I have lived in Asia for three years, and traveled many places in between. And hands down, the part I dislike most isn’t the bugs, the heat, or the language. Its the culture shock I get when I visit the states.
My mom said something to me one day that stuck. She said, “maybe the reason you hate culture so much is it triggers the isolation you felt as a homeschooler.”
It clicked. I mean, culture shock is to be expected especially when for two years with no western breaks my norm was eating with my hands or spoon (I didn’t own a fork), using a spray hose instead of toilet paper (it was down right creepy gross to use toilet paper for the first time and stick my hand near my butt, ewe), riding a motorcycle, eating street food, and talking a different language
But when I experience the expected-normal culture shock, I want to pull hairs. My palms sweat, I breathe over and over to see if I’m alive, and I regularly cry. Last summer I remember agonizing aloud, “I’ll never belong again.”
And then I found this this blog post about returning from a foreign country that explained it all. It gave me verbal affirmation that culture shock is real, and anyone who doesn’t understand probably just hasn’t lived in a third world country for two years straight. But it also just made me go “yes, yes,” because it reminded me of how I felt a long, long time ago.
Take out a few sentences here or there, scratch missionary out and put “homeschooler” in and that blog post describes the culture adjustments many homeschool graduates face.
1. Expect to feel like an alien for the first few weeks back home. Feeling disorientated, lethargic, confused, detached exhausted and frustrated is quite the norm at this time. The only completely effective cure is time: the longer you are back, the easier it will get, but expecting the negative feelings – and preparing for them as best you can – will help ease the way.
YES YES! That was me in college, I felt disoriented and confused. What was going on? What were people talking about? And detached? Yes, I felt like I was disconnected from one world and yet not connected to another world. Then one day, I started to get people, and had a lot of friends. But then I realized, although I had learned their ways, I was still detached, I was still the exchange student.
5. There will be some conversations you will struggle to follow, even though they are in your mother tongue. Again, this is due to cultural references and ways of speaking to which you are unaccustomed. With time, you will tune back into these.
Again WORD. When people threw in enough culture or movies cues jokes that a person who never listened to regular music or rarely saw movies (except Sound of Music type movies) could get, I could not follow a lot of conversations in my own tongue.
7. People will openly express their shock at something you don’t know about the home culture, even though they know you’ve been away for years. This is another strange one – I can only assume it’s part of the culture! Things like: “Do you mean to say you don’t know what a tom-tom is?!” “What do you mean, you haven’t heard of Will.i.am?!” or “How can you not know what league Chelsea are in?!” All you can do is reiterate that you’ve been out of the country or (better still) make a joke of it “I know – I’m so out of touch, eh?”
OMG seriously!!!!!!!!!!!! People often got chucks over what I did not know.
9. Some things you say – which seem perfectly normal to you – may shock or even offend others. This is purely due to the differing set of cultural norms you have been used to. Example: saying “You’re old” to an old person – this would be a respectful
Not so much for me, but I have seen it –when homeschoolers go in and talk about how its a sin for a woman to work, haha, or tell their classmates they are offended when they say the “s” word. haha. I’ve wanted to slap some girls and say, “the rest of this world isn’t just not bending our way, accept it.”
10. You’re likely to be shocked by: (i) materialistic attitudes and practices (“Come and look at my new kitchen – it cost £12,000”), (ii) moral standards and norms (ie how young women dress, advertisements, television programmes, bad language) and (iii) the cold response of non-Christians when you say you are a missionary. The cost of just about everything is likely to shock you, too.
Change “missionary” to homeschooler, and WORD. I remember going home and telling my mom I was so shocked when my roommate would drive to Taco Bell over eating the (already paid for) cafeteria food or would buy herself a new T-shirt. “How can she afford that?” I’d ask mom. I had grown up scrapping pennies, so paying for two meals was odd. Then I was shocked over moral standards in every way. And I got so tired of the cold response from Baptist rich kids when I mentioned that I was homeschooled that I just left that part of my history out.
15. And finally, remember that you will generally feel more at ease with other people who have lived overseas, probably for the rest of your life.
After college, and despite how I started to blend in and look like a regular person, I still concluded that I’ll always feel more at ease with other homeschool graduates. Thankfully, that has not proven all the way true, probably more in part to my international travels than anything else. 😛
You know, I get it. A life overseas means different clothes, different culture, different food, different language, different holidays, and its a life where Americans don’t keep you to date with latest fads and movies. So its easy to re-enter and be pretty confused.
And since my interaction with those outside the homeschool subculture was minimal, and I went years without tapping into American jokes, music, movies, and lifestyle, its pretty easy to see why I felt lost.
As one who lives overseas, and has new travel plans next year, I see the culture shock worth it, but a pain in the butt indeed.
EDIT: I know this post was about homeschoolers, but I am very passionate about overseas community too. If you live overseas and want a community who understands, I recommend alifeoverseas.com.