Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reverse Culture Shock? Nah!


S ome of you may know that I am traveling in the states now. I arrived almost two weeks ago with my son Captain Kabob. He wasn't able to travel with me last summer when I traveled to the states for my first trip back home since moving to KSA, so he had been gone from the states for about two long years. We set foot on US soil at JFK Airport in New York. The temperature was a cool 60 degrees and it was raining. Both of us reveled in the chilly air and moisture - something we have both missed tremendously living in Saudi Arabia. When we arrived in Florida, a group of my son's friends greeted him at the airport, holding up signs and screaming when they saw him. It made him feel like a rock star! I rented a car, and felt a tad nervous when I first backed up out of the parking space, but I was fine after that. I hadn't been behind the wheel for almost a whole year. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.


During my week in Florida, we went to the movies - there are no movie theaters in Saudi Arabia and this is one thing that my son and I have missed the most. I have visited with various friends, went malling, and ate at a few restaurants. The fast food restaurant that Captain Kabob had missed the most was Taco Bell, so of course we ate there. I really didn't have enough time to do everything that I had hoped to do and feel like I could have used another whole week there, but my time did not permit it.

Right now I'm in Arizona. Dear friends have hosted a couple of parties for me, enabling me to see more people at once, instead of me having to go around visiting people individually. I was thrilled to meet three fellow bloggers who came to one of the parties and also to see several old friends I hadn't seen in decades. I've also been able to spend time with my daughter and my two grandkids. Although the temperatures have been extremely hot, I am thankful that I do not have to wear the black abaya or cover my neck and hair here.

I have been waited on by females working in restaurants and in the malls - these positions are only filled by men in Saudi Arabia. There hasn't been any need to plan shopping excursions around prayer times. I have spoken with ease with men I'm not related to - I'm not supposed to have contact with men I'm not related to in KSA. I have totally enjoyed being able to get into my rental car and drive myself to wherever I need to go without having to ask my husband to drive me. I have pumped my own gas, something men don't even do in Saudi Arabia because there are gas station attendants to do it for them. I have gone places by myself and loved every minute of it.

Before I left on this trip, some people expressed that I might feel some reverse culture shock being back in the states, but I haven't felt anything like that. Seeing people dressed in shorts and sleeveless tops in this hot weather doesn't shock me or make me feel wierd. To me, it seems a more sensible way to dress in the brutal heat. Driving feels pretty natural to me and so does being able to go out on my own. Maybe because I've only been living in Saudi Arabia for just two years, I'm not feeling the reverse culture shock yet. What I am feeling is renewed joy at the simple freedoms I used to take for granted. Somehow I don't think reverse culture shock will happen to me though even if I give it a few more years...

59 comments:

  1. Sounds like you are having a fab holiday and enjoying some of the things you have missed. I wonder if it will put you off your return to KSA?

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  2. Enjoy it while you can, Susie.

    Give my regards to the old country.

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  3. I'm happy to hear that you are enjoying yourself.

    Captain Kabob, Rock Star indeed! I'm so glad that he was able to remain tight with his friends while he'd been gone. I can't help but imagine that he might feel like he'd been released from prison. But maybe not, it's not like he's a girl, he has some freedom! Maybe that's more like how you feel Susie. Is he still in Florida with his friends or is he traveling with you?

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  4. Funny when I lived in Japan we didn't have Taco Bell so that was the first place I headed to lol. Lately though I have boycotted it ever since I got the fried lady bug taco lol! Oh well! Pumping gas I hate that that's why I had kids!!! Wouldn't miss that. You can't pump your own gas in Oregon either! I think they should make that a law everywhere LOL!

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  5. Sounds like you're having a fab time. I know I am!!

    Speaking from experience, the culture shock comes upon repatriation. I found that my whole frame of reference was unique to those around me. I couldn't relate. My knowledge and understanding of world politics and how the US is viewed shifted greatly.

    But for those summer visits home, I always loved them. I am currently enjoying my own visit! Vietnamese, Ethiopian, authentic-as-one-can-get-in-Minneapolis Mexican, shorts, bike riding, walking, swimming in a lake...I'm doing it all. Have a great summer, Susie!!!

    P.S. I didn't know you were a grandmother!!

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  6. I can understand the Taco Bell craving, in fact, that's what I do when I am not in SF (they don't have any here either). I hope you continue to enjoy yourself here and that your transition back home is not too difficult for you. You point out many things that we just take for granted here.

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  7. enjoyed reading your post today...and that you are having a wonderful visit back HOME.
    take care

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  8. How wonderful for you and Adam to come home and recharge you batteries.

    I have a question though, did you wear long sleeves and pants or shorts and short sleeves while home?

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  9. "What I am feeling is renewed joy at the simple freedoms I used to take for granted." -- Loved this!

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  10. So glad you got a chance to post and bring us up to date. I would imagine you and Adam would be happy to renew your acquitance with the US, friends and family. Not to sure about the Taco Bell myself. Enjoy it all while you can.

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  11. When I was living abroad and pregnant, Taco Bell was something I had desperate cravings for!! I would dream of burritos every night. I enjoy your blog and hope you have a great trip home.

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  12. Wish I could have seen you but next time! I am so, so happy for you and the time you are enjoying right now which you soooo needed.

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  13. Is there a stop in Texas on the itinerary?

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  14. My daughter, who has been friends with Captain Kabob since they were four, practically knocked him over running to give him a big, long hug when she saw him for the first time in two years.

    And the afternoon movie Susie and I went to was the most giggly fun I have had in a long time.


    Linda D.

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  15. I just discovered your blog this week and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. What an eye-opener to a totally different culture.

    I must admit that it is causing me to be very thankful to live in the U.S.

    It sounds like you're having a wonderful trip. I can't help but think that the culture shock might occur on the return to KSA after enjoying and being reminded of the "simple freedoms" that we here take for granted.

    Shelley

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  16. Hi Susie...my globetrotting friend, give my regards to all your familia along the way. Give me a call when you actually get a free moment. May God Bless you and Adam. JetSetMom.Cece

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  17. I'm in Tucson Susie. Where in Arizona are you? Would love to meet you!

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  18. I'm sure you are enjoying your freedom. I hope there is not too much culture shock when you go back to KSA.

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  19. I am so glad you and Captain Kabob are having a great time, free of reverse culture shock...

    You are truly all Americans, and flexible enough to readapt so quickly. It is true that repatriation is the true induction of reverse culture shock, but then Saudi is now "Home Sweet Home forever" right? LOL :)

    I hope you have many more enjoyable Stateside activities before returning to the Kingdom!

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  20. Thanks for the post....I have been missing you. Glad that you are easing back in and having a good vacation. Enjoy it and good luck acclimating when you go back to the KSA.

    sirod, umm umar

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  21. how wonderful your son must have felt to see all friends. i hope you both enjoy your holiday very much!

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  22. Arizona...woo hoo. That's where I am, faithfully reading your posts. Are you still here as of July 1 (today)? I'm in PHoenix. If your family is still here, get in touch please.

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  23. Presha of VirginiaJul 2, 2009, 2:07:00 AM

    Susie, if you go see your Mom and Roy, tell them I said "Hey". Wish I could see you. I will be in AZ in October. Have fun!!!

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  24. I totally understand Susie!

    I can not wait to get back to NZ, I have a list of food I want to have my very first day!
    As much as I love Canada (and I do), there is no place like home!
    Have as much fun as is physically possible on this trip! I hope you have a wonderful time.

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  25. I am so happy to hear that the site of women dressed sensibly in the summer doesn't shock you.

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  26. Greetings from Qatar! Just another fan passing through =)

    I was telling my friend over dinner yesterday that she simply *must* check out your blog...that you're the next "Jean Sasson in the making" :P Of course, your uniqueness notwithstanding!

    On a different note, thought I'd share these blogs of local Qatari's that might catch your fancy =)
    http://mmk080.blogspot.com/
    http://amalalmalki.com/blog
    http://mimizwords.wordpress.com/

    Salaam to you and CK..enjoy The US of A while you can!

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  27. Welcome back to the U.S., Susie. Have a wonderful time! I'm sorry life is so restrictive for you in KSA.

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  28. Susie:
    Welcome back!
    I know my travels were as a teenager, but going back into KSA was going home. Sure, we enjoyed coming back to the US and seeing family and mom went on huge shopping sprees to cover us for a year, but it was nice to get back to family.
    We moved to Saudi from Arizona, but all our family was in Texas and Arkansas, so other than some old family friends from our Texas days, there were no "friends" for my brother and I to see (and he was a bit younger than me, so had n o friends to leave behind).
    Still, I was always on the outside looking in, whether it was state-side or in KSA...
    Enjoy the trip, the freedoms and all the foods that you don't get back home.
    May Allah keep you and your son safe on your travels.
    Kay DH78

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  29. Hi Susie! So nice to be able to finally read you blog - since it's actually "blocked" in KSA!

    Am on home leave in Manila too and after almost 3 years in the kingdom, I completely share your sentiments - "What I am feeling is renewed joy at the simple freedoms I used to take for granted".

    Enjoy your holiday (as I will with mine)!

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  30. Have a nice holiday!
    I agree with you, reverse cultural shock is difficult to happen when you go back to what you know. Maybe could happen if it has changed a lot from what you knew or remember. For example, although you're used to see it in KSA, if everybody in washington or NY were dressed as saudies do, that would be a cultural shock, because what you remember is not what you see.
    I guess it feels great to drive again :o)

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  31. WELCOME BACK HOME, WOOT!!!!!! :-D It's really good to hear that you and your son are having a fantastic time! Enjoy everything as much as possible and so glad to hear you aren't affected by the "reverse culture shock" :-D

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  32. Aw, yay Susie! It sounds like you're having a ball back home! Hope you're able to take some time to relax a bit in between meeting with everybody and cramming in everything you can't do back in the KSA ;)

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  33. Hi Susie!

    It was so wonderful to see you here in the flesh, finally! Thank you for all the wonderful little gifts that you brought along, we love them! Enjoy your stay!

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  34. So glad to hear you're having a wonderful time - and enjoying your 'freedoms'.

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  35. Susie -- any chance you will be in Prescott July 5 (and not at the rodeo?) We are having a blogger get together at Flinn Park, 280 Josephine ay 2:30 & would love to see you. For more info, check my current blog.

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  36. Glad you're once again enjoying life in these United States. Are you and your family now "permanent" residents of Saudia Arabia? Or will you ever be able to live in the USA again?

    My son and his wife have lived in Niger, a Muslim country, for 2 years (Peace Corps), and they will miss the Nigerien people, but not the inconveniences of power going out frequently and no water coming from their taps in the hot season except for 3 AM to 5 AM. Muslim women in Niger have MUCH more freedom than do women in the KSA.

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  37. HI Susie, enjoy ur time as much as you can.
    some times really i cant understand you and your housband continue live in SA? by the way have a good time.

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  39. Hope you are having a terrific 4th sweetie. Stop by Austin, TX if you get a chance! Would love to meet you so much.

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  40. Hiii i enjoy reading your blog but im confused as to whther u are muslin or not..coz if u are muslim then wearing short and sleavless would be a no no in any country.u dont have to wear black or an aabaya...

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  41. Hi Aunt Susie..
    How are you?
    how is your trip going?
    how is Addoom doing??
    wish you all the best...
    we are having such a fabulous time here in Jeddah...
    wish you and Addoom were with us...
    SUMMER here is really Fantastic!!
    I went to a trip with my school..
    we swam, played cards and showered with soap!!!
    It was so much FUN!!!

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  42. hello I am 27 years old, from Daytona Beach, FL. I am in Jeddah now for the summer, and I hate it. This is my 2nd time here, 1st time was tooo bad I can not belive I came back again. My husband likes to live here so I had taken the kids and left last year. Felt bad for him so I came back so he could see the kids. None of his famliy want to do stuff with me I have to stay in the house. I just feel like dieing somedays. If I tell my friends or famliy this it will be bad. Just can't wait to go home on Aug 9th. I think I miss talking to friends, shit if I could meet people I would be happy. Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!! I hate it here. Sorry I think I had a brake down!!

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  43. Hi, nice blog you have here and congratulations for your blog winning the blog awards. Anyways, I'm wondering if it would be alright with you to exchange links with my travel blog at http://pautravels.blogspot.com? Sorry to send this through the comment area as you don't have any contact info but if it is okay with you, you drop by my blog and send me note. Thanks and good job on this blog. :D

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  44. Jessica--wow that does sound like hell! or at least purgatory (since you will eventually be let out). Stuck in the house is bad enough, without being stuck in the house with unpleasant family members. Isn't there one sympathetic family member who could take you and your kids out? Even so far as an expat group/play group/ hangout?

    Could you invite people over? Use your kids as an excuse? Are the kids old enough to plead on your behalf? eg "We want to go to x with Mommy!!" "We want x and y and their Mommies to come over and play? Can they cry on cue? How about "My doctor said I must take daily walks in the fresh air preferably by the sea, and swim at least 3 times a week if I ever hope to have more children"?

    I'm sure you've thought of all these things, but maybe you can think of something else as well. Another month is a long time not "havin' fun in the summertime"--sorry, Susie's music inspires such lyrics! LOL

    Take care.

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  45. Hi Susie, glad you are having a holiday back home with your son. Enjoy and relive your good times:)

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  46. Hi Susie, enjoy your time in the US!
    Here are two perspectives from people I talked to recently - In my university there is a Muslim student doing PhD in Arabic. I asked him why he didn't go to the Gulf to look for a teaching job. He said he was offered a job by a university in Saudi-A (I forget the name of this Univ) and was offered a salary which in our currency translated into more than a professor's salary here. But he refused to accept the offer. I asked him why and he said Saudi state doesn't give any freedom to the individuals there and he couldn't live in an autocratic state - he was scared he would be sent to jail for some act he may not even realise is an offence there. Moreover, non-Arab Muslims are not treated like Muslims there and Arabs discrimante against them and he was against discrimination, so he would rather be without a job in his own country living with non-Muslims than go to Saudi-A for a high-paying job. And mind you, he is quite religious and has received Islamic education! If a Muslim man doesn't want to go there even if offered good money, what to talk of a non-Muslim woman?

    I also know a Muslim girl from Kyrgyzstan doing PhD in my University. She comes from a democracy and girls in her country mix freely with men and they don't cover themselves - she wears the same dresses as everyone else here, mixes with men, and I haven't seen her praying regularly but she is staunchly defensive of Islam. She said she has applied to do a course in Islamic religion in Saudi-A and really hopes she will get through because she wants to learn the religion. I told her about this website and said that since she has lived a free life so far, it may be difficult for her to live there under strict rules. I told her about the religious police there. But she was defensive of Islamic police and said people are being punished there because they are not following the religion but she wants to follow all the rules and learn the religion so it won't be a problem for her. I said why didn't she go to Al-Azhar in Cairo, which is a well-known centre for Islamic studies, but she said it is better to learn about Islam in the Holy Land and she will be able to visit Mekkah and Medina. She is really looking forward to going there! Any comments from anyone?

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  47. The first man would be wise to take the Saudi contract if necessary to get his career started, learn and obey the rules in Saudi, and apply out from there, if he wants. Most expats in his position are well treated and enjoy their stay.

    The woman would be more respected academically if she went to Al Azhar in Cairo, unless she wants to train in salafism or with a particular Imam, and even then Al-Azhar is a hard credential to beat. She would be better to go to Saudi either for a short course, umrah or haj.

    Both sound like they are early in their PhD or job search. Hopefully they will make more mature decisions as they move closer to enacting them.

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  48. It is, in my opinion that, for who you are on this earth, that you respect both the cultures.

    Easy enough and done, as far as I have come to know you.

    I enjoyed you so very very much! Came to love your heart even more and admire you as a spirit on this planet.

    Thank you for your company, your laughter, your gifts to us, and your joy!

    Till the next time, peace in your heart, love in your family, and laugter to always surround you!

    N-Peace

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  49. Do you think you and your husband and son will ever come back to the States for good? I can't help it, but you sound soooo much better there... Which is no surprise, of course.
    Greetings from Germany!

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  50. THE KIDS GO OUT WITH THE FAM BUT THEY DON'T WANT ME TO GO WITH THEM. THEY COME OVER HERE AND TELL ME WE WILL TAKE YOU OUT WITH US THEN THAT IS IT THEY DON'T, WHEN I SEE SOME OF THEM ON THE STAIRS ALL THEY DO IS PUT THERE HEAD DOWN THEY DON'T EVEN LOOK AT ME. THEY COME OVER HERE WITH CLOTHES FOR THE KIDS, WHAT CAN I SAY, THANKYOU I AM TO POOR AND AMERICAN TO GO SHOP FOR YOU KIDS.THE SAME THING HAPPENED LAST YEAR, THE WOMEN HERE ARE LIKE STUCK UP SNOBS!!!!!!!!!!!!WE CAN'T EVEN HAVE OUR OWN PLACE TO LIVE HERE, HAS TO BE WITH HIS MOM AND DAD, MY HUSBAND IS TO OLD TO HAVE MOMMY AND DADDY TAKE CARE OF HIM AND HIS FAM. I HATE SAUDI ARABIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANKYOU. I FEEL A LITTLE BETTER TODAY!!!

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  51. Chiara, thanks for your advice for both. I've conveyed your suggestions to both of them, now it's upto them to make their decisions.

    Jessica - that's terrible to be stuck like that. But it's good you are leaving on 9th of August. Can't you talk to your husband and make him agree to leave with you? I know you said he likes to be here, but if he sees that you can't live like this, perhaps he will change his mind. I do hope something works out for you.

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  52. Jessica--awful! Hopefully they are trying to be nice to your children while staying out of your conjugal tensions. At least YOU have the kids fulltime, and you only have 4 weeks left. Does your hub take you out of the house when he is not working? Is he on your side? (statistically the most important issue in inlaw relationships, and especially in an Arab or other traditional culture).

    Do you have easy access to the internet? Can you chat online to friends back home? Would it help to write a diary, or "to journal" your experience as we now say?

    I did this as a fun adventure the past week while I was dog/house sitting (though not house bound as you are). It made light of some of the more annoying moments (dog wants to play hide and seek in the yard at 2AM--not in the mood!) and made me laugh too. I sent the daily entries to the dog's family as the dog's diary. Everyone got a few laughs.

    I do hope things work out for the best for you, your husband, and your children short and long term.

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  53. Daisy--You are welcome. I hope things go well for them both.

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  54. I''m so glad you get this reprieve. Even if it's in hot Arizona! It's hot in NM,too, but I know not AS hot! And I can't imagine wearing those clothes in this weather. Shorts it is. Love your stories as always.

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  55. What a wonderful welcome for your son! I haven't been back for over a year and I am practically drooling at the thought of the freedom!

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  56. awesome blog, do you have twitter or facebook? i will bookmark this page thanks. jasmin holzbauer

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  57. I found this topic and it is the closest I could locate regarding family at this time. I just heard about your mother on American Bedu site. No one's words will every ease the pain nor really comfort a person but at times it can be nice just to know that you are being thought of during difficult and sad times. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Big

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    1. Hi BigStick - Thank you so much. It's really hard being so far away from my family right now, but I am thankful that I'll be able to be with them soon. I have the greatest brothers any girl could ever want, and their wives and kids are awesome too. I feel blessed. Thank you again.

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