Our trip is coming to a close – we head back to Germany next week. It’s been an awesome trip and we’ve been able to meet so many friends. It’ll be so sad to leave, especially my parents who are not in such good shape. To be honest my father has Altzheimer’s and he is going downhill quickly. I have been surprised at how rapidly he has deteriorated in such a short amount of time. Three years ago he retired as a manager and now it’s hard for him to even speak with me. It has really got Matthias and I thinking about our future plans in light of my dad’s health. We really want to try to move back to the US if or when dad takes a turn for the worst to support my mom and honor my parents. Watching your parents grow frail and weak is the most painful thing I have experienced in my life, to be honest. Yet, God continues to comfort me and give me strength to support my parents through this very difficult time.
Well, as I mentioned I would like to share a few “trans-Atlantic observations.” Having traveled to and lived in three different parts of the world (Japan, Latin America, and Germany) I have a wider perspective on things here in the US that others for which I am deeply grateful. Here in the US, I am not feeling much reverse culture shock but every so often Matthias and I look at each in horror, shock, or dismay and say, “That would never happen in Japan/ Germany!” We usually get a big laugh out of it and smile. Having him around to share my sentiments in priceless.
Thought one: we are always shocked by the wastefulness here in the US with regards to food, water, gasoline, etc. Just last night we went to a dinner party and literally watched person after person dump wasted, untouched food (steak, spaghetti, vegetables, mashed potatoes) into a giant trash receptacle. We both felt sick to our stomachs, as we watched people all around us basically pig out on food, leave some on their plates, and toss out perfectly good food.
Thought two: why am I getting letters in the mail about pre-approved credit cards? This always cracks me up, and Matthias even more so because in Japan you cannot get a credit card without proof of enough income to pay off your credit card. They are very strict in Germany about this, and people are not walking around with debt in Germany due to credit cards!
Thought three: health care. I have good health care insurance in Germany now and it’s wonderful. I don’t worry about getting really sick or getting a cavity without health insurance like I used to when I was in the US. I am constantly appalled by stories of people not having health care or stories of “what horrors might have been” if a friend hadn’t had health care.
Thought four: the American church. So I went to church. Everything was so glossy and fancy with an enormous building, big screen, tons of people, fancy new building, seminars, etc. My American side thinks this is quite normal but having been in a German and Japanese church it made me feel a little unsettled, to be honest. It was a very nice church and all, but I left thinking…does it really have to be this fancy? And big? And cost so much money?
Thought five: This is a good one. We love how friendly Americans can be. Sure it can be fake, but it’s so nice to be around such affectionate, huggy people. Germans are warm, too, but more reserved and Japanese don’t hug very often, if at all. I really enjoy this part of American culture. There are really good parts of American culture and this is one of my favorites about being back home.
Thought six: This one is not easy to say but I will say it. We do not see too many heavy people in Japan or Germany. It is something you see occasionally in Germany, almost never in Japan. Yet, here in the US we constantly see people who are literally too heavy to walk. I am not slamming heavy people, trust me! My mom has always struggled with her weight due to health reasons. But when you are not used to seeing heavy people at all and then you see it every day it starts to make you wonder what is going on with the American diet! How can this be changed?
Which brings me to the last thought about American food at supermarkets. Basically, compared to German food it’s just awful. I cannot walk around a supermarket here without feeling sick to my stomach. What is considered ultra-gourmet food in the US is just a regular, normal quality product in Germany. Bread, yogurt, chocolate, you name it and it’s better in Germany. The food here in processed, full of fat and preservatives, and downright dangerous. I go into shock seeing what people put into their shopping carts here and best of all, they put all their groceries in PLASTIC BAGS, sometimes a dozen of them for just one shopping order. In Germany you have to pay 10 cents for a shopping bag or BRING YOUR OWN. Here I always bring my own cloth bag and I even get 5 cents at Shoprite for doing so.
There are many other things I could mention such as 1) how loud Americans are compared to other cultures (eg. girl on cell phone on the bus telling all her business) 2) how crazy rude young people can be (I recently got chased down by a young guy in his car and screamed at for merely for beeping at him) 3) Customer service 4) young girls wearing super immodest clothes (shorts with words across the bottom is NOT something I see in Germany or Japan) etc.
It really never ends but it’s fun to write about a few of the things that I notice. Well, that’s the end of my vent. If you read this, send me a comment about what you thought. I think living abroad is one of the best things ever because it helps you see your own culture for what it really is, often pretty weird, and why people from other countries think we’re weird, too.