Thursday, November 14, 2013

Surprising stuff about America

Since I spent the majority of the last five years in Asia and then spent the summer in the relative seclusion of the Oregon Coast, I find myself still in a period of readjustment to American life. 

When people talk about "reverse cultural shock," I always have a negative knee-jerk reaction to the phrase, I think mostly because it contains the word "shock": nothing in the US really shocks me, but I do often enough find myself thinking "oh that's weird..."

Yesterday I saw this post on Thought Catalog about things non-Americans couldn't believe about the US until they moved here. There were several things repeated by various respondents, here are the ones I find myself relating to the most:

Americans don't carry cash
Yeah. Weird. At the store, I'll fish out my coin purse to get rid of some pennies, but then I feel a little bit of anxiety for taking the extra time that wouldn't be necessary if I were just swiping my debit. Americans don't really pay with coins it seems. Maybe we should just get rid of them.

Credit rating is important/necessary
In China, expats would sometimes complain about renting at the "foreigner rate" (i.e. above what a local would get). And yet, my landlord in Shanghai took me with no references, no proof of employment, no bank statements. I could've bought a plane ticket home and never said a word and she would have had no recompense (well, except my security deposit, which was a deposit + last month of rent). In short, my rent situation in Shanghai was more about money in hand, not paperwork.

Americans don't walk anywhere
This still gets me. We have a grocery story that's a 10-minute walk away, but I felt decidedly odd walking there last weekend. Saw at least one car passenger lean out his window to stare back at me, because apparently walking is very curious.

Public toilets are nice
This is great. We have seriously nicely maintained bathrooms. If right now you're thinking, "but at the mall/grocery/restaurant I last went to there was-" Nope. You are wrong. That bathroom was clean. If you'd ever had to pee at a Chinese bus rest stop, you would learn to have warm fuzzy feelings for the bathroom you just wanted to complain about.

Omg we waste so much stuff. When I was in Burma, a Czech MBA student reminded me this was kind of good/necessary since America is still the economic engine for the world, but it's nonetheless shocking if you've been away from it. So much trash we make, so much food we waste.

Public transit is pretty crap

Return police/free refill/customer service
I'm still going out and being pleasantly reminded of how enjoyable service-oriented culture is.

There were other things on the lists I could relate to, but these are the main ones I notice in my daily life. 

I'm also enjoying reintegrating into American consumer culture. Shortly after I arrived, James and I watched Extreme Couponing and Extreme Cheapskates. Both are more entertaining than inspirational. We went to Walmart last night and were surprised by the quality and price of the produce. 

Groceries will probably cease to be interesting to me once I'm caught up, but right now I'm enjoying reeducating myself on what's a good value and where to get it.

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