Grass is greener where you water it.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I was warned about reverse culture shock. Other former expats approach me with knowing eyes, gently asking how I am, saying how long it took for them to get over the post-Europe hangover.

I think I have honestly been so busy that I haven't really had time to feel sad, and the happy things I've been greeted with since being back in Texas have triumphed over any moody feelings. As I said in my last post, I of course feel little bouts of sadness here and there. When I think of the places I didn't get a chance to visit, when I see an Instagram of an adorable English village, or think about mornings spent at Boston Tea Party on Park Street.

Truthfully, since being in Austin I've barely cracked open my laptop and I haven't even touched my camera once *shock horror*. But no one likes to read a laundry list of excuses. I've been keeping a list of notes in my phone of little differences that I've noticed since being stateside again. Being away a year and a half was long enough to adjust to my new life overseas, but not so long where I am jolted by the American realities. I was all too aware that I would be coming back in midst of Election season *rolls eyes*. 

The grass is most definitely greener where you water it.

The Peaks
  1. You know that 'ol song Deep in the Heart of Texas? Pretty much anyone who grew up in Texas knows this song line-for-line and it brings back memories of school assemblies and camp fires. For those who are unfamiliar, give it a listen and try not to giggle. Okay the general lyrics/sound is going to confirm any stereotype of Texas you may have in you head, BUT being back in Texas has reminded me that the stars at night DEFINITELY ARE BIG AND BRIGHT. It's such an odd thing to notice but I just love going outside and night and being able to see thousands of stars, even living in a city. England's sky was generally so cloudy that I forgot what a sky full of stars looked like.
  2. Breakfast Tacos. The thrill of reuniting with Mexican food is a given for anyone who knows what good Mexican food is. Hint: not Taco Bell. But breakfast tacos in particular have been a shining beacon of happiness since I've returned. Good luck finding these outside of the Texas and the Southwest USA in general.
  3. Speaking of food, can I get an amen for the amount of free refills here?! I'm not just talking about chips and salsa which is great, I'm talking about the constant stream of water at restaurants. I drink water like a fish and the whole shot glass-sized cups in Europe with maybe one refill if you're lucky was not my style.
  4. Customer service. I definitely don't think people in Europe are as mean or cold as some people say they are, it's just a totally different expectation. Waiters there are given a real salary and aren't dependent on tips like they are in the USA, and people in shops there tend to just not do small talk. Here, the second you walk into a clothing shop it's "HI HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY CAN I HELP YOU FIND ANYTHING LET ME KNOW LOVE YOUR HAIR BY THE WAY" and then repeat with a different employee 2 minutes later. It's refreshing to know you won't ever be stranded in the middle of the store hoping someone will assist you, but sometimes I'd like to look at shoes in peace.
  5. And of course, seeing my family & friends! I didn't do a big "I'm moving back to Texas" announcement on social media so I'm in that awkward stage of wanting to make friends & reunite with people but not sure how to go about texting "Hi so umm I moved back to America what's up?"

The Pits
  1. Recycling. I am so, so frustrated with the lack of recycling programs here. And Austin is even considered one of the more "green" cities out there, promoting recycling and a city-wide ban on plastic bags, just to name a few positives. But y'all - it is absolute child's play compared to how far ahead Europe is when it comes to sustainable, effective, and simple recycling schemes. In Bristol I had four bins in my kitchen. It sounds like that would take up a bunch of room and be a pain - it wasn't. They were sorted by type and picked up WEEKLY by the city. It was a piece of cake. Even when I lived in a house with 5 people, we filled up the bin with rubbish maybe once every 2 weeks since nearly everything was recyclable. Here in Austin, we have one bin that accepts *some* things and gets taken out every other week, but the calendars they gave us have the WRONG pick up dates on them and they also don't pick up cardboard boxes, you have to load them up and drive them to a recycling centre. People around the world tease Americans for how terrible we are at recycling and although it's true, it has to start with the city making programs that everyone can participate in with ease. I don't know a single person who wouldn't recycle if we had the same programs as England - it was so simple and straightforward. It's not hard to put divided bins outside in the streets, I would like to see them in more places than just Whole Foods. And seriously, enough with styrofoam cups.
  2. Public transport. Need I say more. WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP. Unless you live somewhere like New York City, Boston, or Chicago - good luck living without a car and driving for every little single thing. I miss walking, the tube, and I definitely miss hopping on trains. I even miss the bus a little bit.
  3. Pharmacies. *Screams internally* You would think I was trying to smuggle hard drugs out of there with the number of phone calls I've made between my doctor, my insurance company, and my pharmacy. Just give my my friggin' medicine that I was prescribed to by my doctor and that I'm overpaying for.
  4. Drugstore makeup. Why you no have testers? Sure we can return items unlike the UK, but I'd really rather just be able to swatch that lipstick and see what it looks like instead of driving 15 minutes to Target to get reimbursed $3.
  5. I've really always considered myself to be a warm weather lover. I hate being cold, I get extremely grumpy if I have to be outside in anything below 40°F. That being said, I think England ruined my heat tolerance. My go-to outfit involves jeans, boots, and some inclusion of (fake) leather and that's what I enjoy wearing. It's been in the 70s fahrenheit which is unusually warm for February, even in Texas but I am now terrified about what summer has in store. Scorching heat, obscene humidity, and UV indexes out of this world means I'll be trading my chelsea boots for SPF 50 sunscreen.

A photo posted by Elle Hawthorne (@ellehawthorne) on

Have you experienced reverse culture shock? Has living in a different country opened your eyes to things you like and don't like about your home country?

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