My two years as an au pair ended mid July 2020. I have had two amazing years on the east coast and the west coast but it was time for me to go back to my own country. I have been home for a few weeks now and I would like to share my reverse culture shock. Because I think I am having one right at this moment.
I flew from Seattle,WA to The Netherlands. It were two long flights and it took me in total around 13 hours to get back in Amsterdam. 13 hours with a face mask on because covid-19 is still going strong. Luckily the airplane wasn’t too full, there were a maximum of 50 people in an airplane that could fit easily 200. I had to fill in a form where I acknowledged that I wasn’t sick and that I would go into 14 days of home quarantine when I arrived. Even when I got out of the plane I had to talk to a health care provider who asked me a bunch of questions about the covid rules in The Netherlands.
Honey, I shrunk the home
An half hour later, it took forever to get my suitcases, I got to hug my parents and friends again. I was still wearing my face mask. I was the only one who was wearing a mask. Everybody did ask if they could hug me or not but it felt a bit weird for me. After a big welcome home and being awake for more than 30 hours I finished my first day back home. The day after I started with doing the laundry and I can tell you: the washing machines in Holland are small. I have been using these big big ones in America and now I wasn’t even sure if everything would fit. It looked like one of those toy washing machines kids used to play with. Then when I started to walk around my house I figured out that everything is super small. Either I have grown a lot or everything has shrunk big time. From the big things like a fridge to the small things like utensils. Even now after a few weeks being home it is still weird and I can’t really get used to it.
Like I never left, or not?
The weird thing about all of this is also the fact that I feel like I have never left. Like these two years never happend and that everything was just one big dream. The first few days when I was surrounded by my family and friends it felt like normal and it was great. I felt blessed by the fact that everything was good and that I still had the same people I could rely on. It was like I saw them yesterday and we had the same conversations like normal.
But after a week or two it started to shift. I was still wearing a mask when I would go outside, because covid duh? But my home town thought different about that. I was the only one who was wearing a mask and I got a lot of ugly faces towards me. Like I was a crazy person for wearing a face mask. I could not believe what I saw. Yes, I knew that the rules in Holland were not as strict as in America but still. Here we have to wear face masks in the bus and train but not in the grocery store. Staying 6 feet apart is also more a saying than a rule because people don’t really follow it.
The reverse culture shock
It felt for me like the world I used to know stayed the same but I changed too much. My believes are different then before, jokes I could laugh about are now rude and inappropriate and I feel like an outsider. I am working on becoming a stronger feminist and speak up against comments which are not okay, but that is hard. Especially when your family makes fun of your believes. So last week it was enough for me and I was just mentally tired. I couldn’t handle it anymore, I just left the table and went up to my room for a few hours. Just by myself because I have done that the past two years also.
It is okay to have a reverse culture shock. You have lived in America for one or two years and you maybe grew a lot as an individual. It’s normal that you need some re-adjustment and don’t feel obligated to see everyone at once. Do it on your own pace and people will understand that it takes some time.