Saturday, August 04, 2012

Some thoughts on Culture Shock and 'Murca

Greetings from Dallas Ft Worth Airport. I will post this tomorrow, as right now I am en route to my parents' place as a surprise for my dad on his 75th birthday. The things we do for love and family. Like fly halfway across this earth. On short notice. It's REALLY hot here, after having flown in from rainy cold Norway, and all the men here wear cargo shorts. Every last one of them. You can identify Americans everywhere by the cargo shorts and flip flops. Do they not have long pants for men here?

Anyhow. I have spent 10 years living in Norway, as of August 24th. 10 years. A quarter of my life. While I never thought of Norway as 'home' it is, in its own way, home. Home for now, home that I am used to, culturally and environmentally.

And this is brought heavily to bear on me as I feel some pretty severe culture shock right now, being in the US.

You gotta remember, I left the States very soon after 9/11. Just under a year after. When I left they were still building up the whole Homeland Security juggernaut. I left in 2002, I wasn't around when the US became, and I hate to say it, a police state.

Those of you living in the US, it has been a gradual process, you haven't felt the tightening of the rules and the militaristic, authoritarian build up so much as it happened slowly over time. Each time you went to the airport or did something, there was a new rule or two, but it wasn't too overwhelming. Another small inconvenience. But for those of us who remember the US from 10 years ago, it is a strange feeling to get on a plane and be told that the US Federal Government won't allow you to use a toilet that is not in your cabin class due to 'security concerns' and that you cannot stand in the aisles of the plane or move between cabins without staff knowledge, due, once again, to US Federal Law. There has been a big tightening in Customs rules, (though oddly immigration seems easier?) and the TSA is just an absolute nightmare. Sorry, but it is. Sure, there are good and bad experiences with it, but the difference in the security folderol between the US and Norway is like night and day. The US feels intrusive, now. Intrusive and almost Gestapo. There I said it. I guess it's true. You can't really ever come home. You may come back to the place, but the home you remember, it's gone.

This doesn't mean that I am not keen to move 'home', to Texas, eventually. Because I am. But it DOES mean that when I come back, my eyes are open, and I will experience my home country and state from a unique position, as one who understands all the language and pop culture and nuances of the place, but can also cast a critical eye on the absolute shit that has happened while I have been gone.  That there are different, and better, ways of doing things. You can bet I'll be more political, more active and more vocal about things. Hell, I might become a pain in the ass.

A big, sweaty, 'God I am not used to this heat anymore, aren't you DYING?', pain in the ass. All this air conditioning everywhere. Just not used to it.

One more flight, a car rental and a 90 minute drive and I will be in the bosom of my family. I left Norway at 7am Norway time and it's now 1 am that time, and I am still 4-5 hours from being finished.

Funny thing happened waiting for flight from DFW to Missouri: This guy sitting next to me was BITCHING AND MOANING loudly about how he couldn't get change to make a phone call and it was RUINING HIS LIFE and how ANGRY he was that he just COULDN'T GET CHANGE ANYWHERE. I got sick of his bitching, so got up, went to a Subway right there near the gate, got change for a buck, came back and gave it to him. He was shocked, and tried to give me a dollar, but I was all "Nah, just go make your call.". The people around me nearly high-fived me. Jesus dude, nothing is a problem that can't be fixed if you just FIX IT! Now shut the fuck up and get a pair. Damn.

I have talked to more strangers in a 4 hour period today than I have in over a year in Norway. Americans are the chattiest damn people. I totally forgot about that. They will talk to ANYONE.


  1. oh poo! just get here, buy a sweater, buy a gun put on some lipstick and you'll be fine.

  2. "That there are different, and better, ways of doing things. You can bet I'll be more political, more active and more vocal about things. Hell, I might become a pain in the ass."

    I could have written that.

    I moved back to the USA last year after 13 years in Europe and can totally relate. I had to ask lots of questions about how things are done in the US and also get used to strangers talking to me. Several times I've said, "Oh. Well back in Germany, we ....." and people (including family members) looked at me like I was from the moon. It gets better with time, though. It doesn't totally go away, but I'm not sure I want it to.

  3. Word to the chatty part. Good for an introvert like me who is in acute danger of only ever talking to people via Twitter. I find immigration has gotten a little easier/friendlier (as a non-US Citizen) too, but haven't noticed any custom changes (last entered the US in April). Anything specific?

  4. Anonymous11:30 AM

    Norway is your home.
    We have two local pubs where we are at home... enuff said.
    Hurry back my liver is going dry

    The Blogless one! Who happens to be Scotthish ( said in a Mrs Doubtfire voice!)


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