Sunday, July 07, 2013

Re-Entry Adjustment #1: People Understand What I Say

Note to self: You are now in an English-speaking environment. People, including taxi drivers, understand what you say. Watch your big mouth!

I have just returned to the United States after having lived in Hsinchu, Taiwan for more than ten years. Reverse culture shock was something I expected. I felt it before after spending a year abroad in Spain during my undergrad studies. Now, however, I really feel like I don't know how to live in the U.S. anymore. In Taiwan I always felt like I was in some kind of protective bubble--I was never part of mainstream society, nor ever could be, so I got used to behaving according to a more or less self-defined set of mores.

This is actually causing me some trouble already, as I am used to assuming that blurting out whatever comes into my mind is fine because no one understands me anyway. When riding in taxis in Taiwan my friends and I never even considered that the driver might be able to understand what we were talking about (sometimes we were embarrassed to find out we assumed incorrectly, but not very often). Yesterday when my fiancee and I caught a cab at LAX, I was about to start complaining about all the annoying people at the airport when suddenly the driver started asking friendly questions about our trip and where we were going. After briefly answering him, I didn't say another word for the entire ride. I just kind of froze up. Now I seem to be freezing up whenever I need to say anything in public. What if someone overhears me? What if I say the wrong thing?

Having to learn to watch my mouth is going to be difficult. After all, my big mouth has always gotten me into trouble, even before I ever left the U.S. So learning to control it is a good thing, right?

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