Well. I’m back in France and full of plenty of tales, experiences and good times from home. However, I’ll give you the breakdown of weird stuff first. It’s really the only bit of culture shock I suffered.
1) My first thought flying into Chicago was literally “Oh my. Why is everything so square?” because I hadn’t seen a grid-planned city in four months! Every city I’ve flown into or over has looked like a scrambling, knit-together circle. But Chicago was this huge, sprawling, square beast I didn’t know what to do with at first.
Oh. And I have to mention. The sight flying into my home town was incredible. It was deep night by the time I got there and clouds had completely covered the city, which meant that its lights played like Christmas lights under snow for me. It was really beautiful.
2) My second culture shock moment was in the O’Hare airport on the tram to another wing of that massive airport. I made a comment about how large my backpack was (because I was particularly excited to have my lingual wit back. Never going to get over missing that), and consequently made a friend! Why is this strange? Because in France you don’t really talk to strangers. In fact, you do your best to avoid eye contact on the street with them. So the several casual conversations I had with complete strangers in America was definitely a little trippy.
3) The third culture shock experience I had was the most extreme of all, interestingly. Alcohol. Yep. I knew I would have to show my ID to purchase the stuff, but I definitely did not expect what happened when I went to Marsh to buy some wine to mull: the cashier was too young to sell it and had to get the manager to do it for her. I was just like, “uh…what?” That was the moment I realized that I no longer understand America’s fear of alcohol. It’s like you can either drink none of it or just be a crazy alcoholic in the eyes of society. America doesn’t seem to have the concept that you can, in fact, drink alcohol in moderation (and to your own health benefit*) otherwise they wouldn’t have all these insane holes to jump through to purchase the stuff. Anyway.
4) Fourth: SO. MUCH. SUGAR. Granted, I was home for the holidays, which basically means sugar overload, but I found that I really didn’t have as much a taste for it. I wanted to eat my soup and curry. Shudder I can’t believe I just said that.
5) Change. Like cents. It’s so THIN! I still can’t think of it as real money. It feels like someone just punched some tin out of a sheet to me. That’s what I get for using the wonderfully thick Euro coins. Haha. Now THAT one was unexpected.
*Some research has suggested that up to 1 unit of alcohol for women and 2 for men daily is not only safe, but beneficial to health. Red wine is especially good, but any alcohol has positive effect.