Living in the US again and reverse culture shock

Lots has happened since my last post here, including trips to Galicia (Northern Spain), Germany, and Barcelona, and my move back to the US. I’m hoping to write about all those trips, but right now I’d like to write about what my experience has been like so far being back in my old home.

This is a weird time for me. I don’t look at it as good or bad, but as another big change in my life, perhaps a new chapter in my book. In the six or so months leading up to me leaving Spain, I felt like I really didn’t want to go. I had finally felt like I was creating roots there. I had made my own friends and formed a small clientele of English students. Speaking Spanish had become something so normal to me and didn’t give me anxiety anymore. But, for many reasons and factors that I won’t go into here, it was time for me to go.

Gifts from my English students before I left

I’m so privileged to have gotten my job back. It’s my passion, a job in the field I want to be in, with amazing coworkers–so I couldn’t have asked for more in that respect. I also got to come home to family that was happy to see me, and offer me a place to stay in this transition period. I would not be able to live the life I do without them.

But still, leaving Spain was heart wrenching–not just because I had to shove my dog into a crate for a 12.5 hour flight in the cargo hold, or leave my love, or a country I had fallen in love with. I knew that coming back to the US would be a difficult transition for me, as I had gotten so used to life in Spain. The language, the culture, the food, the people, being a student there, working part time, and traveling through Europe. That was my new norm, and it was about to become a thing of the past…just good memories condensed into a previous chapter of my book. I hated the idea of ending that era of my life. In fact, I had basically accepted that I was going to “hate everything” when I got back here. That everything would be weird, sad, different, uncomfortable, or foreign. It was a way for me to mentally prepare for the worst, so that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

With a couple hours left in the flight, I was SO ready to be done. And I was worried about Mitzy.

So now that I’ve been back for two weeks, what has it really been like? Is everything weird and horrible? Well, not exactly. First of all, I still don’t think it’s fully hit me yet. I think I’ll have a second transition period when I finally get my own place here. But I have started working, seeing old friends and family, and integrating myself back into society here.

Let’s get to it: things that have happened since moving back to the US…

  1. The very first thing that felt weird to me was when we were driving from the airport to home, and we got on the freeway. Everyone here drives such huge cars, and the freeways are so huge and filled with traffic, and everything is so spread out!

    Yup, we’re definitely in LA again.
  2. Switching from Spanish to English. By the time I left Spain, I was speaking Spanish more than 90% of the time. The only times I was using English was to teach my classes and speak to friends and family back home. So now it feels really weird to switch back, and sometimes my brain gets caught up on a word and something comes out in Spanish that I wanted to say in English. There are some phrases I used to use all the time that don’t translate well, and I find myself even doing a direct translation to English and it ends up sounding weird.
  3. On that note, craving speaking in Spanish. The first thing I did to prep for this move, even before moving here, was to set up my Spanish conversation group classes again. It’s a small group of people that get together with the same Spanish level and talk for an hour and a half about anything and everything. We go over new words and mistakes. This is generally a good way for me to not lose what I’ve learned. I go twice a week right now and I really love it. It’s like a little trip back to Spain I get to make.
  4. Driving to everything is weird and sometimes overwhelming. In Spain, I was driving a bit to my English classes, but for the most part I was either on the back of a motorcycle getting a ride, or taking public transportation (metro, bus, and train). The public transport system in Spain was so amazing and useful. Here, if you don’t have a car, you can’t live a normal life. Everything is so spread out. Everything takes at least 15-20 minutes to get to in the car. Speaking of cars, I had to get myself another once since I sold mine before going to Spain. I do enjoy having a nice car again, but I wish I didn’t have to rely on it so much. I still yell out my frustrations in Spanish…somehow it feels more satisfying.

    My “new” (used) car, which I really like so far!
  5. Greeting people is weird. In Spain, it’s always the standard two-kiss greeting. One on each cheek. No shaking hands (unless it’s two guys). Now, I feel this awkwardness when I’m trying to decide how to greet someone. Do we shake hands? Do we hug? Do we just wave? I’ve had some weird moments already where I’ve leaned in for the Spanish two-kiss greeting while the other person wasn’t expecting it. I used to think this greeting involved too many germs, and now I miss it.

    The two-kiss greeting in Spain
  6. I really got into Spanish music, so now I’m looking for ways to listen to it here. I listen to Spotify and luckily in San Diego we get many radio stations from Tijuana, so we have lots of choices of Spanish speaking radio stations.

    One of the many radio stations that comes out of Tijuana and you can hear in San Diego
  7. People seemed less busy in Spain. Like they were more able to make time to relax, socialize, be with family, or even take a nap if you’re really tired. There were so many holidays there! I will miss getting so many random days off for some random holiday that I’d never heard of.
  8. Mitzy loves having a yard again. She constantly wanders over to the neighbor’s house (which he is fine with and actually enjoys). She’s adapted well back to her old life, although I do still spurt out commands to her in Spanish every once in a while which she seems to understand.

    Mitzy and her dog-cousin chewing bones. There are never too many.
  9. Everything is expensive here! Looking for a place to live, I’m realizing rent is very high. And taking Mitzy to the vet for a simple check up and flea & tick medicine costs about three times as much here as it did in Spain. The same exact flea and tick collar that I bought her in Spain for 30 euros costs 80 dollars here. Also, going out to eat is a lot more expensive here. A beer here costs about twice as much as it did there, for the same amount. And don’t get me started on how tax isn’t included, and tips!

    I never got over how cheap toilet paper was in Spain. 2 euros for 6 large rolls.
  10. I have to admit it’s been nice to eat some American food that I missed. I found myself in the In n Out drive thru less than a week after returning. And I really missed fresh donuts, which I’ve gotten to enjoy twice already. The Mexican food here is also really good–oh how I’ve missed you, San Diego fish tacos!
    Pulled pork sandwich and coleslaw. Two things that aren’t easy to find in Spain.

    Artery clogging goodness.
  11. Probably the best thing about being back is being close to family again, and seeing old friends. I appreciate family dinners so much more now. And it feels good to understand inside jokes again!

Next month, I’ll be heading down to Guadalajara, Mexico, to present at a zookeeping conference! Stay tuned for that–I’m nervous for my first time presenting at a conference, and in Spanish to boot.

P.S. Now that I’m not an American living in Madrid anymore, I’m going to rename my blog and try to continue writing since I still travel and do some interesting things. Any ideas for a new name?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Laura Ambrose says:

    We love, love, love having you back again — even if we do have crowded freeways, cars that are too big, and we’re too busy! You’re a fantastic writer, my dear.


  2. Christine Mayo says:

    Welcome home ..home is where the heart and love is ..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s