After a solid 11 months away it was finally time to journey back to the motherland, Michigan. Our trip started off in usual US fashion with our request for alcohol on the plane being met with a request to prove we were old enough to partake. Our trek continued in the Detroit airport where we got put in the “special X” line to talk to a customs agent. The wait was about an hour and a half before having a minute and a half conversation about “living/working in China and returning home for vacation” and “no we did not bring back any plants or animals with us.” We suspect either our being out of the country for almost a year or the amount of other countries we have visited in that time might have triggered this extra chat. It is equally as likely that we messed up something on the auto declaration form machine too, but I digress…Before our trip we we ran across various articles detailing reverse culture shock from other expat families traveling back for the summer, so I thought it would be fun to recount some of our initial impressions after being away for the past year.
- I am still bad at adjusting to jet lag, David waking me up at 6am the second day home after going to bed at 2am did not help…
- Driving was not any more disorienting than getting behind the wheel of any “new to you” rental car despite the fact that we had not been doing it since we left the states. After one or two drives, and figuring out where all the buttons were, we were back to normal. Being able to take ourselves anywhere we wanted without planning ahead or calling someone to come get us was AWESOME. We just had to plan out the designated driver part more carefully than usual.
- The sky is much more blue, or rather, there are actually individual clouds here vs just a casual gray mass accumulating overhead. The air is cleaner and the weather is cooler and less humid. You really cannot beat summer in Michigan, hence why we planned our trip for this time of year.
- The food is different and has caused a certain amount of discomfort the first few days back (this of course has nothing to do with the fact that the first meal we had was several variations of loaded hotdogs and summer bbq food). No doubt there will be gurgley tummies going back the other way too. Bummer.
- I can understand all the conversations going on around me because they are in English, but I also picked up two conversations in Chinese at the mall somewhere that I would have never been able to identify before.
- Google works and the Internet is fast. We did not forget this, but it was a delightful rediscovery nonetheless.
- Going back to work is very similar to going back to visit your university after you graduate except a lot of your friends are still there!
- We are at the age that many of our friends are getting married and having children, so obviously everyone’s lives continued on without us. There are new tiny humans to meet now and honestly the biggest surprise we have had to date was our nephew being biger and walking around! (We have not seen my parents or godmother’s new houses yet though, so I imagine there are still a few surprises left).
- Stores are much less congested and we successfully used our new bargaining power in a few big box stores here to get some better deals (thanks China!). We have also spent a significant amount of money on some necessities (yay property tax and deodorant) and toys (the iPad I am typing on and a wakeboard that is made for adult women as opposed to the old one I had which was designed for small boys…).
- Can we just return to how nice the weather is and how much more compelled I am to go for a run while we are back? I really do wish we could bring the weather back with us.
Overall it has been great to catch up with friends and family this first week. We still have 2 weeks left for vacation and some work, so I am sure there will be other odd discoveries, but our experience overall has not been jarring or confusing like we have heard it can be for some. Perhaps we are chameleons. Perhaps the hotdogs have clouded our judgement. Perhaps we live in an area of China where the mix of Chinese/western influence is such that we have not had as much trouble adjusting one way or the other. (<– Most Likely)
Signing off (from the truck heading ever closer to the illusive destination of Ludington).