Former Expat

Former Expat: Where Do I Begin?

My mind is flooded with thoughts whenever I attempt to share how our lives have been since returning to the States.  So many different emotions.  It’s hard to know what to focus on and where to begin.

For starters, let me tell you something about a little-known phenomenon called “reverse culture shock”.  I’d heard of it , but I had no idea that it could pack such a wallop.  For the first 2 – 3 months of being back in the States, everyday situations would leave me feeling overwhelmed, lost, and sad.

Grocery shopping.

Driving a car with 2 children in the back.

Entering a shopping mall.

Talking politics.

Never did the old saying “you can never go home again” seem so apropos.

Let me give you some specifics…

When we lived in NZ, I was often sticker-shocked by the cost of groceries.  More than once, I would bemoan the high prices.  I eventually realized that you get what you pay for, and in New Zealand, you pay for and get a very high quality of life.  But those groceries were still expensive compared to what I’d paid in the USA.

Then, we move back here.  I go grocery shopping, see the low prices, and start to cry in the aisle.  Not giant boo-hoo crocodile tears… it was the tiny, stinging, pin-prick tears that take your breath away and turn your nose bright red.  Still, tears nonetheless.  I was, and still am at times, consumed with guilt and regret whenever I shop.  I feel like a sell-out.  I regret my complaining about NZ prices, and I feel like those USA groceries are a smack in the face.  I got my lower prices, alright, but it cost me New Zealand.

Now, imagine feeling that way every single time you walked into a grocery store.  It gets old.  And overwhelming.  It means that when you get home, you’re in a blue funk and you’re constantly second-guessing yourself.  You’re so overwrought that you miss 1/4 of the items on your list and have to go back to the grocery store.  That was me.  I would get home from the store feeling like I’d been popped in the mouth.  Oftentimes, I did my shopping in the evening once the boys were asleep and I could peruse the aisles solo.  I would miss those NZ prices, the selection, and online grocery shopping.  By the time I’d get home, I was a mess.

All of this, from grocery shopping.

Don’t even get me started on politics.

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5 thoughts on “Former Expat: Where Do I Begin?

  1. I can only imagine the emotions! I love the fact, though, that you will always have NZ in your home—considering both of your boys were born here, and you picked up words, recipes, stories, books and more from your time here. That will all get baked in to your home and family, making them just that much more lovely!

  2. Interesting perspective. Does it seem louder there by chance? I’ll look forward to reading more about this. Hang in there – you were here for 3 years – long enough for it to feel like home. Everything is a trade off, right? And with all the energy going into raising young children and fixing up a house, you’ve probably not had a lot of time to find those little places that will become your sanity and saving grace. If we can connect up in Williamsburg the next time I come home, I can give you the way off the beaten path dime tour ;). If you’d like.

  3. It’ll eventually get better, but it takes a good 4-6 months before the reverse culture shock starts to wear off. I remember getting completely overwhelmed with going to the bank drive through and trying to buy a soft drink in a gas station. Two things that should seemingly be easy, but were so awkward and I felt like I didn’t quite know what to do.
    And yes, don’t even get me started on politics either. I’m afraid I can’t give you any encouragement there! 🙂

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