Reverse Culture Shock

It is amazing how easily we, as human beings, adapt.  Most people, mental illnesses aside, can and do adjust to their surroundings very quickly.  After living in Ecuador for two years, I had all but forgotten about the conveniences in the United States that I missed when I first arrived.  Things like getting a hot cup of gourmet coffee just about anywhere, super stores that carry everything from artichokes to zinc, and fast food restaurants open until the wee hours of the morning were quickly forgotten as I adjusted to my new life in South America.  New experiences were discovered and became a part of my day-to-day life like shopping at the local market, using public transportation and eating freshly cooked food off of street carts.  In other words, I adapted and I grew as a person because of it.  This is invariably the case whenever change is embraced.
On my first day back in the US I found myself a little overwhelmed.  The things I once took for granted were new to me again and the options almost unlimited.  I began to long for the simplicity of my adopted neighborhood in Ecuador where I knew the tienda owner and was comfortable buying the things I needed from her.  When I needed eggs, I popped over to her little shop and bought as many or as few as I needed.  If I wanted just 2 eggs for a recipe, I could buy them – I wasn’t obligated to buy a dozen which made me wonder why eggs come in cartons of twelve anyhow.  Now that I was back in the US, I found myself standing in front of the egg cooler looking at all the different brands, sizes and types like free range and organic – it was a bit overwhelming.  It may seem silly, but, at that moment, I longed for the simplicity of asking for ten eggs and getting them without having to figure out which brand to buy.
By the time I had worked my way through the grocery store to the check-out counter, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the cashier asking me if I wanted paper or plastic nearly sent me over the edge.  I managed to maintain my composure and took my groceries out to the car.  In Ecuador, the guy that bagged my groceries would have taken them out for me and, since I didn’t own a car down there because you really don’t need one, he would have hailed a taxi for me, too.  I would have told the taxi where to go and settled in for the ride home.  In this case, I had to drive which was a little nerve wracking after two years of not having been behind the wheel of anything but a bicycle.
The other thing that became abundantly obvious is everywhere you turn here, someone is using a cell phone.  In Ecuador, everyone has a cell phone but they aren’t glued to their ears like they are here because the service is expensive compared to the wages they earn.  Most restaurants and businesses have Internet there so customers can sign on and use free calling and texting apps like WhatsApp.  The cell phone companies offer plans, but they are just too expensive for most people.  Here, I noticed as I was buying a new cell phone, that plans are very important and most people have one regardless of how pricey they are which is good for the cellphone companies and not necessarily the end user.  In Ecuador, you use what you need and sometimes my bill was $10 for the month and sometimes $10 worth of service lasted sixty days or more.  I got sticker shock when the guy at Verizon told me what my monthly bill was going to be.  On the other hand, I did pick out a pretty cool phone (Samsung S7 Edge).  My phone in Ecuador was a bit more utilitarian.
I didn’t forget about all this stuff, I just wasn’t exposed to it on a day-to-day basis so I didn’t think about it.  You get accustomed to what you have (or don’t have) and now that I am back in the “land of plenty,”  I am starting to see why people want to come to the United States to live.  Of course, for these same reasons, I want to go back to Ecuador where life is a lot more ‘tranquillo.’  There are certainly trade-offs and I would gladly trade a slower paced life for one with more conveniences, but bear in mind, I have only been back for eight days…ask me the same question a month from now and I will likely have a different answer.
Your Friend,
Dave Johnson

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