Attitude adjustment

From the US State Department’s guide to reverse culture shock:

Myths & Misconceptions About the United States

Many people [i.e. Americans returning home after a long sojourn abroad] have misconceptions concerning life in the United States. Some of these myths include:

  • Everything works better back home.
  • People are more efficient.
  • Everything is clean.
  • Things are basically the same as when I left.
  • Personal relationships can be resumed easily.
  • I can cope easily in my own culture.

New Attitudes & Values of Sojourners

Americans often develop new attitudes, values and perceptions as a result of their travels. These can often cause stress on reentry.

  • I see America through a sharper lens, both its strengths and weaknesses. I no longer take this country for granted and I really resent unbalanced criticism by Americans who haven’t experienced the rest of the world.
  • I see the validity of at least one other culture. That makes me realize that the American way is not always “right” or “best.” I am impatient with people who criticize other countries and blindly accept everything American causing them to never question anything.
  • I have an unclear concept of home now.
  • I place more value on relationships than other Americans seem to. People here are too busy for one another.
  • Everyone in America is always so stressed and frantic. They never relax. I feel like I can’t relate to others.

This is so true, in particular the last two points. After several years of living abroad, I was shocked at how intense and stressed-out most Americans are. No more leisurely hour-long lunches with colleagues… everyone eats at their desks or goes downstairs to “grab something.” Once you’ve lived the good life, it’s hard to go back.

Civilization and its discontents

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