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The older you get, the harder it is to make friends. In kindergarten, you run up to a kid, shove him, and yell "Tag!" and now you're inseparable. When I moved to Australia at age 24, I realized I had no idea how to make friends outside of a formalized institutional structure like college. Do people find friends through work? Sometimes, probably, but everyone at my job was married with kids and had at best a passing familiarity with the Indiana Jones oeuvre, so I really had nothing in common with them. I would sooner get a tattoo of Donald Trump's face over my own face than join a dodgeball league, and I figured out pretty quickly that the tag thing doesn't work anymore, so I was pretty stumped as to how you're supposed to meet people after graduation.
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No ... but close.
There was one major, glorious exception to this problem, though: Every time I met another American, we became the kind of insta-friends usually only seen at day care and closing time at a bar. Unfortunately, the friendship was usually short-lived, because once you're done yelling about In-N-Out and college basketball, you realize you have nothing else in common. But, for a few sweet, innocent minutes, you're just two kids bonding over your matching Ninja Turtles lunch boxes, and you can't wait to ask your mom if she can come over for dinner.
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"You hate the DMV too? Ohmigod."
Although I had no idea that any of these specific side effects of moving abroad were coming, I knew there would be some growing pains as I adjusted to a new country. Moving back to America was the biggest surprise of all, though, because ...
When I decided to move back to California, I was really looking forward to slipping back into a culture that felt comfortable and familiar, like a dog-hair-covered Snuggie. As much as I'd grown to love Australia, there were so many things I missed about America (they were mostly burrito-related), and besides, at least this would be a smooth transition, not like the last one. This time would be easy. Right?
Nope. I got every single symptom on this list, except backward. I found myself absolutely enraged that America still had pennies and paper $1 bills, and I currently have a pile of Australian coins on my dresser as a form of personal rebellion ("hero" is a strong word, but I can't think of a more applicable term). Every Australian I meet gets treated to an animated rant about the Sydney train system and Tim Tams. I'm almost certainly going to get hit by a car while crossing the street because I have no idea what side they're supposed to drive on, and when I finally do accidentally step in front of a bus, it's going to be America's fault for driving on the stupid side of the road. I realize, intellectually, that it doesn't matter which side of the road people drive on, as long as they all agree to one or the other, but that knowledge does nothing to address my burning outrage that you guys are doing it wrong.
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One day you'll all see. ONE DAY.
It makes even less sense now than it did the first time around, because Australia isn't even my country. I just borrowed it for a while. But if I learned anything from going through culture shock once before, trying to rationalize your way out of it will only make it worse. I just need to wait this out. In the meantime, if anyone needs me, I'll be spray painting "Australia Rulez" onto this freeway overpass.
Alli Reed lives in Los Angeles, where she's still desperately trying to find the Australia-themed bar she knows must exist. You can follow her on Twitter if you want.