The Highs, The Lows, and Reverse Culture Shock

My shoulder satchel, complete with many patches from many places we traveled to.

My shoulder satchel, complete with many patches from many places we traveled to.

I gotta admit that the first two weeks back were a whirlwind of excitement!  Back in our home, seeing our friends, our children out playing with other children: everyone was happy.

We found our home to be about 85% perfect.  The other 15% were things that we expected to find: some home repairs in need of fixing, houseplant care, and yard maintenance.  It actually felt good to “tinker” with my home, since I had not done any real tinkering in a year.  I tackled some major landscaping last week, with more to come this week.  Getting out my tools to work on my home was a nice change of pace. I also hired a handyman to repair parts of my ailing fence in my back garden.  Lastly we invested in a new television, as living with a 42″ flat screen for a year was a real luxury and returning to our 26″ CRT TV was disappointing to say the least.

Then we noticed the first change.  Well, obviously, everyone we know has a life to get on with so they all carried on.  Meanwhile, we were still around riding high on being home. People made time for us, and still are doing so, but they also have other things to do than to hear us wax poetically about living in Europe.  Next our children began to see that we were not really going anywhere, like we had been doing for over 300 days.  We were staying home, taking care of business (lots of paperwork), and sorting out our return home.  Crankiness began to set in, along with some emotional outbursts.  Actually, a lot of outbursts by all four of us!  Here we were back home, yet no one was really happy.  We were not unhappy, just not feeling like something was quite right.  This lasted about a good week and is still lingering, just not as emotionally high as it had been.  I think we all needed a good shouting at.

I did take Zachary away for a Father/Son camp out up at Lost Lake on Mt. Hood.  This is a semi-annual event hosted by some of the Fathers in our neighborhood.

Our 4-Runner all locked and loaded.  I realized how much I missed this car of ours.  It takes us everywhere we want.

Our 4-Runner all locked and loaded. I realized how much I missed this car of ours. It takes us everywhere we want.

Swimming in the lake.

Swimming in the lake.

The trip was good for Zachary to re-acclimate with the boys that live nearby.  Plus the weather was brilliant!  Annika has had a few sleep-overs with her girlfriends, though many of her best friends are either out of state or gone to summer camps.

Both kids are registered for school next year, and we got their back to school gear all sorted.  Plus the grandparents have been generous with their time (and money) taking the kids out for the day and buying them new school clothes.  Zachary came home to lots of hand me downs from a year ago, but Annika found that most of what was left in her room did not fit.  She has really grown up (physically, that is)     🙂

A beekeeper was working around the corner from our home removing a hive.  The tree itself had fallen over and the city wants to remove it but not kill the bees.  I watched him work for over an hour, having never seen a beekeeper at work in person.

A beekeeper was working around the corner from our home removing a hive. The tree itself had fallen over and the city wants to remove it but not kill the bees. I watched him work for over an hour, having never seen a beekeeper at work in person.

We have also experienced a bit of the reverse culture shock.  Just today a pedestrian was crossing a main road.  I slowed down for her, but I guess not slow enough as she scowled and used a hand gesture to express driving slower.  I thought that she would not last a minute in England with that attitude.  Yes, we have to watch out for pedestrians these days.  As I have mentioned before, the car comes first when it comes to using the paved roads overseas, and the people on the roadside need to fully watch out as they do not enjoy the same rights as over in the USA.  Some other things that have shocked us:

  • I also saw that gas (petrol) hovers around $4 a gallon over here.  Ha, we were paying close to $8 in Europe.  Americans have nothing to complain about.
  • The weather here has been gorgeous.  Sunny, pleasant, and mostly mild.  It did get a bit warm for a short spell, but after living in a much colder climate we embraced all the sunshine that we could absorb.  Hence all the BBQing and eating al fresco.
Out at the Alberta Street Fair.  Alberta is about 3 blocks north of our home.

Out at the Alberta Street Fair. Alberta is about 3 blocks north of our home.

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  • We have eaten out a few times, going to old standbys for sushi, pizza, and Mexican food.  There are so many more places I want to go out and eat at, but we do have to watch our budget.
  • We do miss the pub atmosphere and the freshness of the food from the markets.  We still eat well, but have found that food here is chock full of more preservatives, thus it does not go “bad” nearly as quickly.  In England we had to buy smart and eat fresh daily.   Makes you really wonder what is in American food, even though we buy organic and local products as much as we can afford.
  • Drinking beers back home has been a challenge.  Our second night back we went to a neighbor’s for socializing and I had two beers before I found myself wobbling.  I then checked to see that I was drinking beer at 6.7% alcohol.  In England we averaged pints at 4 to 4.4% alcohol.  Even the cheap lagers that I like in summertime are well over 5% in alcohol.  My system is definitely not used to strong beers.
  • Living abroad so simply has taught us that less really is more.  Within the first two weeks back we found ourselves bagging up lots of clothes and making piles of ‘things’ that we no longer wanted in our lives.  With our 4-Runner we filled it up twice and took stuff to Goodwill or the recycling center.  There is still another pile growing in our basement. Downsizing our stuff is now a priority for us, something we might not have realized had we not lived in England for the past year in a much smaller home.
  • Coming home to our old wardrobes has been a welcome change.  So much to choose from, after having worn the same handful of outfits for so long. Yet we still filled 4 bags of clothes that us adults do not feel a need to wear anymore.
  • Lastly Rebecca and I have found ourselves sleeping more than ever.  We are now averaging well over 8 hours a night.  In England I averaged between 5 1/2-6 1/2 hours per night.  I feel like I am much more refreshed each day I get up, possibly making up for months of lost sleep?

I return to work this week, and school begins next week.  I feel that I will have come full circle by then…

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3 thoughts on “The Highs, The Lows, and Reverse Culture Shock

  1. Culture shock on both ends eh? Your lot has had a lifetime of experience in 12 months! Glad to have you back but I’ll miss your stories from England. Regards, Jim Hill

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