Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Culture Shock

The longer I live away from my own country, the more interesting it gets to come back. After 2.5 years abroad, I find myself with these European habits that I no longer think twice about. So even though I know how things are in the U.S., I am still surprised to rediscover so many things I'd forgotten about. So much so, that after visiting the grocery store, Dominicks, in La Grange, IL, for example, I was disappointed, in true tourist fashion, not to have taken my camera. Now it's in my purse, ready to capture the strange but formerly normal.

So far, the following things have struck me:

1. When grabbing a U.S. citizens form at the Zurich Airport, I said, "Entschuldigung" to the people surrounding the stand who were filling out the form. Then two minutes later, I realized how dumb it had been to speak German to these people, who were obviously all U.S. citizens. Duh.

2. Towards the end of the 10-hour flight from Zurich to Chicago, the Swiss flight attendant asked me if I wanted anything else. I said, "Just some more water, please." She answered, "Still?" And I took it as, "You still want more water, you little greedy indulger, haven't you had enough?" But all she meant was "not sparkling?" But the thing is, we English speakers just don't talk about water that way. If she had said, "mit oder ohne" it would have been perfectly normal. Oh well.

3. The sizes of drinks, food, carts and people. All basically huge.

4. While shopping my first full day in Chicago, I was looking at clothes and very surprised when other shoppers were waiting for me to finish looking before they would start looking at the same rack of stuff. Personal space is like everything else here. Huge.

5. There are cup holders in the grocery store shopping carts. Wow. Wouldn't want to get thirsty while shopping in the 10-acre store.

6. I could have eaten my dinner while shopping for groceries. While shopping, I was handed a free sample Starbucks mocha (thank God for that cup holder), cheese and crackers, a granola bar, and cookies. All 4 American food groups. 1 shopping excursion. I haven't gotten that much free stuff in 2.5 years in Switzerland.

7. What I thought was the chip aisle was not the real chip aisle. 5 kinds of chips is not enough to warrant a chip aisle, but my European brain just figured it was. My mother-in-law corrected me and directed me to an aisle with at least 250 kinds of chips. Whew. I could have really missed out on that American-sized decision making.

8. When checking out at the grocery store, I got ahead of the cart so I could start packing the groceries, but then realized that wouldn't be necessary. Yes, it's official. My has my brain switched to a new normal.


Jenni said...

And if 250 flavors of chips aren't enough, you can get the bags of doritos that have 2 flavors inside! Helps with the indecision.

cam said...

I'm from La Grange!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Crazy. I kind of miss the ridiculous choices... but I'm so used to going without now, so we'll see what happens when I go home in the summer, to the exact same Dominick's. :)

Chantal said...

Wow, that's cool about the La Grange connection. Small world. Yeah, the choices are a little overwhelming at the grocery store. But I'm loving all the bookstores!

Tina said...

MMM.... I miss the chip aisle!

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