The Top 5 Most Difficult Adjustments Needed When Living in America

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This week, our family is attending a conference called Debriefing and Renewal.  It’s a course that helps missionaries adjust back into their home culture. (Should I tell them I’m not even an American?)

I guess that after next week, I’ll be well enough adjusted that there won’t be things that make me nervous about life in America.  :)  Thus, this is my precious opportunity to get everything off my chest before the psychologists pacify me.

Things that Make Me Nervous About Living in America

1.  Materialism and Wealth

I’m afraid that the ways God changed my heart by allowing us to live amongst the earthly poor will dissolve.  I’m afraid that my concern for justice and the voice of the poor will slowly dwindle.

There have already been several awkward moments when I’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer wastefulness of people and organizations.

I still feel bad emptying the tray after eating at a fast food place.  I think about how much all of the supplies cost that I used for 30 minutes and then threw in the garbage.  It doesn’t seem environmentally or economically prudent.  I know there are a lot more experiences to come.

2.  Over-Saturated Sexual Exposure

I don’t mind saying that I’m a man, and I’ll always consider a scantily clad woman to be a temptation.  By the way, any man who won’t say that is a liar.

In Papua New Guinea, I wasn’t forced to be exposed to all that sort of junk.  There were no billboards.  There were no Sunday ads.  I did have internet, but I browsed with images off because we paid per megabyte.

I can’t hardly say the same about living in the States.

To be clear ,I don’t go out hunting sexually explicit images.  But they are hard to avoid.  Like Job, I’ve made a covenant with my eyes, but I just wish there were less places for my eyes to wander.

I wish one could simply opt-out of the constant exposure to such images.

3.  Adults Who Take Advantage of Kids

For most of you who have never been to PNG, it may seem like a scary place.  However, there are many predators here who target kids.  We never had the same sorts of fears or concerns as are prevalent here.

This is a society where we are much more leery of strangers.

4.  Artificial Relationships that Distract or Replace Real Ones

Sure, we could have a discussion about what constitutes a genuine relationship.  But I’m going to go ahead and say that face-to-face relationships are real.  Screen-to-screen relationships always have an element of artificiality and lack the intimacy that a face-to-face relationship provides.

Living overseas, I was thankful that we could Skype with family.  But that was artificial compared to sitting together in the living room.

I say all that to say that we sometimes focus on our artificial friends on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs instead of the people who are right there in front of us.

I’m nervous about living in a culture where I can be in front of someone and they can ‘put me on hold’ so they can converse with someone who is not even in the room.

5.  Technology Addiction

That’s probably not a real thing, but with unlimited internet access, I know there is a danger that I’ll spend too much time online and too much time on my iPhone.  I’m nervous to know if I’ll be responsible with the technology I have.

Yes, there are certainly things I’m excited about living in America, so please don’t feel like this is a bash America post.  I’d balance the post by writing things I like about living here, but I’ve got to get my bags packed before I’m late for the conference …

Do any of you share my concerns, or am I just a missionary struggling to adjust?


  1. JD says

    You are not alone in your concerns about America. I haven’t ever lived abroad and I feel as though I am in a foreign land anymore. We have “unhooked” from most distractions and do keep the internet. I reason it is for paying bills but sometimes lament too much time wasted on it.

    My husband said that when all of you came back he felt it would be a radical adjustment from the quietness and peace you had.

    I could add a much longer list to yours but suffice it to say it is a daily struggle to stay focused.

  2. carolsong says

    Thanks for this column. I understand your horror at coming home and seeing what ‘home’ is like, since I see it too. The best thing for me was finally understanding that the US, however much I love it, is not my home. It is a mission field, and the difference is that people here are starving for a relationship with Jesus Christ amid an excess of wealth, freedom, and technology, rather than starving for that same relationship without having the distractions. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the only place to find justice, morality, peace, and true love. I especially liked your number four on the list, as I think it’s very underrated here. I have to push myself to get out and interact with real people and work for relationships on any level.

    • says

      I like the reminder that we are citizens of the Kingdom. As long as we feel too at home in our home culture the harder it will be for us to critique it in light of the gospel.

  3. Denise says

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts, Craig.
    When I first became a missionary, 20 years ago, only #2 was an issue here (Latin America!), but things have changed as development ‘progresses’, so now we struggle with a lot of the same issues as we would in Canada, but I’d still rather be here than there! ; )
    Wish you & your family the best in your re-adjustment process.

  4. says

    No, you aren’t alone – I’ve lived in America my entire life but I have many of the same reservations that you do. My husband and I try to limit the time on the internet at home, don’t have smart phones by choice, and try to live a minimalist lifestyle (well, me more than him – I just don’t like the clutter and chaos that comes with “stuff”). We try to spend quality time together with our families and friends on a regular basis rather than relying on technology so much. I share many of your frustrations… but I think by acknowledging your concerns you are in a much better place to fight against complacency. Best of luck and God bless!

  5. Mark Bussert says

    Waste really bugs me too. When I go to McDonald’s, I always leave with some paper items (I try to be discreet — this kind of embarrasses my wife) to take home — I compost my napkin and put receipt, placemat from tray, the little box that fries come in, in paper recycling. Also, I have discovered I don’t need a straw to drink a Coke!

    • says

      Ha. I’d love to see you smuggle your used paper items out of the dining area :). I’m encouraged because it shows that you recognize even a small change is important. Keep it up!

      • Mark Bussert says

        Just think what it would mean if every American (and Canadian, for that matter!) composted every napkin, kleenex and paper towel they use every day!

  6. James Benford says


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