After last week’s article, a number of readers asked for more things that struck me as I returned to the U.S. for a visit. Following, a few more items.
* The enormity of fast-food beverage cups, of restaurant plates and portions.
* Another traffic item: how drivers stop at crosswalks. Glover Shipp used to say that in Brazil there were two types of pedestrians: the quick and the dead. Or the Dodgers and the Angels.
* The many trees and green grass in urban areas that give even cities a lush quality. Of course, I didn’t go to West Texas this time.
* The efficient quickness with which everything is done. We don’t meet for lunch anymore, we “do” lunch. No wonder we’re a lonely society.
* Americans’ relationship isolation. Nobody visits anymore. Hospitality is a dead art. If and when you get together with someone, you do it … at a restaurant.
* The number of hours the TV is on and the number of sets in a given house. No need to fight over the remote anymore – just go watch your own TV in your room. (Brazilians also watch lots of TV, but they don’t have multiple sets per household. There, the remote wars still occur.)
* Throw-aways. People compete to see how fast they can replace and update. Clothes, cars, electronics, mates.
* The litigious society. Lawyers are now ambulance chasers. The courts are clogged with greedy children who want a larger slice of the inheritance and grumpy Americans with chips on their shoulders.
* The gamblers. Casinos glitter and promise much to players and states. They deliver a lot–in terms of crime and poverty.
I also asked a other expatriates what struck them when they returned to the U.S. Obviously, the country in which they reside makes for different contrasts to American life.
One sister down under wrote, “The big one for me is not being able to mention God at schools, very foreign for me as we were free to do that growing up, even had a prayer at every football game. A friend who is an elementary school teacher says you have to be very careful or you could lose your job. I can’t believe this is happening in a small southern town, where everyone believed in God. The Bible Belt!”
After 18 years in Brazil, Glover Shipp writes, “When we returned from Brazil, we felt way behind in almost everything. We found TV to be gross in so many ways, as were many of the movies. We noted that churches were often only mildly interested in missions and in our reports. Christian men’s main interest seemed to be in hunting, golf, and football.”
From Glasgow, Scotland, John Galloway made his list:
1. The cereal aisle in the grocery store has sooooo many different cereals and is sooooo long.
2. Americans think they know and have the solution for everything (but they don’t).
3. The amount of advertising on TV – they seem to come on every few minutes (no wonder American programmes when shown in UK take less than an hour!).
Don Petty pulled out his list as well.
The first thing that struck me upon returning to Fort Worth, Texas, from Pakistan was that I could understand every word being spoken around me … it shook me to hear all the conversations.
Secondly, there were no people walking on and in the streets.
Third, no one was glaring at me and staring at my family. Their eyes in the U.S. did not follow me in every store or at everything I did.
I found myself completely restful at night and was not concerned about something going wrong or someone doing something odd.
We had no real “culture shock” as we went into the field of Pakistan or Iran, but when we got back to the U.S. we felt a little “anxiety.” There was no depression or anxiety attacks or mental problems, but coming back in was more difficult than getting onto the field.
Different things strike different people coming from different places.
The point? If there is one, that all cultures are permeated with ungodly perspectives and practices. And that all of them are vehicles through which the gospel can and must be shared.
See also Joe Bett’s reply to my request, What Strikes Me After 50 Years in Japan.
More things that strike one when visiting or returning to the U.S. This time, with a point.