I've been back in the United States for about three weeks and can definitely confirm that I've been experiencing some "reverse culture shock." I'd read about this condition and knew that it could occur but wasn't sure what to expect. Culture shock isn't necessarily good or bad...it just "is." So here are some snippets of my experiences over the past few weeks....
1. Lining up - Having lived in Turkey for almost 2 years I'd gotten used to the pushing, shoving and lack of making a queue. As a matter of fact, I missed the predictability of lines and the respect of body space while I was in Turkey. But nothing prepared me for the Southwest Airlines numbering system outside the gate for efficiency in boarding planes. Don't get me wrong. I liked the organization and I couldn't help but peek over my shoulder to make I "understood" the process and was in the correct position.
2. Crosswalks - I'm still adjusting to crossing the street. After 2 years of waiting until I could see no cars in any direction and then sprinting across a road or highway, I'm still not trusting of walk lights or the laws where the cars "must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks." Many times, I've been standing at the curb while cars stop and then honk or wave to prompt me to take my "right-of-way" to cross the street.
3. Driving - I get a little bored and tired during long distance drives here in the US. Traffic is predictable, roads are wide and generally smooth, and cars keep their distance. I'd kind of gotten used to unpredictable, white-knuckle driving.
4. Bluetooth and Google Maps with voice commands - I'm enjoying both here in the US especially because they are in English. I used Google Maps in Turkey but often ended up in the wrong location, probably because I didn't use the correct Turkish characters while typing.
5. Satellite Radio - I know this isn't new but I've never had it. Thank goodness for the radio to solve problem #3 above.
6. Grocery Stores - They are overwhelmingly large and exhausting to enter. The walk to find healthy foods seems so great that I can see why obesity is such a problem. It's just easier to grab the first packaged food product one can find and then head on out the door.
7. Obesity - Never believed it, but yes, we seem much fatter than I remember two years ago. Is it the grocery store design, the frequency of driving or our general laziness.
8. Bicycles - The number of trails, bikes and riders has increased. I've even seen a new design of bicycle that will hold 3 kids or a week's worth of groceries on the back. 200 miles of bike trails conveniently located 2 minutes from our daughter's front door was pretty cool. Unfortunately, I don't see any of the people in #7 riding bikes.
9. Streets - They are soooooo wide, so straight (especially here in the West), and so smooth.
10.Taste of food - I'm not used to the richness of butter not the sweetness of sugar. However, I feel like everything needs salt.
11. Grass - It's green and there is lots of it. Grass was kind of sparse and rare.
12. Quiet - I can hear birds chirping and nights are so quiet. I've been sleeping really well.
13. Tattoos and body piercings - Although there were tattoo parlors in Turkey and many young people had small tattoos and tiny nose rings, I'm seeing whole bodies including faces covered in art. I'm seeing quarter sized holes in earlobes and lips, eyes, noses etc. covered with piercings.
14. Cars and trucks - They are huge, newer, and fast. Gas stations are plentiful and easy to find.
15. Emergency vehicles - Red lights flash and cars pull over.
16. Gadgets - A trip to REI yields things that I never knew were made and yet now can't imagine living without.
17. Leisure time - We work hard at playing and planning our free time.
In spite of all the things I'm enjoying about being back in the United States, I'm also conscious of the things I miss about Turkey. I miss the kind, hospitable people. I miss the fresh produce including vine-ripe tomatoes, small-crunchy cucumbers, and bags of delicious lemons. I loved the olives and olive oil. The warm pita bread was delicious. Eating healthy was much less expensive than eating fast food or packaged food. The pace of life was slower. The seaside was beautiful.
Although I know I have a lot more to process, reflect and write about Turkey, time dictates that I get ready for the next adventure. Be watching for the first installment in the new blog pjinmalaysia coming soon. Güle Güle.