10 Things I Miss About U (SA)

MassachusettsBostonEvery summer since we’ve lived abroad, I come home. For a few weeks, I get to eavesdrop on conversations in my mother tongue, shop ’til I drop, eat copious amounts of chain restaurant food, and indulge my love of  a DQ Peanut Buster Parfait. There are things I look forward to (Rold Gold pretzel rods) and things I make lists to buy (new shoes for the boys, Goya black beans). But every year, there are things I forget how much I miss until I’m back, padding out my flesh and filling up my suitcase. Little things, big things, tangible and not. They are the things I forget how much I’ve felt their absence until I am surrounded by them again.

Iced Coffee. I like my morning coffee black/no sugar and just shy of blow your head off strong. Iced coffee is the opposite. I like it light and sweet, like a cup full of melted ice cream. I’ve never managed to find it the way I like it outside of the US and in fact, I’ve never been able to find it all in Denmark (Europe isn’t big on ice.)

waitress

Customer Service. Never again will I shake my head ‘no’ when an overzealous salesperson asks if they can help me. Never again will I look surly when a cashier asks me “paper or plastic?” I will look them straight in the eye and say, “Why yes, yes you can help me” or “thank you, but I have my own bags.” And just because I can, just because no one looks at me funny, I’m going to say “I’m fine, how are you?” when someone asks “How are you?”

Drive Through ATMS. I don’t know why these thrill me, but they do. I pretty much bleed Kroner when we are in Copenhagen and whichever shop doesn’t take blood money takes debit cards. I don’t often need an ATM. But I love the idea of driving up and getting a few crisp twenties to throw into my bag. Think of all that Goya! All those peanut buster parfaits!

Bathroom outlets. Oh, the joy of drying my hair in the bathroom, electrocution hazards be damned. Curling iron, straighteners, toothbrush charger. It annoys me to no end to have to charge my toothbrush in the bedroom.

Photo: The Boston Herald
Photo: The Boston Herald

Consumer Choice. If there’s one thing the US excels at, it’s consumerism. Yes, yes, I know it’s gluttonous. I know it’s unnecessary. But man, it is nice to walk down an aisle and choose from more than three different types of shampoo. There is something distinctly sad and Cold War like about seeing the same four products on offer at store after store after store. Americans are spoiled by choice. Americans are spoiled by inexpensive goods. But 48 weeks out of the year I’m not. So for those 4 weeks a year I am, it’s bliss.

Good Samaritans. Yesterday at the beach I watched several people rush to aid of a young family whose umbrella had taken flight in the wind. Among these were two elderly-ish men, replete with tools, eager to help. They didn’t want to show off,  they didn’t want to say I told you so. Maybe they wanted to be seen as useful in a society that may not see them that way, but mostly, they just wanted to help. I miss that.

Cheap eats.  Copenhagen may have the best restaurant in the world for a few years running, but even if you can get a reservation, be prepared to drop a few hundred US dollars…without drinks. Even going out for burgers costs us around 100 USD for the four of us. Chicago Uno Grill you say? I’m all in. We had dinner for 5 the other night (with two glasses of wine) for 41 dollars. Apparently kids eat for free on Tuesdays. Guess where we are going next Tuesday?

Bookstores and libraries.  Our little neck of the Copenhagen woods has a lovely independent English language bookstore. Amazon delivers worldwide. But there is something magical about going into a bookstore and being surrounded by shelf after shelf of books in your own language. The only thing better is the library, because you get it all for free.

Mindless television. I’m not a huge television person, but even though I’m not a slave to serials, there is something relaxing about sitting down and watching mindless television from time to time. I’m partial to So You Think You Can Dance, but you can get anything, from reality programming to the classic shows I grew up with to mediocre crime dramas. Not to mention seventy-two incarnations of CSI and Law and Order.

Vintage-Postcard-Route-66

Scope. I forget just how big everything in the US really is sometimes; a country where you often calculate driving time not in hours, but in days. It’s a grand place, a majestic place, and that size is part and parcel of everything that makes up America. From superhighways to super sizes, it’s go big or go home when you’re here. I don’t think that bigger is always better, but sometimes, it’s nice to have a little bit more breathing room, a little wiggle room, and a large size order of fries.

So for the next two weeks I will indulge. I will stuff my bags with cheap goods and products I can’t find abroad. I will eat, drink, and be too bloated to be merry. I will nod and say “Thank you very much” and “Have a nice day” to my heart’s content. Most of all, I’ll just store it all away the next time I’m hankering for a Dunkin’ Donuts ice coffee and a change of shampoo.

 

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37 thoughts on “10 Things I Miss About U (SA)

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  1. Indulge for a while, I say! There are many, many wonderful things about being abroad — especially if you can take some home back with you from time to time!

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    1. Oh, I have to indulge a lot, if only to buy some clothes to fit me while I indulge in the food and drink portion of my vacation! And I will definitely be bringing some Goya one with me ;-).

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  2. I definitely had reverse culture shock after being abroad for about 8 months, and I DO appreciate many of the things you mentioned above. Loved the line – Go Big or Go Home! It’s so true! So You Think You Can Dance is one of my favorite tv guilty pleasures too.

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    1. I used to watch it religiously, even downloading it when we first moved to Cyprus. But can you believe I actually forgot that it was on? It was a pleasant surprise to turn on the tv and find it there among the 864 other channels offering 863 forms of mediocre tv. Hurrah for Nigel!

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      1. Funny – yeah there are too many choices on cable tv. We limited our choices to free public stations and Netflix, and it works great. I’m a little annoyed by commercials whenever I watch anything live though.

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  3. A beautiful salute to the States on the Fourth! But whenever I visit from Canada, I too cannot get over how good the customer service is. Everything else I take for granted.

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    1. Thanks, Cherry. You know, I didn’t even think about it being the 4th tomorrow. Usually I’m so caught up in making sure that my very English husband realizes that was the day we symbolically kicked his countrymen’s asses, that all else gets lost. Kidding aside (mostly), the customer service is fantastic, isn’t it. Why just yesterday I went to the drive through ATM and the teller was smiling and polite and cheerful. Even if it’s fake, it’s so much nicer than the scowl and glare I’ve experienced outside the US.

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  4. Someone else brought up the trash/mindless TV issue recently. It’s the things like that I am sure people don’t realize until they move too 🙂

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  5. I’m bemused about the electrical sockets thing. We have them in our place…! Reading this, I’m thinking I am looking forward to our next hols in the USA. Happy 4th of July!

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  6. I’m British, and only get to visit the States from time to time, but I have to say I loved a lot of these things about the US too. The customer service blew me away on my first visit – I couldn’t work out how Americans managed to be so polite and seem genuinely concerned without coming across as smarmy or insincere! I still don’t know how you do it: it feels wrong when someone asks me if my meal is OK here. And the scale is something else again. It’s wonderful to have not just so much space, but so much fabulous country inside it.

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    1. It was really important for me to write a piece highlighting things that I miss about the US. In light of some of recent incidents that left me scratching my head, I wanted to write a positive piece. Luckily when I sat down to do it, there were plenty of things to chose from. Though it was light hearted in a lot of ways, there is a lot to love in that land from sea to shining sea. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder, or drive a little further. Thanks for seeing the good in my homeland. It is appreciated.

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  7. Dina, It sounds like we miss a lot of the same things! I love that you included bookstores and bathroom outlets. Ah, the luxury! The line that really hit home was “but sometimes, it’s nice to have a little bit more breathing room.” Yesss! One of the things I always notice is that checking out at the grocery store isn’t so stressed – you’re not frantically trying to bag everything and get out of the way before the next customer runs you over. 🙂 Great post! ~Terri

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    1. Oh, Terri! You actually get yelled at in Denmark if you buy too much. Can you imagine! No! You may not purchase this much in one shop! I detest grocery shopping. It’s torturous. The fewer times a week I have to do it, the better!

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    1. Thank you. It’s nice to be able to step back and look at the good sometimes. It is easy to focus on the things that need to be fixed that sometimes we lose sight of little things that make life a little easier or a little more pleasurable.

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  8. Wonderful! I have dearly missed ice when visiting Iceland and Australia – and when I get a drink with ice, I want it filled to the brim! It’s the little differences that makes traveling so interesting.

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    1. I think the trick to traveling (and living abroad) is to look at the little things as interesting and not niggling! For instance, if I spent all my time lamenting all the things I couldn’t get, I would be miserable. It’s not easy at times, but it is a necessity!

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  9. If you want to appreciate your ‘new home abroad’ transit system, spend a few hours on the T the next time you are here and you will hug your conductor upon your return. Heck, you may even offer him/her a fluffanutter to really make the point!

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  10. Dina–I hope you’re having a good visit in the US. While I haven’t been to Denmark, I have been to England, France, and Ireland a few times, including a stint in England to study while in college (long ago).
    The ice was non-existent during my college days there, but on more recent travels to Ireland it was as if the magic of cold drinks had made it’s way across the pond–though the quantity given is still stingy.
    Other than one brusque shopkeeper we had decent customer service tho not intrusive, but some of that in Ireland was folks wanting to talk to Americans and sometimes ask if we knew their cousin in Chicago (since we are from Indiana). The scope of this country wasn’t something we could explain, though we met people who seemed to know US geography very well. One gentleman who stopped us on the street to do some Q&A about the US gave us a discourse on the Great Lakes that would impress any Social Studies teacher.
    I remember coming back after that long college stint and my parents picking me up at the airport. When asked where I wanted to eat, I begged for someplace that served big salads. I’d missed salad. Isn’t it strange how certain foods have an imprint on our brains? We’re headed south to the Gulf for a few days and my number one longing is for fresh seafood. In Chicago there’s a breakfast place I have to go and a pizza place, and in New Orleans there are must-haves. In England the fare in those college years was Chinese food; it was good and gave a lot for little cost. I remember that Americanized food was expensive and except for McD’s didn’t taste like it did in the US. (I no longer eat at KFC, but the worst KFC ever was in London, and that’s saying something.)
    Stock up on the Goya, enjoy the DQ, and bask in the glory of bathroom outlets. Safe travels.
    SR

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    1. It’s great that we make these connections where and when we travel, whether domestically or internationally. My husband is a Brit, so we’ve spent a fair amount of time in the UK, and when we go, there are always things we stock up on there (for him, Marmite and Branston Pickle, for me, OxoCubes). He always likes to have a curry when we’re there as well.

      The bathroom outlet thing though? Gosh, I really do miss it!

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  11. I miss American shopping as well, and the sight of familiar brands in grocery stores and good Mexican food. Real milk shakes aren’t easy to come by here either. Only 5 months until our annual trip home!

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D.E. Haggerty

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