One week ago my family arrived back in the USA after living and serving in S. Asia for two years. I know that overtime my first culture will become the norm again, but for now I am still able to view things with a slightly different perspective as a third culture adult. This week has been a great time of catching up with family, seeing a few friends, and trying to get over jet lag.
During the course of this week there have been a few initial observations that come to mind that I would like to share in no particular order.
1. Americans are entirely too busy and work too much. The culture where we had been living started the day around 10 am and somehow those who had jobs were always able to meet you at random times of the day for coffee or rather chai. I've seen a few friends in the area where I grew up this week, but for the most part everybody is busy working.
2. Americans spend way too much time in the car. This could be due to locality of where I grew up in NC, but I miss being able to walk to nearby places. I calculated this week that in the last twenty-five years my dad has spent approximately one full year commuting back and forth to work.
3. Everything is so nice and clean. Let's face it, I have been living in a culture that has very different hygiene standards and many people are uneducated as to what is proper hygiene. This caused me to lower my own standards and expectations to now I will go eat at about any hole in the wall restaurant, even if there are a few roaches on the counter.
4. Everything is big in America. McDonald's is not the only place that does the super size me, but everything is super sized! Food, drinks, people, stores, traffic lanes, etc. All of it is big!
5. Americans also worship 330 million gods like the Hindus. This is not a new observation so much, but seeing all the materialism at Christmas time and how much stuff Americans have to spend their money on can quickly reveal who and what they are worshipping. It may be packaged in a nicer looking temple, but all people worship something and I do not care if that is political correct by saying so.
6. There are too many traffic laws. Wow, did I just say that? Driving was one of the most stressful things for me overseas, but I have realized that there are too many laws in US driving and some things that S. Asians do actually make some sense to me now. I have only used my horn once, but I did keep thinking I ended up on the wrong side of the road somehow.
7. Political correctness is more rampant now than it was in 2011. I knew this was the case because I kept up with the major news outlets from overseas, but just this week I have already seen how absorbed people have become with things like the Duck Dynasty controversy. American culture is headed in a direction that it is going to become increasingly more difficult for the so called "nominal" Christians to be in, which is not entirely a bad thing.
8. The US culture in many ways is a harder place to minister and be a missionary. I was living and serving in the least reached area of the world, but it was such an easy place to share the gospel and talk about spiritual aspects of life. In the US, everyone wants to keep faith private or if you live in the South many people that are not truly disciples think that they are because it has become part of the culture.
9. You can find anything and everything in America. I'm returning from a much simpler life where you could find a limited amount of foods and things. You get to a place where you realize that you truly have everything you need so it bothers you less and less. Now, there is so much stuff that I forgot even existed. I even left boxes of stuff in my parents garage and it felt like an early Christmas this week looking through the stuff.
10. Most people will not be able to relate or understand the life I have lived. This is nobody's fault, but just the reality of not many people living in the same country where I lived. In many conversations this week I can tell that people are unsure of what to talk to me about or what to even ask, so they usually ask nothing instead. This has been a disappointment because not many people have asked at all about our life or work there, but instead only focused on us being back here.