I’ve been back in the States now for several weeks already, but it didn’t take long for me to notice some of the quirks I have developed after 2.5 years in China. Perhaps you have seen those lists: “you know you’ve lived in China too long when…” I’d like to hear about some of your quirks you found yourself doing once you were back where you came from.
First, it took a while for me to stop looking for the trash receptacle in the bathroom to throw away my toilet paper. Just yesterday I found myself snapping my fingers trying to get the lights on to illuminate the staircase in my house! It’s great to have relatively clean public restrooms available everywhere – even in most parks – and with TP included!b I’m enjoying the novelty of driving again (I’m wimping out on the bike commute while it is still snowing) and I almost forgot that gyms typically don’t allow smoking inside. I’m practically paralyzed by all the choices of everything in the stores. It goes without saying that getting to dry my clothes in a clothes dryer is the BEST!
However, some of the things that strike me are not as light. Although I do appreciate (and am now amazed) the amount of space in which people inhabit here, I now find it insulating and isolating. Since I no longer fit into the fabric of my friends’ lives, it can take some effort to find some time with them. I find it easy to slip into the numbing rhythm of occupying s much space to myself. It is nice at first, but a little weird after living among so many people for so long. Where are all the people? I can’t just go around the corner and see my favorite fruit- and veggie-sellers, one of the small, but meaningful parts of living in a community in China. I don’t see the same people out sitting in the sun or taking their children to school. Fortunately I don’t reside in the suburbs and can walk to the bank, small groceries, the library, and a couple local restaurants (most of them pizza joints). But it is still not quite the same. Perhaps it is the sheer numbers of people – the numbers that get to wear you down because you are tired of working so hard to avoid running into people. Even so, it is something that you get used to and something that you notice is missing.
These are just a few observations that I’ve taken the time to comment on now. It all makes me wonder where I really belong, but reinforces that I am a global citizen.