Yesterday I was in a serious state of closet confusion. It was 80 degrees on Daniel Island – in the first week of February. Standing inside my closet for what seemed like forever, I finally found the one short-sleeved shirt hiding next to long sleeve sweaters. This northern transplant has learned a valuable lesson in closet organization. Mix seasons when living in the south!
Settling back into American life for the past seven months after repatriating from Amsterdam hasn’t been as carefree as I thought it would be. Reverse culture shock is taking its time moving through my psyche. I’ve gone through stages of excitement moving to Charleston, a bit of depression missing Europe, which then turned into a mix of boredom and restlessness. Luckily, I’ve had a new house to settle and kids and dogs to focus on. If it weren’t for the gorgeous weather and this culturally rich city and all it offers, I think I would be stuck in the depression stage.
I can handle the closet confusion, no problem because there’s no way I’m going to complain about the weather. I know how good I have it here. Now that I’m back living on US soil, I could always just throw on some workout clothes and fit in just fine. American ladies, unlike Europeans, really adore wearing Nike, lulu lemon, Athleta and Title Nine pretty much all day long.
I was only living out of the country for two years and in that short timeframe I’ve become intolerant of things I never would have thought twice about before. For instance, driving. Everyone drives everywhere in America. Spending an hour in the car is nothing. Even in the cities, we get Ubered, Lyfted, or taxied from place to place. Gone are my days of walking the city, hopping on and off the tram or bus in the Dam, or pedaling along with the teeming masses on the expertly laid out bike paths complete with stoplights.
Since moving to the south I’ve had to get used to sharing the road with an exceedingly high number of pick-up trucks. Does everyone here own a pick-up truck? And if it isn’t a pick-up truck, it’s one of a thousand container trucks next to me on the highway coming from one of the five public port terminals. It only took me a week to realize I needed a heavier and safer vehicle to drive around here. My little VW convertible bug would shake as I crossed one of the countless bridges with either a strong wind gust or a heavy container truck thundering by me. I am lucky not to have been blown over the side.
Reverse culture shock isn’t all bad, though. I’ll admit I’m like a kid in a candy store with so many TV viewing options. I love TV. No one really likes to admit this because too much screen time rots your brain and sitting on the couch isn’t something to be proud of. This, however, doesn’t bother in me in the least. I once worked for the Discovery Channel and had a TV in my office. It’s sort of ingrained in me. Since repatriating back I’ve been reveling in watching some great movies and shows I didn’t have access to in Europe. If you haven’t discovered The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel series yet, I highly recommend it.
What I haven’t been enjoying as much though, is the flood of prescription drug commercials I’m confronted with while watching. I think I’ve become an expert at what to take to slow down the effects of some cancers, ridding the teenage population of acne, calming the symptoms of acid reflux and aiding the treatment of psoriasis. I sit and shake my head at the endless scary list of side effects to taking one of the many prescriptions to combat rheumatoid arthritis.
I also think I could name every major personal injury lawyer in the greater Charleston area. There are at least 20 different commercials alone on my morning news station. Every one of these commercials starts out with, “If you’re injured in a car wreck...” Northern transplants, like myself, say car accidents or head-on collisions or even crashes. We do not say “wreck.” Can I also point out there’s no ice and snow on the ground to contend with here while driving? How bad can these drivers be?
Speaking of driving, after living on the north shore of Boston for 17 years, I know when not to be on the road if I don’t have to be. Traffic in and out of Boston is horrendous. The morning commute will be heavily congested from 7-9 am so lots of people try to leave their house earlier or later to avoid it. Here, in Charleston, I’ve noticed that everyone seems to leave at the same time. There’s no waiting around the office for traffic to die down. It’s 5 pm and work is out and southerners expect to go home. Traffic is pretty predictable around here. It took me all of a week to figure out not to try to cross over the Ravenel or Wando bridges between 5-6 pm if I don’t have to.
We are at the seventh month mark of living in this truly beautiful and fun city of Charleston. How long do honeymoons last? This city is like a cute new boyfriend flirting with this newcomer showing off its food and drink scene, flexing its gorgeous coastline to coax me to soak up the abundant sunshine, all the while smothering me in southern charm. I’m smitten. Someone said to me recently, “Just wait till June, when you run from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car, then the honeymoon will be over.” I guess I’ve got four months left in the honeymoon phase. Perhaps then I’ll take a nice long trip back across the pond when Europe is shining.