Reverse Culture Shock: Hygiene

12 Oct


The first time I ever experienced reverse culture shock was when I returned to small-town Texas after having studied in Poitiers, France for a year.  It was mostly rooted in religious differences and a lack of culture and education in the town to which I was returning.  So before I returned to the States from Switzerland, I knew that reverse culture shock is more difficult to deal with than culture shock itself.  You expect to feel different in a foreign country.  You don’t expect to feel different when you come back “home”.

After my experience with returning from France, I knew to expect reverse culture shock upon my return from Switzerland.  I did not, however, expect to experience it at the doctor’s office.  In Switzerland, the doctors and their staff called me Mme [Lastname] (never mind that in the States, that’s my grandmother’s name), had reasonably empty waiting rooms and maintained some professional distance (no overly personal questions!)  And everything was CLEAN.  Floors were constantly being mopped, and doctors and nurses always washed their hands in front of their patients.

In the States, the staff called me Miss (Firstname), asked personal questions, and the waiting rooms were overstuffed with people whose appointment time has come and gone because the doctor was running late.

In Switzerland, everyone’s nails were short and well-manicured.  In the States, the receptionist had grotesquely long fake fingernails that were halfway grown out and had a bad case of black nail fungus.

And the doctor’s office was definitely nowhere near as clean as in Switzerland.  At my first oncology appointment in the US, I was horrified by the abundance of crickets in the oncology center.  In the lab, there were dead crickets in the floor and live crickets crawling all over the technicians’ pants.  And crickets carry germs, y’all.

I haven’t always disliked crickets.  In fact, when I was a little girl, I was obsessed with them.  I loved it when they played their scratchy songs in my bedroom at night, and I was always proud of myself when I managed to catch one.

The most famous “Kitty caught a cricket” story happened when I was four.  My mother was finally returning to work after her maternity leave, and her favorite coworker, a fifth-grade science teacher named Jackie, were working together to set up their respective classrooms the week before school was to start.

I was busy entertaining myself in the floor in the corner of the room, when I found… a cricket!

Me: Mommy!  I found a cricket!

Mom: That’s nice, honey.

Me: Mommy, it’s a girl cricket!

Mom: Okay, sweetie.

Me: Mommy!  Now I need to find a boy cricket so we can have some sperm and make baby crickets!

Mom (whispering to Jackie): Do crickets even have sperm?

Jackie (whispering back): I don’t know.  Let me look it up.

(She takes out an encyclopedia and flips through it.)

Jackie:  Apparently, they do…

Sometime between then and now, though, my love affair with crickets waned.  And I surely do not care to see them crawling around a room where needles will be stuck in my arm.

And the excuse “Oh, San Antonio is just having a cricket epidemic at the moment” does not fly with me.


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