Or succumbing to the effects of reverse cultural shock….
It may seem like a weird concept but assimilating back into the culture of your home country can be a hard task, especially if you’ve been away a while. While studying for my masters in the UK, I lived in north western England for an entire year. Upon returning home to the US the major cultural differences that I had gotten used to became little details that made things just not right. I was home but it felt almost weird to be home. Things did not begin to feel normal until about a month of being home. After spending the whole summer in Ireland, the jarring feeling of something being just not quite right only lasted about 2 weeks. Those little things that made everything off kilter include: available foods, driving, and the weather.
Food and Tea:
From the outset meals were immediately different; the amount of pork I ate over the summer whether it be ham, bacon, or gammon joint was ridiculous when compared to the small amounts I consume at home. To go from eating so much pork and drinking so much milk to having barely any of either was weird. Speaking of drinking, the amount of tea that I consumed while in Ireland was, by Irish standards not nearly enough, but for me was three times as much as what I’m used to. I still can’t quite fathom how a small group of people can go through so many pots of tea, twice a day!
Working on the Blackfriary dig site under the paradigm of a regimented schedule, tea was served twice a day, at tea break and at lunch. Two large electric kettles were used to boil about 20 litres of water each, to keep up with the rate of tea consumption during these breaks. Coming home and returning to work in retail, there are no tea breaks. To go from eight hours a day working in the outdoors, rain or shine, to working indoors in a warehouse was jarring and if I’m honest a little bit disappointing as well, especially without tea breaks surrounded by good friends and even better conversation.
While in Ireland, my main methods of transportation were either a bicycle or gracious friends with cars willing to give me a lift. Having the freedom, the independence of driving my own car again is such a relief. I am sincerely grateful for all of the lifts, and probably healthier for the cycling but there is no greater freedom than be able to drive around in my car again. There is also no greater sense of panic than when you encounter a roundabout for the first time ever while driving said car in the US, where roundabouts are used counterclockwise instead of clockwise. The only experience I have with roundabouts is as a passenger or on a cycle riding clockwise around the circle. Thankfully, the roundabout was more a triangle than a circle, which on an aside was even more confusing but I digress.
Growing accustomed to the temperate, often rainy climate in Ireland, made returning to the States a bit uncomfortable at first. Returning to New Jersey, I was all at once assaulted with what felt like an unrelenting heat. There were moments where I was surprised my whole body hadn’t just melted into a puddle. It seems a bit extreme, but I had to adjust from 60 F (15 C) temperatures in which I felt warm, to sweltering in 95 F (35 C) weather.
In the end, regardless of the weird transition period of cravings for food not available in the states and using colloquial Irish words that confused friends and family, my time as an intern at the Irish Archaeology Field School was worth every second.
– Kelsey Gamble, U.S.A