Have you ever felt like a stranger in your own country?
Me neither! But there’s certainly things that I have realized about my own country that I hadn’t before my 8 months of being WIA in Europe (Wandering In Action, that is).
It’s been a week since I’ve been back in the big ol’ beautiful USA. And as expected, the culture shock has hit home…
As you all know, I’ve got a serious case of travel ants in my pants. They squiggle, they squirm, and get really uncomfortable when I stay at home with my parents for too long. So, within two days of being home in dirty Jersey, I re-packed my suitcase and headed off to South Florida.
Buttttt before you get all jealous, it wasn’t all fun, games, and pretty beaches; I really went to visit my 93-year-old Grandpa. (I’d show you guys a pic, but he’s afraid of those “watcha-ma-call-it-flashy-things.”)
Now, I don’t know what’s worse for the impact of reverse culture shock: Going straight from my tiny Spanish village to re-starting my fast paced loco life in NYC?… or spending a week in South Florida with my Grandpa.
For those of you who don’t know the reputation of South Florida, here goes: The land of wealthy retired New Yorkers over the age of 65, whose current objective in life is as follows: To play as much country club golf as possible, eat dinner out as much as their button pants permit—and talk in a really high pitched voice about their most recent doctor visits.
…But the beach is really beautiful!
Yea, the culture shock was raw.
Or in this instance, cooked. Considering most of my re-observations have to do with food, naturally. (Or should I say in the US instance, PROCESSED!” HAH.)
There certainly were many cultural stereotypes about the USA that I had never picked up on before. I can’t even count how many times over the past year people I have met from around the world have joked with me about US stereotypes, and I’ve playfully denied them ALL. US…fat? Nooooooo way. Well, if you are reading this and you are one of those people who I denied a US stereotype to—I’m sorry. I take it back.
In my last article about my life changing observations after living in a Spanish Pueblo for 8 Months, I got wonderful feedback from Spanish people themselves, who said “sometimes we need an outsider to realize the truths about our own culture.” Check this one out, from @JaviYebenes
Pretty cool, right? Well, now I feel like the outsider in my very own culture. After being away for nearly a year, I am realizing all these truths about the USA that I never have before. Don’t expect the tears to start flowing like my last set of observations, but expect to get really hungry. Why? Because pretty much ALL of them have to do with food. Surprise?
One Week Back Home, The Truths I’ve Realized About the USA
1) Everything IS really big here. Let’s just look at the comparison:
A Menu in the USA:
Yes, those seven pages constitute ONE menu. Thank you Cheesecake Factory for being the symbolic restaurant of FAmerica. Now…
can you guess which mug is from the USA?
Oh, and the men…
Being born and raised in Jersey, I’ve grown up around men with huge muscles. “Guido’s” if you will. Have you seen Jersey Shore? Yea. I went to school with about 300 Ronnie’s (see above). And I used to be into those muscle heads! But after spending the year in Europe and seeing maybe 5 “Ronnie’s” throughout the course of the entire year…I forgot what big muscles looked like. I stepped off the plane into JFK airport, and MY MIND WAS BLOWN. I swear, the guys here are inflating their muscles with a balloon pumper. I guess I can get used to it again? Just don’t crush me, men..
3) EVERYONE REALLY DOES TALK LOUD.
Like, yells. Really loud. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was surrounded by nearly deaf 80 year-olds? But I don’t think so. Whether it was the family-friendly beach, the trendy oceanfront bar, or my 93-year-old grandpa and his Bingo friends- they all YELL. LIKE I’M RIGHT HERE MUST YOU SPEAK SO LOUD.
4) Every hour is coffee hour.
Unlike Spain. I have now twice ranted about the strict “coffee schedule” in Spain. My first month in Spain, I ordered coffee after my dinner. BOY was I mistakin’. The waiter didn’t serve me. Can he blame me? I’m American! I forgot how important having the accessibility to coffee is here, at ALL TIMES. This awesome restaurant & bar in Del Ray Beach, called Caffe Martier, even has a separate coffee bar open until midnight, a side from its beverage and cocktail bar. So I can drink my Gin & Tonic, and chase it with a double espresso latte. Oh, how wonderful the freedom of choice in the US of A!
I forgot what really attentive restaurant service is like. The difference in the US, is that waiters and waitresses are tipped. The betta’ the service, the bigga’ the tip. In most of Europe, it’s an hourly wage. Therefore, if a waitress is having a bad day in Spain, you know it, and damn well. That means in the US, you can make your order as obnoxiously complicated as possible, and the waitress will smile and nod as she’s trying to skribble it all down, meanwhile holding back the urge to kick you in the shins as hard as possible. I was a waitress in the USA once. I know.
Allow me to demonstrate a meal that went down with Guacamommy this past week:
Guacamommy: “I’ll have the mozzarella tomato omelette, but can you substitute the mozzarella with cheddar cheese, and add onions, broccoli and pepper? And instead of the fries, can I have a side salad? Oh, and bring hot sauce on the side!”
American waitress: (smiling) Sure ma’am, I’ll have the right out for you! What she’s really thinking…
Try this order in Spain, and see what happens. And definitely don’t ask for…
I am a hot sauce FREAK. “I put that shi* on everything!” However, in Spain I couldn’t put that shi* on anything. Why? cause that shi* don’t exist. So, my taste buds and I adapted accordingly. Returning back to the states, I was AMAZED at the availability of hot sauce. At the first restaurant I went to, I was seriously like a kid in a candy shop. Not only is their availability, but selection. This country I call my home is truly obsessed with hot sauce; Frank’s Red Hot, Tabasco, Chiulua…. and then comes the flavor selection! Chipotle, cayenne, buffalo, spicy garlic, chili… heaven, is that you knocking on my taste buds? Oh, no…just Frank.
7.) It’s not the USA. It’s the United States of the World.
Ok people, warning! Here comes the sentimental part. There’s one truly beautiful thing about this land I call my home. It’s the melting pot of the world. Last weekend, I went to a local food fair in Del Ray Beach, Florida. There was a Venezuelan woman selling her specialty Greek hummus, a woman from Trinidad and Tobago grilling African food, a Mexican man selling fresh produce, and a Columbian family selling homemade Italian pasta. And that’s not all…there was even a Puerto Rican man selling Spanish jamón!!!! Mind you, I have grown up with this incredible diversity in the NYC area, but I never thought much of it. After traveling throughout Europe, and previously Argentina, Chile, Jamaica, and Israel, I realize how special diversity is to the US. Sure, in big cities like Barcelona and Berlin there is a mix of cultures from all over the world. But it is rare to find such diversity in every nook and cranny of a country, whether big city or small. Whether it’s ginormous NYC , or cute lil’ Del Ray Beach Florida, its population is made up of people of the world. Pretty cool, huh?
Now, let’s all join together and sing “I got the whole world, in my hands!”