Madeleine Aggeler, 126
Let’s face it. Peace Corps has turned us all into socially unacceptable, oversharing garbage monsters with dubious personal hygiene. So, I’ve taken it upon myself, a very socially successful and clean-ish volunteer, who has a lot of free time on her hands because all of my projects at site have fallen through, to put together some helpful tips and tricks for readjusting to life in the United States. “But Maddie,” you may be saying, “I don’t think spraying yourself with Febreze counts as a shower,” or “I once saw you get in a fight with a stranger about Harry Potter. Are you really the most qualified person to be giving out advice on how to behave in social situations? ” To which I would respond, Febreze masks all smells, and you can’t just say you get “a Hufflepuff vibe” from someone and not expect to get cursed out. Also, I’ve moved on from that so you should too. Most 126s will be heading home soon, and will have to readjust to American society, and for the 127s and extending 126s, a little refresher on social norms can’t hurt.
You can’t just make comments about people’s weight and appearance
In Thailand, every aspect of our appearance is subject to comments from friends, host families, or strangers at the market. Some of us may have forgotten, but in the U.S., this is in fact frowned upon. Comments about peoples’ appearance must be paired with compliments like “I love how that hairstyle looks with all your cellulite,” or “Wow, in that outfit I can’t even tell that you’re to blame for your parents’ divorce.”
People expect you to show up to things and do work
Most of us have become accustomed to an admittedly lax schedule. Some work projects happen, most don’t, some people show up, most don’t…. Back home, if you don’t show up to a meeting on time, or let something fall through the cracks, you’re sending the message that you don’t respect your co-workers’ time and effort. Showing up on time and doing the work is one way to gain their trust and respect, sure, but it’s a little unoriginal. Try to do something fun instead, like giving them a surprise hamstring massage at the water cooler, or picking their kids up from school without telling them.
You can’t talk about bathroom stuff
This is going to be a tough one. In the U.S., apparently, nobody wants to know how long it’s been since your last bowel movement, and even fewer people want to tell you about theirs. “But Maddie, that eliminates like, 45% of my conversation topics. What am I supposed to talk about?” When in doubt, talk about something safe, like the weather, people’s religious and sexual preferences, their greatest fears and insecurities, or whether they think Scott Peterson is actually kind of attractive.
Moderation is key
It’s no secret that there’s very little balance in the Peace Corps. We spend months at site consuming nothing but rice and Netflix, and when we get to Bangkok our eyes roll into the back of our skulls like a Great White Shark before feeding, and we inhale all of the cheese, bread, and beer we can get our hands on. Back home, this behavior is considered juvenile, alarming, and unhealthy, so we’re going to have to relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food and alcohol. The key is to always do it in secret. Don’t consume anything while people are around. Wait until you’re alone, and then let loose. Eating and drinking are meant to be shameful, solitary endeavors.
You’ll need a new wardrobe
The heat, humidity, and apparently nuclear-grade laundry detergent in Thailand have reduced most of my clothes to bits of slack, faded cloth that I drape on my body every morning. Most days I end up looking like an Amish schoolteacher who had to survive in the wilderness for a month, or a model from Yeezy Season 1. Many of us are planning on allocating a significant portion of our readjustment allowance to new clothes, but what should we get? I have four words for you. T-shirts. With. Funny. Sayings on them. They let people know you’re casual, but know how to have fun. Dress them up with a fitted blazer, or dress them down with whimsically-colored Crocs.
So there it is! By following these tips and tricks, adjusting to a post-Peace Corps life in Trump’s America will be absolutely seamless.