The Initial Thoughts of a Repatriating American

The Initial Thoughts of a Repatriating American

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a full week since I left Asia for the land of cheeseburgers, bald eagles, and freedom. Transitioning from the crowded, bustling streets of Taiwan to the white paved pedestrian sidewalks in America has been no easy feat.

Eagle and American Flag by BubbelsI can tell you first hand that reverse culture shock definitely wasn’t a lie made up by repatriating Americans in an effort to remind anyone in the vicinity of their conversation that they’re adventurous travelers.

“Oh, sorry, I forgot that in America we use forks instead of chopsticks. Oh, darn this reverse culture shock! Let me talk about my travels for another hour so you can understand just how difficult this is for me. Woe is me!”

That’s how I imagined conversations go back home for travelers returning to their home countries. The night before stepping on my one-way plane to America, I vowed that I would handle repatriating with grace and dignity, and I would avoid making every conversation during my reunions a one-woman drama show. (After all, I wanted to hear what my loved ones had been up to while I was away as well.)

What’s the verdict on my vow? I failed. I’m a total mess, and I’m probably one hundred times more dramatic than an uggboot-wearing, snapchat-using girl in Starbucks who just found out the coffee chain is out of soymilk.

In other words, I literally can’t even…deal with this reverse culture shock. What things are bugging me the most you ask? Oh, I’m more than happy to humbly brag talk about it.

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These are my thoughts concerning reverse culture shock that plague me daily in America. Woe is me! (Sorry, but that phrase is just too fun to only use once in an article.)

1. “I really need to stop grunting in response to questions.”

A simple “Hrmph!” with a sharp, single nod of the head means ‘yes’ in Taiwan. As I don’t speak a lick of Mandarin, I became accustomed to grunting when asked a question.

“Is this your MRT stop?”


“Would you like fries with that?”


“Would you like a bottle of champagne on the house?”

“Oh, hell yeah! Er…I mean, hell hrmph!”

You get the idea. This nasty little habit has followed me across the ocean and is the reason cab drivers in America hate me – in addition to the awful panic attacks I get once it’s time to calculate a tip, which brings us to thought #2.

2. “Oh dear baby Jesus, how much do I tip?”

Am I the only one that gets terrified of tipping? It’s not a fear I have because I’m a cheapskate, it’s because I feel awkward placing a value on someone’s mood or personality.

Also, it feels strangely uncomfortable to slip cash into a cab driver’s hand and tell him what a great job he did. The only time tipping should be appropriate is by sleazy old men in strip clubs.

All that’s missing from this already awkward scenario that is tipping in America is a creepy wink to accompany the transaction and a raspy-voiced warning, “Don’t spend that all in one place now.”

 3. “OMG. I missed American Chinese food.”

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I’m sorry, but fried egg rolls are the bee’s knees. There were times in Taiwan when I craved delicious, greasy, artery-clogging, oily Americanized Chinese food.

Do you know that hilarious lunch scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when the old woman points to a post-orgasmic Meg Ryan and says, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Well, let’s just say everyone in the Chinese restaurant where I had my first meal in the US was ordering egg rolls on my account. Yeah, that’s how much I missed them.

4. “It’s so weird to walk down the streets without the smell of stinky tofu in the air.”

I don’t think I can actually admit I miss the stench of fermented tofu, but my nostrils are a little confused when I walk down a busy street and smell only hot dogs and pizza slices.

5. “I literally cannot help eavesdropping on everybody.”

I know all about Lisa’s Tinder troubles and how Derek asked her to evenly split the check on their first date at Hooters (his restaurant pick, by the way) even though all she ordered was a side salad and diet coke while he enjoyed a steak and 3 beers before asking for a picture with his waitress while he grabbed a handful of her rump.

Who’s Lisa? Some blonde stranger on the bus who I sat behind yesterday – she seemed incomprehensibly offended when I gave her unsolicited dating advice.

“How dare I listen in on your private conversation? How dare you speak English so close to my repatriating ears!” In my defense, Carol (her “friend”) was giving her god-awful advice, so really I think I deserved a thank you and an invitation to be best friends since I’m so smart and wise.

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As you can imagine, this whole living in America again thing is going to take some getting used to, but I’m up for the challenge. Besides, when life gets a little too stale here, I can just jump on Expedia and book a visit back to Asia.

Calling all repatriating travelers! How was your first week back in your home? Were there any habits you couldn’t break or cultural customs you forgot about while you were away? Share your answer in a comment below!

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