A year ago today, I had been in Costa Rica for three days. I wrote a post about differences in customs that immediately struck me as odd. I went back and read that post near the end of my time in Costa Rica and had to laugh because those customs ended up being the least problematic of cultural differences. Now that I’m back home, I’m realizing I adjusted so well to these customs, that they’re also my first impression of reverse culture shock.
I’d recommend reading the original post before this one.
Bathroom etiquette. The other day, my mom asked if I had been using the bathroom on her side of the house. Apparently what made her ask is that there was toilet paper in the trashcan. I always have to think twice about where to put the toilet paper and it’s only in the last couple of days that I’ve consistently remembered American toilet paper goes in the toilet, but it’s still a conscious decision. Is it insulting if I say I think of Costa Rica every time I go to the bathroom?
La ducha. Fun story, apparently some showers in the U.S. don’t actually have the option of very cold water. I never noticed before, because who in their right mind consistently takes cold showers? And yet, somewhere along the line in Costa Rica, I started taking cold showers by choice, to help me wake up, to make me feel refreshed, to feel like a warrior, and because my hair feels healthier. Upon my return to Texas, I learned that many showers don’t go below lukewarm, and I don’t like it. Warm showers are so…muggy. I might change my tune once winter rolls around.
Not cheek kissing. Hellos and especially goodbyes feel incomplete. How did I deal with this before? Do you just wave, or what? At what point of familiarity does hugging in greeting become acceptable? I feel like our only cultural norm here is that cheek kissing is universally weird and uncomfortable.
Greeting everyone in the room. I never quite warmed up to going around and physically greeting everyone in the room in Costa Rica; nevertheless, I now feel the need to acknowledge everyone when I walk into a room for the first time. This isn’t really a cultural clash, it just makes me a bit more inclusive, I suppose.
The barefoot situation. In Costa Rica, I got to where my sandals always had to be within reach from my bed so I wouldn’t have to step on the cold floor and my feet wouldn’t get dirty. Upon my return to Texas, I’m happily taking advantage of the fact that feet don’t get dirty from walking on carpet, but I’m not quite as willing to walk barefoot outside. Do you know how horrified my host mom would be to learn that my university is a “barefoot-friendly” campus and that you can go anywhere barefoot except the cafeterias? I thought it was interesting and cool before, but now it does seem a bit strange.
Crossing the street. I’m now a pro. American drivers are much nicer, so if I can handle not getting mowed down by Costa Rican drivers, I can definitely use my perfect timing and feminine “please don’t run over me, sir” charms to efficiently cross the street here. Crosswalks and stoplights are super helpful, too. I just have to remember that jaywalking is not always acceptable.
Not knowing how to be polite. This one’s not an issue since I do, in fact, remember how to speak the English language.
The pants situation. I got used to leggings being the main staple of my wardrobe in Costa Rica, and adapted all my outfits accordingly. It’s too dang hot here for leggings, so I’m going to have to wait until November to wear some of my favorite outfits. Long shirts don’t always go well with shorts and not all short dresses can be worn without tights. It’s also too hot for my wonderful gray lace-up boots that I wore nearly every day and that go with nearly everything.
Never being fed. No one cooks for me. I ate slightly soggy frozen waffles this morning and was not satisfied. I feel like I haven’t had a healthy meal or fresh food since I got home, although I’ve had plenty of Blue Bell ice cream, Baked! Lays, and Lucky Charms, favorites that somehow aren’t so delicious anymore. Fast food restaurants from McDonald’s up to Schlotzsky’s and Subway make me cringe. How does a girl get healthy food on the go here? In Costa Rica, I could stop by a cheap and simple soda for a satisfying casado of rice, beans, fish/chicken, and salad, homemade and with fresh ingredients, along with a refresco, or drink, made of the fresh fruit of my choice. I have a feeling I’ll be cooking a lot once I finally settle in my apartment, if only to keep this overpriced, pre-chewed and preserved stuff we call food from going into my body. Before I left Costa Rica, I joked that I would bring my mamá tica with me to cook me delicious meals. But really, why didn’t I?
Bonus: The cowboy(s) next door. I forgot just how much Texan there is in Texas. The number of cowboy hats and Spurs t-shirts is incredible. For breakfast a few days ago, I went to the O.S.T. (Old Spanish Trail), a restaurant I’ve been to a million times, in Bandera, the town where I grew up. I was exclaiming like a tourist over the saddles that substitute for bar stools, the chandelier made of old-fashioned lanterns hanging from a wagon wheel, the room papered with pictures of John Wayne throughout his lifetime, the guns and longhorn horns on the wall, and the pictures of buildings in colonial Bandera, buildings that still look exactly the same. The people were just as interesting with their calm, slow speech and casual twang. There were men in various stages of cowboy dress: a couple with cowboy hats, and one fully decked-out with a hat, boots and spurs, a plaid flannel shirt, suspenders, and a bandanna around his neck. Anywhere else, this would be a costume, but his clothes showed the wear of real use, and didn’t look out of place. If I hadn’t been gone so long, I wouldn’t even have noticed.