Being back in the States is at the simplest, weird. It’s been about a week and a half since I’ve been back, and in general, I don’t focus too much on the fact that I was just in France a week and a half ago, mostly because I’m still trying to figure out my life.
I’m heading to graduate school in the Fall, to another city. That includes moving yet again, with all of my stuff. That includes finding yet another apartment. That includes packing yet again (though thankfully most of my stuff is already packed because I never unpacked it when I came home from France).
I also started working at my old job at the brewery again, so that has also served as a distraction. I’d forgotten how much I love working there and how much I was missed by good friends and regulars alike. It makes me feel kind of terrible for scooting off again at the end of the Summer. Though this time around I’ll only be about 5 hours way, as opposed to across an ocean.
All this to say that I haven’t really had the brain space to think about the fact that I am still facing some mental challenges. I’m still facing reverse culture shock.
It all tends to hit me in the most random of places or the most random of situations.
This past Sunday, I went to a friend’s Graduation Open House, and of course, she had my all-time favorite food: tacos and tortilla chips. I, of course, overindulged, too excited about the tacos, not even thinking about how my body would react.
At the end of the night, I felt overly nauseous. Thankfully, I didn’t puke, but I immediately became slightly angered, both at myself for not taking it slow and at the fact that there are still moments where I don’t understand this culture anymore.
I was appalled at myself for eating too many tacos, not thinking about how all of that queso dip, guacamole, sour cream, and spicy beefy goodness would affect my innards. My body is no longer used to eating so much heavy food at once. In France, I not only limited myself because of budget (I spent most of my money traveling), but also, in France, food portion sizes are much smaller in addition to the fact that most meals have individual courses. In the States, we tend to eat everything at once, leading to major overeating at times, in my opinion (And I can be guilty of this at times too. Hence why my stomach hurt so much). We don’t give ourselves time to digest, to allow our bodies to think. We really stick to the phrase ”our eyes are bigger than our stomachs,” without thinking twice about the effects on our overall, long-term health. I was angry at myself for not thinking about pacing myself, much like I always did when I was in France, where I could always feel when I was full.
This made me think about the American culture of eating habits. Why don’t we pace ourselves? In France not only do they have smaller portion sizes or individual courses, but this made think about the fact that the French also take time to enjoy their food. They not only slow down to allow their bodies to think, but they slow down so that they can really appreciate what is in front of them.
This is not to say that Americans don’t enjoy their food, and that’s not to say that the French don’t enjoy foods that aren’t necessarily the best for them, because they do. Believe me, I know plenty of other foodies out there who really enjoy a good meal, and I’ve met plenty of French people who enjoy a good chocolate cake. However, I really feel as though the French choose to limit themselves a lot more than we do in the States, and I really feel as though this country could use a little more time enjoying nourishing their bodies, not just nourishing their bodies for the sake of getting energy but nourishing their bodies for the sake of putting things into their bodies that will help them out in the long-run.
I am aware that, unfortunately, there are some aspects of our culture that make it more difficult to eat healthier foods with healthier eating habits, such as the lack of time most companies give their employees and that schools give to students to eat lunches, leading employees to scarf down fast-foods that aren’t the best or leading to overeating because their bodies don’t have time to think. In France, most schools and workplaces give students and their employees an hour and a half to two hours for lunch. I also know that healthier foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and unprocessed foods as well as organic foods are more expensive here in the States. It’s an unfortunate truth that much of our food has a ridiculous amounts of processed chemicals in it, because that’s usually what ends up being cheaper for companies to produce, and buying foods such as those is what ends up being more financially sound for families.
I do believe there is a way though, and I am determined to find it. I am determined to make healthy eating a priority in my life. I am determined to limited myself and to pay attention to my body when I’m eating. I am determined to make healthy foods a priority in my budget and to limit other foods in my diet. I can only hope and encourage the same thing for other Americans.
Being a hardcore foodie myself, it only makes sense that the food differences would severely affect me and my experiences with reverse culture shock, but that doesn’t mean that I expected it anymore than I did.
Culture shock comes in various forms in the most random of situations.
Isn’t that the absolute truth?