Reverse Culture Shock and How Not To Fly To America

“Ahh, sorry I don’t think maybe you cannot go to The USA today” Said the Japanese lady at the check-in counter, polite as ever. My heart started racing as I realised I hadn’t thought about the fact that on my 3 prior trips to The States I always had a ticket out, and that it would be a problem if I couldn’t prove that we were in fact going to leave before our 90 days were up.

We were told that we had 25 min. to purchase a new ticket to either Europe or Australia (something that isn’t exactly cheep and something we would normally spent hours or weeks researching prices for) or face loosing our tickets, which were non-refundable. The airport’s wifi was free but not very fast, so we ran to the nearest bench, pulled out both of our laptops and frantically started clicking away.

At the beginning we were optimistic. We had plenty of time, we could do this! But as time ticked away slowly my spirits fell until I found myself in a state of full on panic attack complete with hyperventilation, hysterical sobbing and phrases like “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO – TELL ME WHICH BUTTONS TO PRESS!!”, “I CAN’T BREATHE!”, “I-CAN’T-SEE!” and the all-time favourite “MY BRAIN HAS STOPPED WORKING!!”

Ultimately we made it as far as pressing “buy” two minutes before the counter closed. The page started loading – and loading – and loading … and nothing happened. I ran around the hall with the computer, trying to get a batter connection, literally praying to God, but I guess even He is helpless when it comes to crappy wifi. The really ironic thing though, was that just 10 min. prior we had dropped off our rented wifi modem in a mailbox at the entrance hall. The wifi that was so stable I could instagram from the top off a mountain literally lay 50cm out of reach.

In the end, we didn’t make it. They wouldn’t let us board without a confirmed ticket and we lost 10.000 DKK (around 1400 USD). But worse than that I felt like THE-BIGGEST-IDIOT-IN-THE-ENTIRE-UNIVERSE. Don’t get me wrong the money thing sucked big time but what I was most afraid of was telling other people and having them ridicule me all over again.

I guess to no ones surprise it turns out that I am actually my own worst critic and all our friends were all very sweet and encouraging when we told them what had happened (how did we get such good friends?)

But we still had to go to The States for Jonas’s conference so we bought the exact same tickets two days later: KIX to IAD in Washington D.C with a 1,5 h layover in Beijing. Only our first flight was delayed so much that when we touched down in Beijing we had about 25 minutes to get through 3 security checks and queues of 3 billion-trillion Chinese people (okay maybe my counting was a little off but I was in a hurry)

The China Airlines personnel fortunately knew that we were running late and got us in front of most of the lines. Only problem was that they hadn’t really coordinated the whole thing so every time we got to a new line someone would tell us to “hurry up” or “go over there”, “no, over here” or “in here” pointing us in different directions. At one point I even lost Jonas for moment and started freaking out and running back where I found him having been pointed to another and faster security line. The Japanese politeness we had been so accustomed to was nowhere  to be found and had been replaced with fast-paced Chinese impatience.

When we finally made it through security and started running towards our gate we were picked up by an airport official on a golf cart to get there faster. We thanked out lucky star until suddenly he pulled out a 20 dollar bill and started gesturing at us to tip him – “very cheap” as he said. Jonas gave him a one dollar bill and explained to him that it was all we had. He then turned to me for more and I think I might have yelled at him a little but it seemed to help and he drove us to the gate without another word.

The whole thing was so stressful and frantic that when we finally boarded the plain I started crying (again) out of pure exhaustion.

We are now in The States and I have to admit that it hasn’t been an easy transition for me. The differences in cultures are HUGE in the most literal sense of the way. Coming from a country where I was if not a size L then at least a size M and seeing the size of people, houses and cars here has been a real shock to my system. The bed in our first AirBnB in Washinton was the size of our old room in Osaka and so soft that I actually slept on the floor because it felt more comfortable. (Okay I know this is a serious first world problem but what can I say? Japan has ruined me)

On top of that we have both been extremely jetlagged and I have felt more homesick than I can remember having felt for years. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but I also want to be honest and the first couple of days in Washington were tough.

One thing that city has got going for it though is the cherry blossoms.

I'm really sorry to say this #Japan but so far #Washington is kicking your ass at #CherryBlossom 🌸

Et billede slået op af Isa Lykke Hansen (@isalykke) den

To end things on a happy note we are now in Waxhaw, North Carolina with my old host family and I believe you have to search the Planet pretty well to find a nicer, more hospitable family. They have made us feel right at home and I am so happy to be back and for Jonas to have met my “other family” over here 🙂

We bought a tent and an Epic Road Trip of The South is starting to take form. We also found a farm up in Maine where we will be doing some farm work for a couple of weeks in June which we are both excited about.

That’s all for now. Sorry we haven’t been around much lately, but as I mentioned things have been a little hectic and I didn’t really feel like writing because of it…


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