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20 More Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America

Written by Karl Dahlfred.

About one week after our family returned to the United States after spending the last four and a half years living and working in Bangkok, Thailand, I wrote a blog about "20 Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America."  Those were my initial observations.  But now that our family is more than two months into our stay in the U.S, I have noticed a bunch of other things that I didn't run into during my first week here.

Reverse culture shock is the gift that keeps on giving, and while I don't walk around every day feeling stressed, there are still a lot of things that make me think, "Well, they don't do it like THAT back in Thailand!"  Sometimes, that is a good thing.  Sometimes that is a bad thing.  But sometimes it is just neutral. Not good - not bad - just different.

So, without further ado, here are...

20 More Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America

  1. Static shocks!  You just don’t get that in a humid country like Thailand.  It makes me afraid to touch things.
  2. Marshmallow furniture.  Furniture so soft that you feel like your behind is tumbling into a bottomless abyss. 

  3. Heat lamps in bathroom. Not everyplace has these, but in the place we are staying currently, my wife is completely loving these red in-ceiling heat lamps to dry you after a shower.

  4. Unknown breakfast cereals. While visiting someone’s home for breakfast, my 7 year-old daughter asked, "What are Cheerios?” Looks like we have some cultural orientation to do.

  5. Telemarketing.  Ugh.  In Thailand I got 3 calls in 4 years.  Within one week of getting a mobile phone in America, I got 3-4 calls. Ugh.

  6. Soap at every sink.  It is awesome.  This may sound mundane, but up until recently I lived in country where you only get a soap dispenser on the far wall at the end of row of sink basins in a public restroom.  But here in America, no more awkwardly reaching around the guy at the next sink to get soap.  

  7. HUGE pickup trucks.  I didn’t even know they made pick-up trucks this big.  Some of these are so high and so wide, you’d think they were built to haul a tank. 

  8. Options!!!!   Choosing bread, ketchup, and other necessities has never been so complicated.  And for some reason, every processed food product needs to come in one million flavors, as if I really needed 15 varieties of Oreos to choose from.

  9. America LOVES gift cards.  Everyplace has a gift card to sell you, and at the supermarket there are racks and racks of gift cards for every store imaginable.

  10. Organic everything.  Or nearly everything.  And gluten-free is all the rage too.  Even places like Dominos Pizza has gluten-free options.

  11. No condom vending machines in public restrooms.  This is fantastic because I no longer need to come up with a vague, evasive answer when my son asks, “Dad, what does that machine sell?"

  12. Keyless cars!   I rented a car twice and both times we got a keyless car. I am starting to get used to it but it sure is weird.  It doesn’t feel right to not stick a key in the ignition.

  13. Cup holders everywhere!  I think the car we bought might have more cup holders than seats.

  14. Decaf coffee everywhere.  Almost no place in Thailand has decaf.  I asked for it once at the coffee shop I frequented in Bangkok and the guy at the counter just laughed.

  15. Americans are very informal and dress-down.  It is much harder to determine social status just by looking at what someone is wearing.

  16. Driving is so much less stressful.  People aren’t cutting me off all the time or running red lights.  The roads are big.  Signage is often clear and well in advance of where you need to turn.

  17. Sometimes the toilet paper is so soft and cushiony, it almost feels inappropriate to use it for its intended purpose.

  18. Starbucks is not just for the wealthy.  In American Starbucks locations, you find a fascinating cross-section of humanity with eccentricities, odd social manners, and weird ways of dressing.

  19. Most people are unaware that sticky rice is an entirely different variety of rice, not just regular white rice cooked differently.

  20. Seller beware!  Businesses are very careful to keep customers are happy, lest they are sued or have bad publicity.  It is often really easy to return things to the store.

 

Sometimes people ask, "Do you feel settled now?" and I don't know how to answer that question simply. Even though we have been here two months and are no longer living out of a suitcase, I don't think we'll ever feel really settled (unless we moved back to the U.S permanently, I suppose).  I am sure there will be more cultural differences that my family and I will run into along the way during the remaining four months of our home assignment. There are lots of things that we are really enjoying about the U.S. but it doesn't quite feel like home. The phrase "Back in Thailand..." is never be too far away from our lips.  But then again Thailand never feels 100% like home because we are not Thai.  But that's okay.  Our philosophy is to enjoy where God has placed us for any given season because he has good plans for us where he has put us.

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