Reverse culture shock – from Poland to Florida

There’s always a few things which require a little readjustment whenever I go back to Florida for a visit. When you live in a place, you don’t notice some things about your culture because they’re just normal. But when you go back after being away, those differences become loud and clear.

Service. Seriously. People are almost too nice, you know? I’m not good at those fake conversations with waiters and sales clerks anymore. What have I become?? After about a week though I get used to it again and even like it. It’s pleasant even if it’s fake. But honestly, I think it’s genuine most of the time. People here just try to make you feel good at a store or wherever, which is a refreshing change from the “what the fuck do you want?” look you often get in Poland.

People are large. Large and in charge. I know it’s totally stereotype, but with the statistics that 1/3 Americans is obese, this is one of those that’s true. People in America are fatter than in Europe. There, I said it. But not just fatter. People are morbidly obese here. It’s scary. We noticed an interesting difference between eating habits. We’d go to eat at Subway when we were out and desperate to eat something and we’d just take subs. Everyone else would take a sandwich, drink, chips and a cookie. That’s pretty representative of the difference. I have to include myself a little bit in this though cause I always fly back with a few extra kilos, for real.

Traffic. Holy mother of god. Orlando has the worst traffic. In America, pretty much everyone has a car because it’s rather affordable. In Poland, you have some bad traffic through the city center but on the highway? Only at tolls in the summer. In Orlando you could be stopped on a 4-lane highway at 12 pm on a Sunday. And rush “hour” is from 3 to 6 pm on weekdays. I honestly don’t know how they deal with it everyday. I’d rip my hair out.

Understanding people’s conversations. I thought I’d be happy to understand what everyone was saying with ease. I was wrong. When the background noise becomes words which you can process without trying, you become irritated more quickly – especially when the conversation is asinine – and it usually is.

My accent. Apparently, according to my friends, my accent and way of speaking has changed. This isn’t really terribly surprising as I already kind of new that. It’s not the first time I’ve heard it but it does make me feel a little weird. They tell me that I enunciate every word perfectly and make little pauses between some words and sentences. But you have to understand, I speak primarily with my students and other ESOL speakers so of course I don’t talk to them like I talk to someone here. I think that would be unfair. You might call me a bad teacher for that but I would like people to understand me and feel comfortable with me. For sure I speak differently around my friends and family and I know that it would just take a few weeks here to revert back to my original accent if so. I wonder if any other expats have experienced this??

Overall, it was a great trip. Now I’m in the Orlando airport waiting for my return flight back to Poland. It’s always a little sad, especially to leave my family again. After being in sunny, warm Florida for two weeks, the culture shock will be much worse the other direction! Masakra.

Do zobaczenia, USA!

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  • Reply Luiza 25 February 2016 at 15:05

    Masakra! Don’t worry, the weather is much better now – of course it’s not Florida, but it’s sunny and you can feel the spring is just around the corner!

    🙂 I love your posts:)

    • Reply Leah Southers 25 February 2016 at 15:17

      Luiza – oh thank god. that’s good to hear!! glad you’re enjoying the posts 🙂

    • Reply Jakub 25 February 2016 at 23:56

      Not anymore – it went to shitter again 🙂

  • Reply Kadewu 26 February 2016 at 20:11

    I like this what the fuck you want part. In Belgium it’s much, much worse still :-). Yesterday I wanted to order a birthday cake for my son’s b-day (tomorrow). The one on display was for 8 people, so I asked the lady if they could make it a bit lager to serve a party of 12 children, and she basically said no. Sighing, I ordered two cakes instead…

    • Reply Leah Southers 26 February 2016 at 20:33

      Is it really worse there? I’m pretty surprised. Just leaving Florida, I have to remember not to ask every person how they’re doing today and not to start up casual conversations with people in the nearest vicinity.

  • Reply Inga 27 February 2016 at 00:30

    I remember when I came back from England after a small trip with my bro, where people were extremely polite and helpful, to Poland and I was just cycling. A guy was walking on the cycle lane so I politely asked him to make a step to the pavement… he wanted to kill me 😛 it was a little bit of shock but in everyday life I don’t bother with people like that. We’re suspicious nation and don’t want to be cheated so we’re not so kind sometimes… but I, personally, don’t get these oh so nice small talks. Chatting about “dupa Maryni” (:P) is often a waste of time and words, really. But I need to check it… hope the next year or so I’ll visit America:)

    • Reply Leah Southers 27 February 2016 at 14:21

      Inga – yeah small talk can be exhausting – especially with people you don’t know or don’t care about. That’s just pointless for me too. I hope you get the chance to visit the States!

    • Reply Kadewu 1 March 2016 at 20:59

      Take my word for this, services are definitely worse. But I appreciate it is the weather that is the favorite small talk topic and not politics.

  • Reply Zefiryn 27 February 2016 at 16:12

    Few extra kilos are not that bad, considering this:

  • Reply Magdelena 27 February 2016 at 16:37

    Masakra, indeed! 🙂
    Great post any way.

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