Our first 18 hours back in the US

After enjoying a relatively short and easy flight, one that had free WiFi, we touched down on American soil once again. As we worked our way toward the line to get checked back into the country, we had our first surprise—three water fountains.

This may not seem surprising to you, but in most countries we’ve visited water fountains (for drinking) are quite rare. It’s one of the things I’ve missed about being in the States.

Ayutthaya market

After clearing immigration and customs (hats off to the MCO Orlando officers who were amazing!), we prepared ourselves for more shock. Rather than bore you with details, here’s a list of things we’ve had to readjust to so far.

  • At crosswalks, cars generally stop for pedestrians. In most countries, crossing the street can be a bit of an adventure. Sometimes you feel like you’re in a real-life version of the game Frogger.
  • The restaurant’s bathroom was clean, and the toilet even had a seat attached! In the men’s bathroom, there wasn’t a cleaning lady hanging out. And the soap & towel dispensers were stocked.
  • Free refills of drinks, and I could get water without having to pay for it.
  • We ate at a Thai restaurant, and there was no extra charge for the rice or soy sauce.
  • Buildings were all in good repair.
  • People had decorated their homes for Halloween.
  • The kitchen in our home has more power outlets than most of our places had in the entire house.
  • I had to remind myself that the little trash can next to the toilet wasn’t for my toilet paper. I can actually flush that now.
  • All the sinks have hot water.

Market in Guelmim

This morning we were really desperate brave and went to the grocery store.

  • I had an initial panic as to whether or not I was driving on the correct side of the road.
  • No security guard was standing near the entrance or the carts.
  • There were no weird smells.
  • At least four different staff members asked me if I needed help finding something.
  • The grocery store not only had free coffee and free WiFi but also had two water fountains!
  • There were so many brands and types of yogurt, that it took me 15 minutes to figure out what I wanted to buy.
  • Milk is refrigerated, and all liquid dairy products are in the same area rather than spread throughout the store.
  • There were more than 6 types of cheese and breakfast cereals.
  • A pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream did not cost $8.
  • The produce all looked quite beautiful. No nearly rotten fruits were in sight.
  • I didn’t have to get my bread or produce weighed and labeled at a counter before going to the cashier.
  • Practically everything has high-fructose corn syrup in it.
  • The list of ingredients on prepared foods are about 2-3 times the length as in other countries for the same product.

Guelmim market

  • The cashier gives you a choice between plastic or paper bags.
  • You don’t get a dirty or exasperated look when you pull out your debit card to pay for items, and you don’t have to give the card to the cashier to run it.
  • There were no screaming or laughing children in the store.
  • People say “excuse me” when they want to get by, and they avoid bumping into you at all costs.
  • Ham is ham, not turkey ham (although you can get that, too).
  • There are more than three choices for types of bacon.
  • Eggs are refrigerated.

It’s been rather interesting feeling like a foreigner in my own country. Re-entry definitely isn’t a boring experience.

What things surprise you when you return home after a long absence?

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  1. The lack of a palpable buzz on the streets was my biggest observation … so subdued and quiet back in Canada!

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  2. Welcome home!

    Your list is fun, If you come to Denver before May, call me

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    • I highly doubt we’ll be in Colorado before then. So perhaps we’ll have to meet up in Ecuador!

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  3. Haha after arriving in Canada after 7 months in Latin America I found it so hard not to throw my toilet paper in the bin. It was also a readjustment to say Hello and Thanks instead of Hola and Gracias. I loved going to the supermarket and having such a wide range of food to choose from although I definitely noticed all the crap food too

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    • I accidentally spoke Spanish to a woman in the store the other day, and she looked horrified. I almost thought she was going to scream.

      SO much crap food. And so much of it is tempting, too. LOL

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  4. In the supermarket, you must have felt like the exchange students we knew about 30 years ago. One was from Romania, and he was amazed at how many things we could buy in the grocery store, including things that are not groceries. He was also amazed at the wide open spaces and other things in Texas. He flew into Dallas, and was picked up by his host family in a crew cab dually pick-em-up truck, which seemed absolutely huge to him.

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  5. First things that I noticed when I returned from Spain in 1974 were the cars. They were all so different from each other and so big. There were no Seats (Spain’s version of Fiat).

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  6. LOL, remember trying to charge stuff at our room in the Perhentians?? 1 freaking outlet in the whole room! In Ayutthaya we had 1 outlet and a fan had to plug into it or else we were DYING!!

    But how about that sticker shock on the Thai food? I nearly dies after paying $1-2 a plate in Thailand. Oahu it was $12 for 1 Pad Thai dish..ouch!

    I love reading through these and remembering us having the same shock:)

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    • LOL! Yes, I do remember that! That one outlet thing was absolutely nutso.

      The sticker shock is a big one for sure. Tigger is used to being able to just add stuff to the cart, and this time I was like “Wait! How much is it?” lol Poor kid.

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  7. It’s the little luxuries in life that make us happy! 😉

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  8. I love this post! At first I was feeling a bit homesick, then I got the point that reminded me why we really struggle – hubby is allergic to corn (or should I say, GE corn) and he can’t eat much when we are in the states. And the screaming and laughing kids, missed that in the states too – the laughing more than the screaming.

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    • Being allergic to corn while in the US would definitely make for a challenge. Wow!

      I do miss the laughing kids everywhere. Now that we’ve been here a bit longer, a big change is not seeing people outside their homes. In Mexico (probably because of the heat), in the evenings people are outside visiting and kids are playing in the street. In this housing community, I haven’t seen a single person sit on their nice porch, no kids outside playing.

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  9. I finally had a chance to take a long, leisurely stroll through my American grocery store today and noticed that there are no seafood flavored potato chips/crisps. However, there was maple bacon flavored cake frosting.

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  10. Welcome to the States, Talon. There’s nothing like an extended international trip to change perspective. You’ve nailed most of what I noticed after 6 months abroad. I was also overwhelmed by the variety and amount of products in U.S. grocery stores. Life is simpler in other places – better? Not necessarily, value rests with perspective. I hope you two enjoy your time here.

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    • All the choices! On some levels it’s nice, but on others it makes doing the shopping a bit of a challenge.

      Definitely true. Life is much simpler in many places.

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  11. I think I recognize that lighthouse (Point Robinson/Vashon Island?) at the top… you had me going, thought you were already on the left coast :-). Welcome back to the US!

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    • It’s actually on Friday Habor at Lime Kiln park, but it’s an older shot from our trip there 2009 or so. Thanks!

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  12. Sounds like you boys are enjoy it! I love the feeling of being a tourist in your own country, normally you take things for granted at home, but I guess such a break that you both had from this reality allows you to have a fresh look!

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  13. Great list Talon – they all sound very familiar! I am not sure many people understand the re-entry and reverse culture shock that really does hit you after a long term trip abroad. When we first landed back in the states after a two year trip we had to leave the supermarket because we were over stimulated by the sheer volume of things! So many people, so many carts, so many ketchup choices!
    Enjoy your time stateside…

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  14. Talon,
    Great post! It is funny the things that pop out after re-entry. Driving on the wrong side of the street flashback was hilarious. So many additives in the food not good, especially when you can’t pronounce half of them. People saying excuse me and not bumping into you is one of my favorites, being raised in the south.

    Water may not be free in a lot of countries, but the price of bottled water in Ecuador blew me away the first time. Only $.25 vs like $1.49 here. Toilet paper issue is like the driving to me. I always start to toss and then remember it’s flushable here. Will be interesting to see what other things you notice in the first week of re-entry. Welcome back.

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    • Water is so amazingly cheap in most of the world. In Mexico, a 20-liter bottle is just over a dollar, and that includes delivery to your home!

      We had such a laugh about me driving. It was fine once we started moving, but went out today and it still feels so wrong to be on the right side of the road instead of the left. LOL

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  15. How funny that your first “return to the States” locale is Orlando. Along with Las Vegas, I feel it’s one of the two most artificial cities in our country. I hope you get off the tourist trail soon!

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    • We’re doing a house sit here or else we would’ve bypassed Florida altogether. We won’t be doing much of the touristy stuff at all. Legoland being the only exception, and my son is going there with his online BFF. Otherwise, we’re avoiding as much of the nonsense as possible.

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