I've lived in Europe for the past six years.
In the grand scheme of things, that's just a blink of an eye. It's the length of time you spend in middle school and high school.
And remember how long that felt? And how hard and strange it was to change the rhythms of high school for a new chapter?
Well, as an expat, the more time you spend away from your 'home,' the longer you spend re-adjusting. Sort of like that formula for how many months it will take to get over an ex based on the amount of time you spent together.
Luckily, I have been back and forth to the USA for many reasons in the last 6 years. Sometimes spending as long as 4 months. But no matter how frequent my visits, the re-entry into the US orbit is hard.
Maybe because my heart-home is Europe.
So I have been thinking about what are the things that jar me and remind me I am an ex-expat as I re-enter into this American way of life. Here goes... in no particular order:
- the woman in Target behind who was high at 9am and eating donut-holes while dressed in a fancy business suit
- the fact that no one greets each other when you walk into a shop or a grocery store. In France, you greet the space, the people. In the Netherlands, you make eye contact and said good-day.
- the incredible ease in the USA to do things like open a bank account (this is HUGE a plus!)
- the extra time you seem to have now that the shops and places of business are open and available to you between noon and 2pm! (This is a plus too! Although I love the slow paced life in southwest France, sometimes you just want to buy a damn stamp at 1:15pm!)
- the giant-boob effect. (I blame hormones in American food for this one. At any time during the last 6 years, if I spent more than 2 weeks in the USA, I'd find myself suddenly with the most gigantic boobs. To the point of pain. If I stayed more than 6 weeks, they usually would regulate and re-adjust to normal size. I kid you not. I once went to a spa with a galpal and for weeks all she could talk about was the size of my boobs.)
- swearing. Why does everyone in the USA need to swear... and swear loudly? In Europe only teenagers trying to be cool and people trying to be rough and tough pepper their sentences with swear words. Isn't there something else to use to fill your hot air space with?
- why is it so hard to find creme fraiche in a grocery store!?! Why is it considered 'gourmet'?
- the price of eggs. Maybe this is a NYC-specific problem. But in France, you can buy a 30-egg flat for €1.99. Here, $1.99 for SIX weirdly WHITE eggs that are FAR away on the shelf from anything free-range. Is it just me, or do they taste weird?
- the Super Bowl. NYC on Christmas, New Year's, even inauguration day, was a hive of activity. Super Bowl Sunday... yeah... crickets.
- the cost of medical care. Seriously? You want to charge me $300 for a routine exam?? WITH insurance? It's HOW much for an MRI??
- shows like "Jerry Springer." I know there are European equivalents to tasteless and dumb television. Maybe because I don't own a TV and haven't for over 10 years, I am a bit insulated from exposure. Now, in NYC... there are Televisions on in the laundromat, on the PATH train, in.... everywhere! And it's noise and it's disgusting and it's... AWFUL.
- New York Public Library - WHOOP! It's been 6-years since I've had an English library near me. You cannot even imagine how much I have spent on books in that time. Including e-books, because they are cheaper. I'd come to the USA for a visit and download a whole bunch to avoid the international download charges. And now... voila! The entire power of the NYPL at my computer and delivered to my local branch. It's AWESOME.
- hamburgers. Yup. Cannot say much more than that. It's one of the food items I missed most. And tacos. Fish Tacos. Baja style. New York still has to work on figuring that one out.
I'll keep you posted on what else makes the list :)