Monday, May 27, 2013

Why I Cry in Grocery Stores

And no, this is not a sad post.

In fact, this is a very happy exciting post. And it goes beyond groceries, I promise.

A few weeks ago I wrote about having a culture shock break down in a grocery store. What had happened was Ryan was asking me to cook some American dishes. So I was standing in the international section of a hypermart (what Indians call what we call supermarkets, to differentiate them from local stores, which we'd probably call a general store or maybe convenience store minus the gas station and the longer hours.) And I would see something and think "Oh, I can make this recipe, I just need this other ingredient." And wouldn't be able to find it. Or I'd find it and it'd be wayyy too expensive. Or I'd find it and it'd be some weird brand I'd never heard of, maybe from Europe or something, that I wasn't sure if a recipe would turn out the same using. We're not talking complicated recipes either.

For example, I saw cans of tuna and got really excited, because I haven't had tuna since I got here. And I thought of having tuna casserole... and realized I haven't seen Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup (or any Campbell's soup) since I got here.

This had me overwhelmed with culture shock until I was bent over my grocery cart sobbing.

I've been suffering a lot of culture shock. A lot of it hasn't seemed like culture shock. But I've known I felt miserable and actually the other day I was writing a blog post (which I decided not to publish) and I was writing out all my feelings and I stopped and re-read them and realized it read like a textbook definition of culture shock. I'd read books about being ex pat and cross cultural interactions before I left and they'd described culture shock and I'd just written a very good description of it myself... not even realizing that that's what was going on. I thought I was just upset with some of the people in my life.

I was actually talking an ex pat friend of mine online and she said, "I hate to break it to you, but you're still totally dealing with a ton of culture shock. And really, it never really goes away."

I'm realizing that.

Well, one of things I've ached for since I got here was a place of my own. As you know, I've been living with my in-laws. Which is a stressful situation for anyone (and for them too) but adding all the culture shock on it and I was crumbling.

What I've been aching for is the ability to be myself in my own home. Living with strangers that I'm tied to for life (and therefore have to be very careful, at all times, in every interaction, so nothing has a long term consequence) means I can't be myself at home. This isn't really their fault. It would be that way with pretty much anyone, at least in a cross cultural situation certainly, because being my American self just baffles them. This is not a complaining about the in-laws post. I really don't hate them.

But I've needed Ryan and I to get our own place.

And now we have.

{pause to let that sink in}


We are moving in this upcoming Saturday, June 1st.

It's a beautiful one bedroom place, not large but not too small (just right for newlyweds) within walking distance of a major shopping center. When I say shopping center, I mean the kind of place you want to go and linger. It's got hundreds of little places, restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, ice cream parlors, coffee shops, bars, stationary shops, gift stores, even my dentist's office. And it's also in walking distance to an Indian market in another direction. And it's central to everything.

We don't have a car, which I think I've mentioned, so this will mean for everyday stuff like groceries we won't have to spend a dime on transportation, and that the cost of auto or cycle rickshaws will be very affordable to go anywhere else. (Ryan's job has the perk of transport, which means basically they hire a driver to go pick their employees up, like a carpool or a school bus, so we didn't have to worry about that.)

taking a picture of myself in my new bathroom's mirror.
Which yes, is all you'll get to see of the new apartment for
today, because I like to build suspense.
And as I said, it's beautiful. It's got so many nice touches: ornamental ceilings, organizational features in the kitchen cabinets, a terrific built in wardrobe with so many smart storage solutions, lovely tile work and decorative accents in the marble floors.

Yesterday we took some friends to show them the place. They, having good taste, liked it. Then we went to get ice cream and dinner at the shopping center.

We first decided to visit one of the at least two grocery stores there.

And I found Doritos. Which made me happy because I've been craving them and hadn't gotten to one of the very few stores to buy them in months. Nacho Cheese Doritos are my favorite snack in the whole world and I hadn't had it since December or January.

Then I saw Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup.

And burst into tears.

Only this time it wasn't about being so overwhelmed I couldn't function.

It was about feeling so overwhelmed with blessings. Cream of Chicken Soup is such a staple ingredient in many of the recipes that I ate at home. And now I can get it, in walking distance of my new home.

So I couldn't help but let the tears flow, thanking God for the little taste of home that's now available at my new home... and so much more than that.

So that's why I cry in grocery stores. Only now, it's happy tears.


  1. I still don't think I'm over my coming-back-to-the-US reverse culture shock. But it's probably because I was a kid when I moved overseas.

    My husband and I have talked about it before--I'm not at all sure I could survive living with my in-laws. We're also in an interracial, cross-cultural marriage, which adds one level of complexity (his family doesn't speak English at home). But I think it's largely the fact that as a married women, you really desire your own home, to be the lady of the house, the decorator, the cook, the hostess...and if you live with your in-laws, you don't get to have any of those roles, you're still a subordinate.

  2. I am so excited for you, Pam!! The new apartment sounds utterly lovely. And it's just so like Him to give you those little things you've been missing for so long. Things are going to get better!


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