They Always Say "Welcome Home" When You Enter the U.S.
Ironically, the first wave of "reverse culture shock" after living in Bombay for more than a year comes at Starbucks.
More on that in a moment. First, this "reverse culture shock" label.
One -- I thought at this point, I was immune to "reverse culture shock." Definitely not culture shock, but certainly "reverse culture shock." I know now to expect it. I know the surprises, the begrudging acknowledgements of shortcomings or benefits that exist here or there. At this point, it feels like prepping oneself for something that turns out to be an inch-long fall.
Two -- This label -- "reverse culture shock"… It's a little weird, no?
Three -- There's a reason why I said "after living in Bombay for more than a year," and not "after living in India for more than a year." I don't always feel like I lived in India, but I always feel like I lived in Bombay (I know lots of expats who live in Goa and spend no time with Indians at all, for example). The wording may sound weird to both my Indian and non-Indian friends, but in my way, it is an homage to Bombay. Of course, it is India. But it is also BOMBAY. You know? Put an eight-foot tall man in a sparkly pink dress with a purple El Camino either in a suburban Starbucks or in a drag show in Vegas… in both scenarios, he is still the EIGHT-foot tall man in a sparkly pink dress with a purple El Camino.
So back in Starbucks, there was one person in line. Lingering/loitering/chilling behind him was a woman with her family. Her back was to the counter. She was talking to her kids. There was a small but present gap between her and the man in front of her. And I thought the following:
Crap. Is she in line? Because in Bombay, that gap, small as it is (and the fact that her back is to the counter), means I can (and should) go ahead of her. You snooze, you lose. There's an inch of room? You take it or you forfeit it. That's all there is to that. Here? What does it mean here? I can't remember. Am I rude if I take the spot? Does the line go straight back, or does it hug the food display counter? What is my brand new one hundred dollar bill is fake? It looks fake to me. Then what? WHERE ARE THE PRE-MADE SAMOSAS????
All of the sudden, I see astronomically inflated prices for coffee and tea. Yes. Right. I am in Starbucks, the genius entity who gets away with selling a beverage for five times its worth in any country.
God (Shankar, Allah, Lord Buddha) bless continuity: the bold and familiar raft in a tempestuous sea.
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