America Doesn’t Feel Like My Home Anymore
That’s normally the first thing they say to you at customs.
Those are the exact words I heard two hours ago as I re-entered the United States after 1.5 years of living abroad in the Philippines.
Eh, it doesn’t feel like I’m home. In fact, America doesn’t feel like my home at all.
It’s weird to have “reverse culture shock” towards the place you grew up in. I don’t recognize anything anymore.
To its credit, America is a great idea.
I see people of all shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities, and ethnicities here. I hear many different languages spoken throughout this country, and I’m proud that historically we’ve welcomed people from all parts of the world.
Despite all this, it still doesn’t feel like my home anymore. It’s weird to feel like a stranger in the place you grew up in.
How did this happen?
Has Trump had anything to do with my feelings?
Do I hate America?
Where do I go from here?
I’ll answer all of those questions in the next few paragraphs.
How Did This Happen?
I spent extended periods of time outside of America.
I lived in the Philippines for a year and a half and just kept extending my visa.
When you take such an extended break from living in a certain place, it’s a hard reset. A vacation is different. You may spend three weeks abroad and feel discombobulated upon return, but there’s no massive shift or brain rewiring going on.
Spending 18 straight months in another country is enough to basically re-wire your brain. You forget how simple things work. You forget the speed in which people live their lives.
In the Philippines, the speed seems to be pretty slow. I like that. In America, you better get with the program before you get run off the road.
Did Trump Have Anything To Do With This?
I don’t fucking know.
Do I Hate America?
Not at all. I love it here. It’s a great country and I think it’s one of the best in the world. I wish more Americans could step outside and see how other people’s freedoms get squashed in some developing countries — it would lend perspective.
But no, I don’t hate America. I just feel like a stranger here. It’s like going to visit France or something. You’d probably really enjoy yourself there, but you’re still a stranger.
If anything, coming back to America after such a long absence feels like an extended vacation, which is actually cool in its own right.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Just because you feel like a stranger in a place doesn’t mean you need to leave.
I was a stranger in the Philippines for a while before I got the gist of how to live there.
I just ordered a bagel in the airport here and even that felt odd. I don’t know how to talk to people here anymore. I don’t know what to say.
When I first started living in the Philippines, I never felt like I could disappear in the crowd. For one, it seemed I was taller than almost everyone and my skin was pasty white. Yes, of course I’m going to stand out.
But after a while I stopped noticing that. I felt like one of them in a weird way. I started understanding the language, and though I can’t speak it that well, I knew what people were talking about around me.
Every time I walk into a store or restaurant in the Philippines I hear a “Hi sir!” It’s a small detail that I’ve come to get used to. In every culture there’s small details and codes of conduct that most people follow.
And I like what the Philippines has to offer more than what America has to offer right now. There’s downsides to both countries, for sure, but I think everybody deserves to live in a place they feel at home in. For me, that’s the Philippines.
What’s the moral of this blog post?
The lesson is, you can feel at home in many different places. Familiarity breeds a sense of belonging. I hope everyone feels that same freedom to go out and find that sense of belonging.
Just because a place has always been your home doesn’t mean you can’t go out and find a home somewhere else. Chances are, you may just like living somewhere else more. For now, I’m happy to be back in the United States!
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