Moving back to America after spending the past year in China was hard. For me, moving to China and adjusting to the Chinese culture was seamless. Coming home was the opposite. There are quite a few cultural readjustments I had to make when moving home. To start, I forgot how long the hiring process was in America. Back in China, you would hear from companies almost immediately after you applied, and they practically offered you the job in the interview if they wanted to hire you. Here, I had to keep reminding myself that not hearing from American companies for a few weeks was completely normal.
Another thing I forgot (or almost forgot) was tipping. My mom and I have always been sticklers for not tipping with bad service, so that wasn’t a huge difference in China, but coming home I forgot that it was rude to not leave a tip. The first few times I went out, my family would look at me in confusion for not leaving a tip and then would be generous enough to offer to leave the tip for me.
I had gotten so used to how polite and giving the Chinese people were that coming home was a shock. It was so odd to me that accidentally bumping into someone was considered highly offensive. One habit I never lost in China was saying “sorry” or “对不起”in Chinese. In America, even with an apology, people can be so rude when even slightly jostled in a crowd. I was not prepared for the hostility I had been immune to before China.
My favorite cultural readjustment was the driving. I can’t explain how different I viewed American drivers after China. In China, drivers of any mode of transportation (moped, bicycle, car, or bus) are fearless! My first ride in a Chinese taxi was one of the most terrifying and exhilarating experiences of my life. My friends Anaïs and Kevin were with me and we were visiting our friends’ city. I remember Anaïs holding on for her life to anything she could grasp and Kevin saying he felt like he was in Mario Kart. Our driver went down the narrowest of alleys and followed other cars so closely that we were sure he would end up driving us in to the back of their car. Back here in America, tailgating doesn’t hold a candle to Chinese taxi drivers!
The language is another readjustment I had to make. While I was constantly speaking English with my fellow EAs, students, and other foreigners, not hearing Chinese every day was weird. I still use some Chinese phrases in my everyday conversation to keep it fresh in my mind. I miss seeing characters everywhere and find myself looking for excuses to listen to Chinese conversations or practice reading the characters.
There are plenty of other small cultural readjustments that I experience, even today. For some people, the adjustment is harder than others. I have been fortunate enough that my readjustment was gradual and not overwhelming. Part of the reason I was so lucky with my readjustment was because I found a job working with high school students from China. This granted me the opportunity to keep the Chinese culture I grew accustomed to part of my life.