What to Expect: Physical appearance

Have you gained or lost weight?

Have you changed your hairstyle,
make up or appearance?

Have you changed the way you dress
or your sense of style?

Obvious changes, like physical appearance will get the most immediate attention. If you have become fond of American fast food or conversely had difficulty finding food in the U.S. like you ate back home you may have gained or lost weight. This may be the first thing people will notice, and they will likely comment on it when they first see you after you return home. If they used to see you in business attire, and you return wearing much more casual clothing, they will notice that. If you have changed the length of your hair, that will likely become an immediate topic of conversation when you get together with people you haven’t seen since you left home.

While these obvious physical changes might represent only a fraction of the changes you’ve made in your life while in the U.S. as the most visible ones, they will likely receive the most attention initially. That may or may not bother you, but you should probably think about how best to respond to the frequent comments you will get about how you look and have a response prepared that you can use over and over again. For example, in the U.S. no one considers it a compliment when someone comments on having gained weight, while in some other cultures people see weight gain as a sign of prosperity or health. So, if you have gained weight, prepare yourself to hear about it and remember to consider the perspective of the person making the comment.

If you feel comfortable and good about the changes in your appearance, you can just wait for the novelty to pass. Do not allow other people’s opinions to negatively affect how you view yourself. Sometimes visible changes can remind others that less obvious changes have taken place so that they won’t just assume you are the same person they have always known. If you have changed the way you dress based on your time in the U.S., you don’t have to adjust back to your previous style as long as you consider the new one appropriate back at home. As you probably know, people do make judgments and impressions based on how you look—make sure you realize the impression you create and that it does not cause problems in your interactions.