I used to think that reverse culture shock was a myth. What could possibly be “shocking” about returning to your home culture? It makes no sense. I probably wrote about this two years ago, but honestly, it gets worse every time.
When I’m in France, I never function at 100% due to language and culture. Where can I go to find this? How do you say that? It’s why I still make trips to the bookshelf to pull down the dictionary. It’s why I am always a student of the culture. You eventually get used to it, accept your limitations and rely on God to fill in the gaps.
But that’s not what you expect when you return home.
I expect to be able to easily accomplish everything I need to do. I know where to go and what to say. But my country has changed since I’ve been away. Kinkos isn’t called Kinkos anymore, and they’re not open 24/7. I needed something printed. They used to help you with that, instead they pointed me to a workstation. I needed it printed on card stock, another on color paper. Eventually I left the store. The people at the next one were helpful. I was shocked at how long and labor intensive such a simple task could be.
It turns out I’m handicapped in my own country too. Even when I speak there are holes, words that won’t come, sentences cut short. I used to be pretty fluent in English, but now sometimes I sputter like an old car that needs a carburetor adjustment.
I was standing at the back of my first church service in the States for two years, looking across a room with thousands of people. It’s a far cry from the 30 or so at my church in France. The music was polished, the technology was modern, everything was fine tuned. It was overwhelming. As rich as worshiping in my heart language is, it almost seems, foreign.
A friend asked me how I see “home”, which is really tough to answer. Home is a concept that has become fuzzy. I’ll always be Montanan, but I’m also a little bit Minnesotan, French and even German. Those are all places I’ve called home. But identity, which goes even deeper, isn’t a problem. My citizenship is in heaven, and I am a child of God. So wherever home is, I’m in God’s hands and that’s exactly where I need to be.