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Stuck in Reverse?

I’m back in the USA and have been for a little over a month. Does that mean I’ve readjusted to life here? Yes, but not completely. I’ve been stumbling through my transition back to both my home in San Francisco and my U.S. college in New York City. Here is part 1 of the story.

1. Reverse Culture Shock is Real.

There have been many, many moments since I left Chile in which I didn’t really leave Chile. Not emotionally, at least. These are some of the most note-worthy moments.

Reverse-culture shock moment number 1: For a good couple of weeks I kept saying “permiso” in crowded areas in place of “excuse me.” Woops. The funny thing is, though, that I probably could have said “hippopotamus” and the slightly insane people of San Francisco would have understood me anyway and proceeded to move out of my path and say “you’re welcome.”

Reverse culture shock moment number 2: Is that what you readers thought whenever I used the word “gringa” in my earlier posts? You assumed I was trying to crack a joke? Weird! Because now whenever I talk about the gringa experience in Chile with my friends here in the United States, I get laughs and giggles. It’s the weirdest thing. In Chile, the words “gringo” and “gringa” are neutral. It’s like saying “U.S. citizen” or “person of European descent.” There is nothing especially funny about the word gringo in Chile, unless you’re actually making a joke about gringos in Chile. Hence, I’ve been using the word just as casually here, too, because I’m having a hard time remembering that “gringo” sounds funny to U.S. citizens. Even though that’s what we are. Gringo. Gringa. Gringo. Gringa. Why are you chuckling? Why? WHY!?

Reverse culture shock moment number 3: What? You mean I have to wait TWENTY MINUTES for this bus? That’s ridiculous! The Errazurriz bus in Valparaiso runs every twenty seconds!

Reverse culture shock moment number 4: I forgot that I used to wear two pairs of socks on cold days in New York. A friend had to remind me that that is something people do. Not even the central-heating-deprived chilly coastal winter of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso compares to this cold. How did I already survive two New York winters before?

Reverse culture shock moment number 5: My Spanish-speaking friends in the U.S. either don’t understand or don’t like my Chilean dialect. The awesomeness of the meaningless word “po” is lost on them.

Reverse culture shock moment number 6: I insecurely double-track through the New York neighborhood I used to know by heart. When one friend asks me “Do you want to stop at Westside?” I cannot help but reply, “What is Westside?” Westside is not just an Upper West Side grocery store; it is an Upper West Side landmark. When you have forgotten all your college landmarks you are doomed.

Keep reading on to part 2.



One Response to “Stuck in Reverse?”

  1. Amanda Kendle Says:

    It can take ages to settle back in, I think! Took me a couple of years (after six years away). Love your post and have added a link to it to my reverse culture resources page at

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