So why does it still feel so weird?
I remember when Jason and I first started noticing a change in what seemed "normal" for us, back when we were still living in Germany. It started happening around the four year mark, a little before we took our first trip back to visit family. Driving around through the German countryside seemed normal and every day; honestly, we started to take it for granted a little. The landmarks, architecture, and general scene-setting in America-based movies seemed more foreign to us than those which were European-based. Someone speaking English was more likely to catch my attention than someone speaking a "foreign" language; it just stuck out more. It seemed that every day something else happened that made us realize how familiar living in Europe had become to us.
The situation became even more apparent when we were visiting family in 2007. We flew into Indianapolis first and drove up to my hometown which--while not exactly tiny--is not very big. It's just a regular-sized Midwestern town. The largest store in town is the big, blue "W" (although I guess they aren't all blue anymore) and that is where we headed when we went to get our toiletries and things. So far so good, right? Normal visit, no big deal.
It was all fine until we walked into the toothpaste aisle. I took one look at the number of products available and wanted to run back to the van to hide. It was completely overwhelming. An entire aisle, both sides, dedicated to tooth care. Madness! There just wasn't that much to choose from in Germany, on or off base. It wasn't just the toothpaste, either; we ran into the same situation in the toy section, the baby food section, and the sock section.
I don't know if I have the words to make you realize how strange and foreign all the options are after going so long without. What I can tell you is that our reaction to being back in "the land of plenty" was so obvious and strong that a man, at least 60 years old and not an employee, approached us and asked if we needed any help. Yes, it was truly that bad!
And now we're back for good. (Well, you know, probably.) The first few weeks were a little rough. Grocery shopping was hideous at first. I think the first few trips topped over an hour simply because there were so many new products to sort through. It took us three attempts before we could finally pick out a type of air freshener. The scent wasn't the problem; it was the brand and style. And, as if the number of options in any one given store isn't overwhelming enough, there's the fact that there is more than one place to shop here. More than two, even. Each store has different options than the one before it. I almost don't like to go shopping.
Things are getting better, but there is still a lot of adjusting going on around here. I think that may continue up until next August, and maybe beyond. I figure we'll probably start to feel somewhat normal about two weeks before we get our next set of orders. Doesn't that sound about right?
Have you ever lived overseas? What challenges did you face arriving in your host country? What surprised you most about coming home?
This post started out as a response to a Reverb10 prompt. It took on a life of its own and veered off course.