Minneapolis culture shock

Why do people always bemoan culture shock when they go abroad? If you don’t like culture shock, why ever leave your neighborhood? Isn’t experiencing the cornucopia of differences and peculiarities of a new place the main point? Hell, apart from topless beaches and wine, culture shock is the primary reason that I travel! If I don’t get culture shock I feel like I got ripped off and someone owes me a replacement trip (I’m talking about you Brussels). They should rename it ‘Culture You Asked For It’, because you did ask for it when you bought the plane ticket, dummy.

What truly sucks is reverse culture shock. When you finally get home and the stuff that’s been around you for a lifetime suddenly confuses or scares you shitless – that’s the part I hate. It’s embarrassing and far less likely to induce compassion from those around you. If you have to use a squat-toilet outhouse in the jungles of Malaysian Borneo with toilet paper ostensibly made out of fiberglass people are like “Oh. My. God. You poor thing!” But you get no sympathy when you faint after one look at the 76 different kinds of chips at Rainbow.

That’s only the beginning. I’ve had to fight to stay conscious and maintain urethra control while:

  •  Crossing Hiawatha Ave. at 46th street during rush hour.
  • Staring at a TV screen mounted two inches in front of my face at the urinal in the bathroom at Solera playing bright, strobe-y, fast-edit commercials – I abhor frivolous lawsuits, but the first time someone’s advertising campaign causes me to have a public seizure with my pants around my ankles, I’m gonna ruin the bastards.
  •  Struggling to consume an entire hamburger at Old Chicago with a shrunken Asian stomach capacity.
  •  Not staring at the shocking overabundance of morbidly obese people.
  •  Making a split-second decision on how much to tip a pizza delivery guy/taxi driver/bad server.
  • Watching drivers kindly waving pedestrians by so they can safely cross the street instead of flying into a rage over the minor inconvenience and leaning on the horn for 10 seconds.
  • Overhearing conversations and actually being able to understand them (and then wishing I hadn’t).
  • Being able make lunch plans without having to wonder if the restaurant will be closed due to day of the week, summer holidays, siesta or major soccer matches.
  • Driving a car for the first time in a year (to Pinedas Tacos) and having to get right on Hiawatha Ave, which felt like the highway battle scene in “The Matrix II” after five months in Southeast Asia.
  • Emailing someone at a government office and a) not having the email bounce with a ‘user has exceeded their disk quota’ error and b) receiving a reply.
  • Having the server leave the bill on the table after only two forkfuls of my meal, rather than having to sit for 30 minutes after the dishes have been cleared and beg for the bill so I can get on with my life.
  • Having to park my car in a carefully marked, designate spot (and pay for it!), rather than just abandoning it on the sidewalk like Buddha intended.

I’ve gotten significantly better at transitioning between home and abroad now that I actually live here, but it was a rough ride during the years that I was a homeless wanderer, only coming home once a year or so for 3-4 week visits. I still get a little light headed every time walk into a Super Target or go to the post office and find people actually working.

I often day dream about writing the Euro-version of the scene in “Pulp Fiction” where gangsters in Italy are discussing the little differences about America:

Gangster Number 1: “And they serve the Bolognese over spaghettini instead of spaghetti!”

Gangster Number 2: [pukes] “Ugh. You asshole! Why do you always tell me these things right after lunch?”

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Uncategorizable | 6.08.2008 12:40 | 8 Comments

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