5 Things They’ll Tell You About the U.S. … That Aren’t True

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?

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Crossing the Pond

I’m heading back home to Indiana tomorrow, and I am more than delighted to escape the oven-like heat here in Madrid. I’ll miss Mario and cheap cheese and tinto de verano, but I figure I’ll survive somehow. There are, however, a few things I know I will unknowingly do during my first week home.

I will bump into someone and say, “Perdón.” Instead of “excuse me” or “sorry” or even “pardon,” this Spanish word is sure to come out of my mouth at least twice during my first week. And during the second, my lips will still instinctively form a “p” before I catch myself.

I will search for the toilet flusher on top of the commode. In Spain, toilet flushers are generally located on top, and you press down on them. In most of the US, the toilet flusher is on the side or in front with a little handle and you press down on one side. So late at night or early in the morning before I’ve had my coffee, this is bound to occur.

I will search for the light switch. This happens all the time, everywhere, but it’s more noticeable when I switch countries.

I will not want to eat lunch until 2 p.m. Getting back on the food schedule is difficult for me, at least for the first week. And eating dinner before 6 p.m. is just not okay!

I will forget that we don’t really use dollar coins. For a bill of $4, I will think, “Hey! I have enough coins for that,” when, no, I have nowhere near enough.

I will relish the ease with which I can communicate. I’ve been in Spain for a while, and my Spanish is quite good, but—still—there is something to be said about talking in your native language, with people of the same cultural background. I may actually remember that I was once funny!

What things do you inevitably do when you go home?