Friday, December 14, 2012

Why is Coming Home Always Weird?

I am 6 days into my 2nd homecoming – back to Wisconsin after 2 years in the field. Unlike the first time I returned from Taiwan, I don’t think I am suffering from culture shock … but that isn't to say it has been easy. I feel somehow – off. It’s not jet lag  though I have been trying to blame jet lag for my “comatose” state, as my family has taken to describing me.

I am being called comatose for my lack of responsiveness. I’m not actually sure what they expect of me. This is weird. These are people I’ve known my whole life – or their whole lives as the case may be – and yet I am not sure how to react to news: a new apartment, a redecorated room … that’s nice, I said.

I also don’t know how to talk about what I've been doing, and this goes beyond family. I stick with the superficial experiences mostly, like strange foods, but Asian food just isn't fascinating to me anymore. I’ve mentioned to a couple of people about the natural hot springs I went to shortly before I left Taiwan – but this was apparently not interesting to anyone else.

Another fascinating experience I had was being invited into a hostess club. Maybe I should write about that one here? I just don’t know how to explain it or how people will react. In fact at this point I don’t even know how appropriate it would be to bring up. Boundaries vary cross culturally and I find myself suddenly unsure of where some of those lie.  I spent some time socializing with a few professors in Taiwan, but then felt awkward my first day back to campus in Milwaukee.

It’s not that I ever fit in 100% here, but I could at least play along once upon a time. Just before I left Taiwan a good friend of mine (Taiwanese) said that I needed to come back because I belonged there. Another friend (American) sent a Facebook message telling me I had gone native. I never felt “Taiwanese,” yet I wonder, could they be right?