18 May 2017

Observations on Returning to the USA

Well, the first thing I did when we picked out our rental car was open the door to the driver's side (not where I was trying to go).

And then the first thing Angel did when driving out of the rental car lot was swing all the way over to the far side of the street to make a right hand turn (wrong side of the road).

We went to Walmart on our first morning and were open-mouthed with shock and giggling like we'd never seen anything like it before. Angel couldn't get over a $15 Coleman cooler (we have the ultra-cheap plain styrofoam cooler because real coolers are too expensive), I was stuck in the decongestant aisle for the longest time wondering how in the world are you supposed to choose a cold medicine when there's not only multiple varieties, but there's multiple brands of the same variety?! (Don't worry, dormant instincts kicked in and I picked up the cheapest, the store brand)

 LA and Southern California have a reputation for bad traffic and crazy driving situations...but we didn't come across anything that seemed bad in our 5 days of visiting everything we could visit in the area. Maybe it's hard to impress us with bad traffic after experiencing the reality that where we live, on a public holiday, it'll take nearly an hour just to leave the parking ramp at the mall...not to mention how long it'll take to actually drive home.

Everything was colder than I expected. I didn't think I needed to pack any chilly-weather clothes (that is, if I owned any), with a trip spent in California and Texas in May--Michigan might be chilly, but I could just borrow my sisters' clothes while I was there. California and Texas have a reputation for warm weather during much of the year, but since the warmest thing I brought was a denim jacket, I found myself rather chilly on a number of occasions. Apparently I seemed way too cold at Angel's relatives' house, where they kept bringing me sweaters and thick blankets and tried to convince me to take a blanket along with me for the road.

Wheat Chex. That wasn't even on my list of things to eat in America until I passed by it while at the grocery store with my mother-in-law. It's soooo good.

I cried inside an educational supply store because of the sheer quantity and variety of workbooks and educational supplies and teaching resources. Just imagining if we could simply walk into a store like that to get what we need right when we need it...that's crazy. Also, I'm pretty sure the three employees who asked me, "Can I help you, Ma'am?" as tears were running down my cheeks probably thought I was the crazy one.

Actually, this probably happens all over the world, but nobody here thinks we eat enough. Angel especially is eating all sorts of old favorites, but no matter how much we eat, loved ones try to feed us more. At one meal, Angel's uncle serving hamburgers, grilled chicken, and grilled shrimp, in addition to grilled veggies and rice and fruit.

Speed limits are a lot more important here. Where we live, speed limits don't matter so much due to traffic--typically, the speed limit is a lot higher than you can go anyways, because of the crowded roads, so there's no need to watch for speed limit signs. The limits aren't posted very often either, and on occasions when the roads are empty and everyone goes a lot faster, we've never seen anyone pulled over for speeding. Here, the roads are relatively so empty that Angel has to remember that speed is determined by the legal limit, not by the lack/quantity of cars on the road. We've also seen multiple people getting pulled over for speeding, just in the past few weeks.

Clothes with holes in them. What is up with this? All the t-shirts at the stores appear to have gaping holes in the backs and sides and shoulders, or open backs with just strips of material criss-crossed holding the two sides together.  I realize that this is summer...but still...I don't really like the look. I'm on the lookout for normal t-shirts, because in Malaysian weather, I'm not about to wear the sort of t-shirt that requires you to wear a second shirt just to cover up all the holes.

Big open spaces. I can't stop staring when we're driving past rolling fields. Living on a small island, we don't see a lot of open space.

The accents sound really different. First time I heard a Texan accent I nearly jumped--it's familiar, but I just haven't heard these accents in so long...

I'll write more about our travels later--I wanted to record the first impressions before they faded.


  1. Welcome back and welcome to Texas!

  2. Wow, it's so interesting to hear about your first observations coming back to the U.S.! I don't understand all the clothes with holes in them, either. I'm not a big fan of the look, and I also think it would provide an extra opportunity for sunburns in weird places, which does not sound like fun. And yeah,speed limits can be so challenging to remember when there are no other cars and you're on a long, flat road!

  3. Walking into a store and getting exactly what you need right when you need it...I FEEL YOU. Sitka isn't Malaysia but we have a LOT of the same limitations and I totally know where you're coming from on this one.

    I hope you're having an AWESOME time stateside!!!

  4. It's funny how quickly you adapt. I know you've been there a lot longer, but I once went overseas for a few weeks and when I came back, Walmart was a bit overwhelming. Walmart can kind of be that way though!

  5. Cracking up at the holes in the shirts! It's so true, and I don't really get it either. I absolutely take for granted that I can walk into a store and have tons of options. I really shouldn't do that.

  6. I don't understand the appeal of holes/rips in clothes, either. I think the nagging you to eat more is partially a Southern/"country" USA thing. Seems to happen at almost every family gathering or church event that I have been to.

  7. I don't get the holes in the shirts thing either! Christopher and I were walking through Forever 21 while we were in Florida (because I used to love shopping at that store) and I told him that clearly I wasn't 21 anymore because I couldn't handle all the crop tops or ripped clothing. ;)

    Glad you are being fed LOTS! Gotta love family for that! :)

  8. hehehe, welcome back!! I never understood the logic behind holes in clothes either--if I want holes, I'll wear them in myself! >_>

  9. If you think the cut-outs on American T-shirts are crazy, you should see American swimsuits!

  10. These are very interesting reflections, thank you for sharing! I'm finding choosing pharmaceuticals a very lengthy task here, too. So much choice. And I'm with you on the crazy cut outs. Who can actually live their life productively in clothes like that?!

    I hope the rest of your trip goes really well, you continue to be kept warm and well fed, and keep the observations coming!

  11. It's like you had a reverse culture shock coming back to the states after a long time! Many LDS missionaries experience the same thing...My brother will be coming home in November this year after spending 2 years in the south tip of Argentina proselyting the Gospel. It'll be interesting to see his "culture shock" upon returning to the the US and not living in a 3rd world country area.

  12. I enjoyed reading your "culture shock" experiences. :-) Thanks for writing them up for us.

    If you're in Texas now you must be feeling mighty chilly! Tomorrow night it's supposed to be 55F where we are!

    I buy most of my clothing from online stores these days - ones where I know I can find what I want and they won't be doing the "trending" styles as much. You might possibly find some t-shirts in the men's department, unless their sizes don't go small enough for you. I buy some of mine there because, weirdly, they often have better color options (IMO) than the women's department. Also, they aren't "fitted" in the same way, and the necklines and sleeves are more predictable.

  13. The amount of consumerism in America is apalling when you come in from another country. But when you live here, it's overwhelming but that's just the way it is. I still struggle to figure out which cold medicine is the best to buy.

  14. I love reading your impressions after being away from the USA for so long. Even coming from Hawaii back home to New York, things are different and weird. People talk to each other differently, treat each other differently, eat differently, and definitely drive differently. It's an adjustment!

  15. I'm not a fan of the distressed look either. People pay for random holes in their clothes?! Why?!

    Also we were in SoCal in May, and I had to buy jeans because I had only packed one pair of thin pants. Luckily I'd packed a sweatshirt, but I didn't expect to wear it almost daily!