The Land of Plenty {Observations of Home, from One Who’s Just Returned to It}

by Laura on July 31, 2012

To say that our last two weeks have been psycho would be an understatement. There was weighing 12 suitcases that hovered at 49.8 pounds each and clearing out junk drawers we didn’t know we had  and enduring a house inspection with a Asian lady that wanted to charge us for everything. There were two days in a hotel that proved a very necessary breather, and then there was a 36-hour travel marathon that felt a little like water torture — a slow kind of misery that eventually breaks even the best of souls.

And now, here we’ve landed, like Alice through that hole, back into a whole new world.  

And I will write about this transition–  all its confusing fallout and glorious hope–  I will, but for now, I thought it fitting to re-post a funny article I wrote last summer, when I came back to the States for the first time.  I reckon the observations all still ring fairly true . . .


I’ve been back in the States now for two weeks, after more than a year living outside its borders. Call it reverse-culture-shock, but here’s what I’ve observed about my homeland that I didn’t quite notice before:

1.  Subway has too many choices.  It’s confusing.  And it’s hard to read the menu. And when you stammer about what you want while the lady with the hat and gloves keeps raising her eyebrows like, “Come on lady, seriously, decide. It’s a sandwich,” this can prove an embarrassing situation that blindsides you on a normal Tuesday.

2.  America is really clean. I haven’t seen a rat yet on the street. And the public bathrooms kinda remind me of a spa. And the sidewalks are straight and white and even.

3.  America is really, really nice.  Like houses and bathrooms and cars and couches and refrigerators and carpets– all really, really schwanky.  Though I never really thought that before I left.

4.  The people in America {sometimes} complain about stupid things. {Oh, wait, that’s just people.  Oh, wait, again, that’s just me.}

5.  On average, kids have it pretty easy here {and, yes, that’s mine included}.  And maybe there are good things and bad things that come with easier. And maybe that’s true in more ways than one.

6.  My friends are awesomer than I remembered.  And Community is water to a thirsty heart. And I am drinking it up.

7.  Americans may be rich {comparatively}, but they can also be incredibly, overwhelmingly generous. Absolutely.

8.  The Rockies are breathtaking. And I never appreciated them enough when I drove past them everyday for four years.

9.  Problems in the West don’t meet you on the street as much, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t still there in people’s lives.  God works through struggles and breathes transformation in wealthy places and in poor,

All. the. Time.


10.  Walmart is insane. Insane, I tell you. You could literally live the rest of your life there and be just fine, I think.

– Originally posted June, 2011


Okay, so fellow travelers, when you’ve re-entered the States {or your home country} after a week or a few years, what has struck you most?  Thoughts on “reverse culture shock” and how to handle it?

  • Gary Ware

    You brought back many memories.

    Not having to carry passport or papers every where.

    Using the phone to call different states, in one language.

    Seeing buildings ONLY 100-200 years old. America is so young.

    Our jails are luxury homes. WOE to the arrogant American or Brit discovering this.

    Turks are friendly, cities are modern, country was primitive. We are so young, modern and foolish acting.

    When I first returned, there was such a sense of the superficial. Turks, Lebanese and Russians take nothing for granted.
    I appreciate America more every time we return. We have the greatest, most free, clean country in the world.

  • Mike Celia Southey

    Back in Australia for close to 2 years after 6.5 years in China – we still have moments of culture shock – we still have times where we don’t feel like we fit in, times where we want to be back on that ‘cutting edge’ where every attitude and smile had impact, we really miss making new friends quickly – it takes sooooo much longer here. so many things. How to be a missionary while living at ‘home’ is a big question too.

  • Alycia

    It takes me at least 2 hours to shop at a grocery store or Target the first few times…or weeks…or months. There are so many choices!!! I’ve even been known to cry in the cereal aisle because I can’t make up my mind. And I often feel rushed when trying to decide what to order at a fast food restaurant.

  • sarah

    I love your first observation. When I moved to the states (American MK born in Thailand), it took a few years before I was able to order at Subway without feeling nervous, and I still don’t like it. Just choose for me! How am I supposed to know what to put on a sandwich? Also: the cereal isle in any store. So. many. choices.

    When we landed, we spent our first day on American soil walking around at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. Bad choice, so much culture shock. The plates of food were five times too big for any of us, and everyone was talking so LOUD, and I remember being struck by the fact that no one was looking at me. Everyone looked the same to me, too: tall, wide, and white. It was at least two years before I accepted acclimation, and another few years before I really understood and embraced it.

    I went back to visit many years ago, and on my taxi ride from the airport to the CMA guesthouse on Pradipat in the dark, empty hours of the morning I remember looking out the window and thinking how much more grimy and polluted BKK was than I had remembered it. I miss it though. Every day. Even the heat and humidity, but mostly the language, the people, the food. I had the chance to celebrate Songkran in L.A.’s Thai Town this year, and it was so happy to be surrounded by that familiar culture for an afternoon. I still have the urge to ask every South East Asian I meet where they are from. Hoping to go back soon – maybe next year – if only just for a visit.

    • Laura Parker

      Wow, Sarah, thanks for this– loved reading your story and your experience! I, too, LOVE Songkran!!

  • Julie

    Having grown up overseas as an MK and being a missionary now my first reverse culture shock every time I go back to Canada is about hte 2nd day when I need to buy shampoo as the small amount I brought with me is getting low or has run out…the sampoo isle is so big and there are so many kinds and what is the difference between them really. I am just not used to the choices and usually get overwhemed and deside I can wait a day or two more and leave without buying anything!

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