Our Experience (or lack of it) with Reverse Culture Shock

I feel like all I ever read about these days on expat forums in “reverse culture shock.” It’s all anyone ever talks about, probably because no one ever used to talk about it. What it means is that while living abroad you adapt to life in your adopted country. You change a little bit. Maybe the pace of life slows down or you have become more direct in speaking or you discover a liking for salty licorice. Then, when you visit or move back to your original culture, you have to go through the culture shock process all over again. You assume it’ll be no big deal. After all, you grew up in this culture. But you’re surprised to find that certain things just don’t fit anymore. You hate driving everywhere or you can’t stand how friendly the waiters are or you can’t find your favorite candies at the grocery store because Americans don’t eat salty licorice. (And for good reason.) 

So I was all prepared on our trip back to the US in August – for a month! – to experience some reverse culture shock. I was braced. And then…nothing. 

Well, not nothing. There were a few little things. It was weird being able to understand all the conversations around you – and a little annoying, people talk about the dumbest stuff! I remembered how ridiculously frustrating traffic is when you’re the one driving and how annoying it is to have to drive everywhere. The weather was almost unbearably hot at one point. I had forgotten what the St. Louis humidity felt like.

But mostly, it felt instantly normal and kind of awesome. We were surrounded by our family and friends. I could talk to people in stores without stress, without cringing at my bad Danish or at my need to speak English. I could go to the grocery store and choose between 30 different kinds of cereal! (Who knew this would become such a big deal for me?) I could eat Saltines! I could get cheap, fast, casual dining or takeout and didn’t have to cook every night! (That last one is a big one.)

Now, we’ve only been abroad 1 year, so that probably isn’t enough time to fully adapt to another culture and lifestyle. Also, I don’t think you could say that I’ve fully integrated here. For one thing, I spend much of my day at home alone. (Imagine an old school housewife only lazier and without the retro housedress.) And during the “morning” sickness period, I felt so bad that I stopped going into my volunteer job and Danish classes were on summer break (thank god), so I don’t think I spoke any Danish for about 3 whole months. And it’s really true, the language barrier will keep you from feeling fully a part of the culture around you. 

So given all of that, I was a little apprehensive about coming back to Denmark. I was worried I’d have to adjust all over again. But then we landed, and I was so glad to get on the train from Copenhagen to Aarhus and see the familiar countryside whiz by. We got home, and we just picked back up with our lives here. Even if we’re not 100% comfortable here, it’s still familiar, and we’ve got our little routines and we’ve got our friends (all of whom I was excited to see) and we’ve got our life that we’ve made, just the two of us.

So I would say, the weirdest thing about this whole reverse culture shock experience is the realization that we have two totally different lives in two totally different places and we could go to either place and pick up with either life fairly easily. I’ve never had that before, and it’s a bit of a strange feeling. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s wonderfully reassuring to know that we have something to go back to and people at home who love us.

We have Big News, of the pitter patter of little feet variety!

First, let me say: I’m so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so sorry for leaving for so long without a word.

But, I have a really good excuse: I’m pregnant! See, here’s a (bad) picture of me sort of, kind of, almost visibly pregnant.

And for those of you who know St. Louis, you may recognize the famous and delicious ice cream stand behind us.

And for those of you who know St. Louis, you may recognize the famous and delicious ice cream stand behind us.

The reason that’s an excuse for not posting is that I had a really bad first trimester that included morning sickness that lasted all. day. long. I’ve never been seasick before, but I imagine it’s like taking a three month cruise which you can’t get off of and you’re horribly seasick the whole time. I literally did nothing but groaned on the couch while thinking exclusively about what I could possibly eat next that wouldn’t cause further harm. For a while it was a very small list that seemed to consist mostly of pizza and french fries with mayo. (Definitely NOT stir fry or barbecue, ick. Those things still make me nauseous.) So not a whole lot of posting on the interwebs could be done at this time during the groaning and the almost barfing.

And then we spent the entire month of August in the US visiting our family, so not much posting got done then, either. Luckily, I was starting to feel a bit better for that part or I would have been really upset because I had a list a mile long of food that I needed to eat while in St. Louis. I got to some of them (toasted ravioli!), though some others I still couldn’t really eat (cheeseburgers).

So that is my big news and my big excuse. I know I’ve committed the blogging sin, to disappear without a note, but hopefully I will be forgiven. And I plan on being back and making regular posts again, now that I’m feeling almost human.

Cardinals Mania

If my hometown is anything it is a baseball town. Busch Stadium (above) is hallowed ground, and you do not grow up in St. Louis without at some point participating in Cardinals mania. And now that the Cardinals are in the World Series, the mania has followed us across the Atlantic ocean. We had to figure out a way to watch the games from afar.

I feel like every expat runs into this at some point, how to deal with no longer having easy access to your favorite media, be it your favorite TV show or the games of your favorite sports team. (Or in my case, American books!) Luckily, these days technology makes it possible if not completely easy to continue watching from afar. From Slingboxes to VPNs to online streaming websites, if you want it badly enough there is some way that you can watch your home team win (oh yes, they’re going to win) the 2013 World Series.

So after many experiments with various technologies, a few frustrations and some headaches, we’ve finally hit upon success with the Cardinals games. Mainly, Brian bought the MLB online package, which may be the easy (and non-geeky) way out but let me tell you it is the best way to watch this kind of thing online. Plus, it was super duper on sale since we’re already many games into the series.

The funny thing is that even here in Denmark, Brian runs into the problem of having the game ruined before he can watch it. He hates, HATES!, to find out the score of a game before he has a chance to watch it. Obviously, right now in St. Louis that would be pretty impossible. You’d have to watch the games live or you’d be screwed. But we figured in Denmark – even with the time difference which means that he has to watch the games the day after they air – there’s no way he’s going to accidentally overhear someone at work talking about the score of a St. Louis baseball game. But it still happens! It’s totally nuts, and probably the funniest thing (for me at least) to come out of this whole Cardinals in Denmark experience.

Anyway, I will leave you with one of the many Cardinals memes floating around on the internet: