“What are you doing tonight?”: Or, Re-entry Shock

Windsor Heights. Moscow. Wheeling. Riga. Urbandale. Martinez:  I have lived a variety of places as an adult. Not as many different places as others but widely varying places to be sure. Still and all, It would be difficult to top the culture shock I experienced moving from Iowa to Georgia. Now, fourteen years after the beginning of y’alls and shrimp & grits, I’m back.

Three months and I’m having some re-entry culture shock. This is a real thing. I had some culture shock when I moved from Iowa City to Moscow, but it manifested primarily in linguistic adjustments: Everything was in Russian! Everyone spoke Russian! When I returned from Moscow, I remember walking to the drugstore to buy shampoo. My then husband asked me why I would walk when I could drive. I clearly remember saying, “It’s only a mile or so.” I walked. I found the shampoo aisle. The dizzying array of shampoos was too much. I left with empty hands and confusion. Soviet Russia did not offer variety in shampoo.

With this kind of re-entry culture shock in mind, a few personal observations for those who never moved away or for those who don’t plan to go home again.

1. The cashiers here are capable of being polite and doing their jobs at the same time. It’s a pretty cool phenomenon. With few exceptions, the cashiers I encountered around Augusta could chat and be pleasant or they could work. Combining the two was out of the question.

2. Sometimes the cashiers here go a weird step too far. To wit, the gentleman at Trader Joe’s and several HyVee employees have said to me on various occasions, “How are you?” After my answer they ask me, “Have any big plans for tonight?” Since the last time this happened, I have determined to respond, “Not really, wanna hang out?”  (I’ll let you know how it goes.)

3. It is cold. Um. Yes. I said it. I have always liked cold weather – lived in -30 in Moscow with only small complaints – these were alleviated by  watching your breath freeze in front of your face mid-air. But, it is October and October in Iowa is January in Georgia. This is an adjustment. I’m betting the daffodils won’t be out for my February birthday.

4. Very few blue laws or blue law remnants remain here. Son and I were out to eat a few weeks ago, and the server invited us to come for a great brunch on Sundays with endless mimosa or bloody Marys from 10-1. I said something like, “Well that wouldn’t be so great – only half hour for drinks.” She looked at me as if I had sprouted a horn in the middle of forehead. I looked at her smugly, having pointed out a serious marketing flaw. A serious marketing flaw only if the establishment were in Augusta on a Sunday (no drinking or buying alcohol until 12:30 on Sundays).

5. There is a general expectation of competence here. “Bless her heart” and like phrases are very truly reserved only for the weak and infirm. Around Augusta, we used bless-her-hearts for anyone who was slow, incompetent, or generally annoying, as well as the elderly.  Here, if you are healthy and have any modicum of mental acuity – no bless-your-hearts for you. Get to work.

Those of you who know me also know that I found many flaws with life in the South. In fact, those flaws were only differences. Just like the Russian that surrounded me in Moscow or the proliferation of shampoo in the United States. It’s not bad, it’s just different.

You can go anywhere you want. You can go home again – George Webber notwithstanding – but, things are different.


One thought on ““What are you doing tonight?”: Or, Re-entry Shock

  1. So glad you could return to Iowa. I guess you never exactly go home again. Maybe it’s like never stepping in the same river twice. It was an interesting experience when I moved back to my hometown, though for me, hometown really meant where I went to high school and where my mother still lived.
    It was a real emotional roller coaster. But my writing got better and deeper. I got a new appreciation for the adage, “Home is where your story begins.”
    I’m hoping I can make it to Iowa City this summer. You’re on my list for people to see.


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