a German pronunciation.  (I had the hardest time saying “swine” as in swine flu. I kept pronouncing it schwein /schvine/.)  BUT, I feel like we are mostly back into our groove.

What did surprise me is the realization that I was spending significant effort in defending my “American-ness” or defending the USA while I was living abroad.  I guess I just got so used to being apologetic about something inherently American about me (ability to only speak English, my nasal “accent,” my large insulated coffee mug, my fondness of peanut butter) or my country (George W Bush, rednecks, NASCAR, American football, large gas-guzzling vehicles) that I didn’t even realize I was doing it.  Only after we returned and I was no longer doing it, did I realize it had begun to feel like a burden.

It’s a relief to know that millions of other Americans who shop at Costco have the same large coffee mug as me.  It’s a relief to be back in the Midwest where everyone (for the most part) sounds a lot like me.   I don’t feel any obligation to defend rednecks and NASCAR fans (I suppose that’s redundant).  I will go back to insulting them without feeling I’m selling out my countrymen.

I am American and I’m proud…but, Geez!, why all the rednecks?  They are really cramping my style at the ol’ Costco.  Their cart full of Bud Light is preventing me from reaching the Perrier.

Ooh! on a side note:  it’s so nice to be back in the land of “significant & respected personal space.”  No one is trying to give me a colonoscopy with their grocery cart while standing in line behind me at the check out, instead they are just trying to tell me about their own recent colonoscopy procedure.   Ah, America…the land of personal space filled with people who lack a filter between their brain and their mouth.


It’s easy living here in the US.  It’s easy like riding a bicycle.  Once you learn how to ride, you can get to anywhere you want to go.   You can even ride with “no hands,” listening to your iPod, and chewing gum (all at the same time!).

Living abroad is like riding a bicycle in rush hour traffic.  You know how to do it, but it takes a lot more concentration and focus to get to where you’re going.  You have to hold on with both hands and can’t afford any distractions.  Maintaining that level of focus can be exhausting and so, many times, you don’t even take the bicycle out for a spin.


sally b said...

Hilarious and well written !

Carla Gale said...

Thanks, Sally! Glad to know you are reading.

Beatriz Arredondo said...

Hey Carla!
I hadn't heard from you in awhile, so I figured I'd check out your blog. You are SUCH a great writer!!! I enjoyed reading this, and can relate. Too funny.

Well, I'm still here protecting my American-ness, and dead focused on following all the rules here...except waiting in line at the grocery store. So German to cut in line. Only 5 months left to going back to our real life.

Have fun!


Anonymous said...

Hey Carla,

I haven't heard from you in awhile, so I figured I'd check out your blog. I'm so glad I did. You are SUCH a great writer!!! Couldn't stop laughing, and can of course relate to all of this!

Anyhow, 5 more months of protecting our American-ness, and concentrating hard on following the German rules...except of course waiting in line, which is one common courtesy Germans seem to ignore. And then we're back in the good ol'USA. Can't wait.