Culture Shock

After spending several years overseas, culture shock when returning to the United States is a given.

My sons spent their teen years in Portugal and England.  In England, they could not get a driver’s license because, at that time, in order to get a British driver’s license and take the required course, you had to have already had an American driver’s license.  When we went to Portugal, my sons were 12 and 13 years old, so did not already have a driver’s license.  We moved straight from Portugal to England, so they spent their teen years riding the bus shuttle bus and being chauffeured by their parents.

My older son joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, and they taught him to drive.  My younger son came back to the states to go to college, never having learned to drive.  My dad taught him to drive before he went off to college.  He felt like a fish out of water. He did not have a car because we were still overseas. He was standing outside a girl’s dorm talking to a girl who was leaning out a second floor window.  They talked for a while, and then she asked, “What kind of car do you have?” 

He replied that he did not have a car.  She shut the window and turned her back to him.  He called me on the phone and told me he was very upset by that.  I told him that he didn’t want to know anybody that shallow any way.  It was remedied when we came back to the States and helped him buy a car.

That same son’s freshman dorm room mate was a young man from a small town called Cross Plains, Texas. (Their only claim to fame is that the author of the Conan tthe Barbarian books is from Cross Plains).  The room mate had a television set in their dorm room, and kept it tuned to sit coms and game shows.  My son asked.”

Don’t you ever watch any news?”  He replied that if it wasn’t happening in Cross Plains, he was not interested.  My son was astounded. To a military brat who had lived all over the place, that attitude was unbelievable.

When we returned to the States after having lived in India, I was 8 years old.  I was amazed at how the civilian kids I went to school with knew nothing about the world except right where they were.  Like my son, I felt like a fish out of water.  It took me a long time to adjust to being stateside.  Just about the time I was finally adjusting, Dad got orders for England.

I loved living in England.  When dad got orders to go back to the States after 3 years, I was horrified at the thought of having to adjust all over again just as I was beginning high school.  It wasn’t until I watched “Brats, Our Journey Home” that I realized this was a common feeling that most brats experienced. 

Looking back on it now, I wish the military had provided counseling for Brats before moves to prepare them for the culture shock.

I think one of the biggest shocks for a brat is when you get too old to have an ID card.  I did not have that shock because I married a military man right out of college and so continued to have an ID card.  My older son went straight from being a brat to joining the Marine Corps, so he didn’t suffer that shock, either, but my younger son did.

When my younger son was an undergrad at Texas Tech, he had an ID card and could go on base to the barber shop and BX. But then he got to the age when he could not keep his ID card anymore, and it was a real downer for him to not be able to go on base anymore.

He had been on bases all his life.  It took him quite a while to get over that. It is just too bad that the military does not do more to help brats adjust to all the changes they have to endure.

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  1. That really was not traumatic for me, but I did realize a chapter in my life had ended when I retired my final base ID card. I also felt the responsibility of needing to be independent.

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