Reverse Culture Shock

Programs for this blog post

Teach In Spain Program

Authored By:

Diamond W.

The Brief Return

Over winter break, I had the pleasure of returning to the states. This time, I had a profound feeling of foreignness. I felt more like an outsider compared to the other times when I had returned. It was a new and enlightening experience because I realized that I was experiencing reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock, by definition, is a term used to describe the feelings (of surprise, disorientation, confusion, etc.) experienced when people return to their home country and find they do not fit in as they used to.  Granted, this is where I spent most of my life, and I only felt this culture shock for the first few days. But this new sensation caused me to notice the little idiosyncrasies that are particularly American, which I have written below: 

The Observations

1. Americans are very friendly. Right off the bat, as soon as I got off the airplane in the USA, I am greeted by smiling, polite faces. This non-verbal salutation makes someone feel welcomed.  In Spain, strangers do not smile at strangers.  

2. Potholes. Potholes are in the roads everywhere. Not only are potholes bothersome, they're also bad for the car that you drive. The roads in Madrid are mostly well maintained. 

3. Eating on the go. Often, you see people with a to-go something in their hands. A Coffee, bagel, drink. In contrast, eating in Spain is cherished, not rushed. 

4. Cost of living. I can no longer afford to live in the USA. 5 dollars for a small coffee?! What a sin. 

5. Big cars. Even if you do not have a large family, you drive a big car. In Spain, I rarely see SUV’s or big trucks.

6. Diversity in food. Because the USA is a melting pot of diverse cultures, major cities are filled with a plethora of great and different restaurants. This is something I struggle to find in Madrid. 

7. Public transportation. In major metropolitan cities, there is some form of public transportation. Whether it is efficient, clean, and safe, is a whole different subject. In general, America is a vehicle driven country. 

8. Hustle and bustle. There is a constant sense of rushing. Everyone is always on the move.

9 Milk and eggs are refrigerated. LIKE THEY SHOULD BE! 

10. Chick-fil-a. The best fast food that has yet to grace Europe with its presence.  


11. Walking isn't as common, even if walking is an option. Most people will opt to drive. Even after a week, I was hopping in my car just to go a few blocks. In Spain, I do not own a car so I am forced to take public transportation. While it is an adjustment, I prefer public transportation because it is kinder to my wallet. 

12. Far. Everything is so far from one another. 

13.Diversity. Big cities tend to have more jobs, which attracts more people and in turn, diversity. It was nice to go back to a country where I can see more black and brown faces.  

14. Monolingualism. As a predominantly English-speaking country, there is a high likelihood that you'll meet someone who only speaks one language. In Europe, I have personally found that it is more likely that you'll meet someone who speaks two or more languages. 

15. Hair product. As someone who has coily, coarse, thick hair, my typical hair products don't exist in Spain. Granted, there may be stores that sell some, but which girl is not particular about what products she uses? In general, the USA has a larger market that caters to Afro textured hair. 


16. Grocery stores. There are so many choices!!!! For just one product, you might find an aisle filled with thirty distinct brands. Options are good, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. 

17. Adjusting your food order.  A lot of restaurants allow substitutions for their dishes. However, my experience in Europe is that what the menu says, is what you will get.  

18. Huge reusable water bottles. Stanley cups are everywhere and if you don't see one, you'll definitely hear them when they fall. It sounds like a fire extinguisher falling. Drinking water is life. Meanwhile in Spain, wine is the preferred method of hydration. 

19. Small talk. Americans love small talk. We will be your best friend in a heartbeat, whether you asked or not. 

20. The pledge of allegiance. Every morning before school starts, kids say the pledge of allegiance, which is basically an oath stating that we dedicate our life to the country. From an outsider's point of view, this can be a little perturbing. Why are kids forced to recite their allegiance to their country every day? 

21. Work to live vs live to work. As evidenced by the lack of vacation days, capitalism has forced the American lifestyle to be all work and extraordinarily little time for play. This is something that I hope to never get used to again. On average, the Spanish citizen can get up to thirty days of paid vacation, compared to the USA which gets eleven. 

In Conclusion 

With all that being said, I of course do not speak for all of the USA, nor what happens in every city, town, or state. This post is merely my personal opinion and observations, with a touch of comedy.