I told myself it wouldn’t happen. That I wouldn’t return to America after being abroad for nine months and be culture shocked in my home country. I said that I wouldn’t be “that guy” who would be surprised by everything. I figured that I hadn’t even been gone a year. I wouldn’t forget the unpleasant girls, humongous portions, and the general degenerate aspects of the American culture. I assumed it would just go straight back to normal for me.
My, how wrong I was.
I returned to California less than three weeks ago, and nearly everything that could shock me has. My jaw continues to drop after just nine months on the road. Every time I venture out of the house, something surprises me. It’s akin to living on a new planet. I can’t even imagine how it will feel to return stateside after nine years of living abroad, come 2025.
With that being said, here’s what has taken me aback lately.
1. The Harpy Shrill
Good God, does every woman here in America speak at a 7th octave level? Everywhere I go it’s high-pitched cackling, laughing and faked interest. Oh, the fake voice. It’s more common in California than other states, but why do these girls insist on acting like they care so much? Their general facial expressions and mannerisms give it all away. They do not give a care in the world about any of the conversation going around them. It’s very different around the world.
Ukrainian women, for example, speak in a harsh accent. However, they speak at a normal tonal level and with respect—for each other, for men, and for family. American women on the other hand shrill their way through entire conversations by doing nothing but cackling, interrupting, and insulting people. A sad decline from years ago (or so I hear—I wasn’t born in that era).
2. Diversity Is All The Rage
I landed at San Francisco International, and frankly, I thought I’d either landed in Mexico City or Beijing. As soon as I had debarked the plane, I heard far more Asian dialects than English. This isn’t all that surprising for San Francisco, but the next part was the most shocking.
Many signs had both English and Spanish words. Again, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the Latino population is now higher than the white population in California, but this is the first time I’ve seen this. It makes me wonder what’s next—will the road signs pointing to Interstate Five soon say Autopista Cinco underneath it?
Spanish isn’t an official language, but it won’t surprise me if it soon is. Perhaps Californians will soon be expected to speak fluent Spanish and English.
3. Is There Anything You Can’t Buy?
I lived the entire year with one suitcase, one backpack, and one small travel guitar. I threw dozens of things away and bought nothing. Nothing was necessary after a while, the basic necessities got me by.
A trip to any basic department store showed me that you can buy anything and everything here in the states. A deep fryer for the kitchen? You got it. A TV that covers your entire wall? No problem—just put it on credit. No wonder everyone around me is wallowed in so much debt. When you have all the options put in front of you, it’s impossible to say no to everything. Hell, I was pretty tempted by that deep fryer myself.
To top it off, the number of credit card offers I’ve received blows my mind. Every single store that isn’t a mom-and-pop boutique now offers you a credit card when you’re checking out. It won’t surprise me in the future if I’m offered a credit card to finance my pizza delivery order. Speaking of food…
4. The All You Can Eat Buffet
I took a venture to a Mongolian BBQ joint—one of my vices, and I obviously missed out on it for a good chunk of the year. I would estimate that 90% of the people in the restaurant were obese. Not just overweight, obese. My family and I accounted for probably half of the people who weren’t. Three patrons had motorized scooters, escorting them to their third and fourth helpings of BBQ. I kept waiting for the paramedics to pull up and scooter these people to the ICU.
While obesity obviously isn’t anything new, it’s still shocking when you haven’t seen it in months. I looked around and just felt despair. Eastern European cultures shame gluttony and being fat. What hope do future generations have when they’re raised in sloth? Kids are impressionable. If they see both mommy and daddy being escorted around by motorized scooters, they’ll grow up thinking that’s perfectly normal and acceptable. A scary thought.
My one other meal out was eye-opening too. It was at least two times the size of a normal meal you’d get in a mid-level restaurant in most places. My girlfriend and I had a favorite restaurant in Kiev, where we’d usually split the large “fajitas,” chopped beef with onions, peppers, cheese, and some pita breads. Your average America portion size is significantly bigger than those fajitas and Americans put away those entire entrees without a second glance.
I assumed I’d at least enjoy the holidays and get into the new year before I started making concrete plans to get back on the road. I wanted to enjoy my little sabbatical at home and use the opportunity to get far ahead of my upcoming work. Alas, I hardly made it three days before I started looking longingly at AirBNB rentals on other continents.
The next journey has been booked, and I’ll be on the road before the first month of 2017 ends. I’ll return to lands of skinny people, pleasant conversation, and a lack of motorized scooters. No doubt the next time I come home, I’ll go through it all again.
The only question is how much further America can fall. Will Trump be the one to turn it around? Only time will tell.