Well... I'm starting to think that my reverse culture shock (yes, this actually happens when people re-integrate into their home culture) is going to be pretty bad. Why?
I keep thinking stuff like:
"Korea and America aren't that different. When I was home on vacation last summer it was all basically the same."
"I can get by without a car. Did without a car for three years here. No problem!"
"America's boring. Nothing new or surprising."
"Korean kids and American kids are pretty much the same. I'll be fine in an inner city Title One school (or conversely, a high pressure academic IB or AP filled school). No sweat."
"I can keep up my hiking very easily in America!" (especially funny in combination with my second thought)
"I'm sure I can save a lot of money. It can't cost THAT much to live in the U.S. There've got to be non roach-infested apartments in the greater DC area for less than $1200/month, right?"
At least these are the thoughts I can CATCH myself making that I know are blatantly false. I probably have hundreds of other thoughts setting me up for major reverse culture shock that I'm not even aware of how wrong they are.
Fact is, I've lived here three years and adapted to life pretty damn well. I'm dandy with the ketchup and mustard in bag-like "bottles." With the sharp, metal chopsticks for salad (heck--it's EASIER now than using a fork). With only understanding about 50% of what's going on around me (and then only if I choose to listen to it... it's easier to tune out here). With kids staring and pointing and shouting "hi" without there being something freakishly wrong with my appearance. With the smell of kimchi and food trash in the summer. With being taller and bigger than the majority of women and about 60% of men. With concrete block apartments where you can smell your neighbor's cooking. With people drying their clothes and linens and red peppers on the rooftops. With exercise parks at the tops of mountains. With assigned theater movie seating. With parking people in and leaving a cell phone contact number on your car. With calling cell phones "hand phones." With the limited selection of Western groceries. With super-futuristic interior design and lots of high-tech gadgetry. With "maybe" meaning "probably," and "I think you should..." from your boss as an order. With the different logic of the traffic. With people bumping into you and the lack of personal space. With casual nudity in shower rooms. With OTC drugs not sold at convenience stores and snacks/hygiene products not sold at pharmacies.
At some point all of these things were annoyances or surprises. I don't even think about them these days (I mean, I did just now... for this post... but well, you know what I mean). There are other things I'm sure I'm so used to at this point I've probably forgotten that they're different.
I know (KNOW) that I'm going to have to work really hard not to always say "Well in Korea they BLAH BLAH BLAH," more than 3-4 times a day. It's ok for Min Gi to say it--he's from Korea--but my co-workers, friends, family members, and students are going to get mighty sick of it pretty darn fast.
So, blog readers, I guess what I'm saying is that returning to America's going to be a pretty big adventure, too, now that I'm three years out. I don't know who this Justin Bieber character is and care more (right now) about the sinking of the Cheonan and nuclear threats from the North than the protesting of BP or the "tea party" nonsense. It's going to be a little rough...
Now's the time to place your bets on how long it will take me to have my first major culture shock meltdown in America... Get while the getting is good! (My bet would be that it's a good month or two before my husband has any signs of culture shock... haha.)