Ah, I get it. You are returning to the United States, and you are preparing for the much-feared reverse culture shock. What to expect?
You should expect to find it weird when people address you in English, that the grocery store has about three hundred different types of cereal, and people want to talk to you while standing in line. Yeah, okay, I feel ya. I see how that could seem weird or odd for a while after you return home.
But let me tell you something, sometimes I wonder if I grew up in an alternate universe, if perhaps my experience of the US has been different from many expats who write on the Internet, because some things I just don’t see. Some stereotypes just don’t fit my experience. I write this to see if I am alone.
1. Americans are always in a hurry
I live in Madrid, so everyone seems to be in a hurry, especially on my morning commute. But my experiences in Madrid aren’t extended to the rest of Spain. Thus, I find it hard to believe Americans are always in a hurry, because most of my family and friends don’t ever seem to be in a hurry. Where are all these hurrying people you’re talking about? New York City? Where?
2. America is all about the rat race
This is a
favorite of mine. Again, are we talking about corporate lawyers living in Chicago or just your average, small-town person? There’s a world of difference there. I don’t know any of my friends who are all about the rat race, and my parents certainly aren’t. In fact, my Spanish husband works twice the amount of time my parents do, and even he isn’t “all about the rat race.” My mother and father are generally off work by 5 p.m., free to live their “rat race” lives.
3. Americans will ask you how you are, but they really don’t care
Sometimes. But don’t people do this in Spain, too? “¿Qué tal?” they ask, but sometimes they care, sometimes they don’t. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. Who do I talk to when I want to tell someone how I really am? My friends, my true friends, not my coworkers or people I’m hanging out with for tapas.
I want to find a culture where they ask you “How’s it going?” and people always answer 100% honestly. Help a girl out.
4. Americans are loud
Yeah, sometimes. I know that we have this reputation. But Spaniards can be loud too! In fact, I used to wonder if some of the people I knew here were actually angry with each other, but no—that was just the way they talked. If there are a lot of people talking, just talk louder and louder until you are almost shouting. When I go back to the U.S., I don’t feel that most people are louder than they are in Spain. Also, there is way less noise pollution in my town, but that’s because in Spain I live in a city, and home is small-town Indiana.
5. Americans are ignorant
Sometimes, yes. But there are ignorant people everywhere, in every country. Just today, a high school student informed that they would have had guns in the year 650. (We were reading about King Arthur.) He actually tried to argue this point with me! It was fun to see him try in English. Then all his friends started making fun of him in Spanish, so the short “argument” was over too soon. Do I think this kid is ignorant? Nope. I just think he was a bit addled. (Just kidding.)
Americans can be ignorant, but then again, so an Spaniards. (And I assume the same is true for anyone, anywhere.)