Over the course of my last few visits to the great land of Amerikuuuuuh, I started to put together a little list of pros and cons to the place. My students ask me all the time if I miss it, what I miss, why I don’t want to move home, what is good about it, what’s bad about it, and so on.
Usually I try to be diplomatic, I acknowledge the positives and negatives, but I don’t want to put my bias on things too much. Plus it is exhausting sometimes to explain things. Particularly with the election coming up. I’m looking forward to the time when there are only two candidates competing, because the current three-ring circus is really a pain in the ass to try to explain.
Election aside though, here are some things that I enjoyed at home, and naturally, some things that made me crazy. Read on…
Category: Food, Drink, Restaurants
Pro: The amount and quality of Mexican food available. Oh man, do I love a chimichanga. And the margaritas? Delicious and normal-sized. I haven’t found any decent Mexican food in Nürnberg yet, and my hopes are not high. There was a great place in Prague, and the margaritas were lethal, but they were about half the size of an American margarita. Visuals!
And just look at that disgusting portion size. Which leads me to the next…
Pro: The doggy bag. Sure you can get them here, but if I go out to eat at home, I almost always come home with lunch for the next day.
Pro: Exotic and inventive beer flavors. In Wisconsin, we have tons of different breweries and there is always something new to try. Don’t get me wrong, I love German beer, but I like the variety you can get at home.
Why hello there, Leinie’s Fireside Nut Brown and fire. I’ve missed you.
Con: American beer gives me a far worse hangover than German beer. I had a particularly rough day following a night of way too many Batch 19’s, a pre-prohibition style lager. Delicious, but not good.
Pro: Free refills. Soft drinks or water, bring them on. You can say to the waitress, “Diet Coke and keep ’em coming.” This is amazing. Some people might include ice in this pro, but I don’t love a ton of ice in my drinks, so that’s not a big deal to me.
Con: Unintended calories. I almost never order soda at restaurants here; I’m much more likely to get a beer. But if I do, I have one Coke Light. In the U.S., I might drink four or five. Not so good for the diet.
Pro: Quick service. If you want to go to a restaurant on your lunch break, it’s no problem. On more than one occasion here, we would not have had to ‘dine-and-dash’ so much as ‘dine-and-leisurely-stroll-away.’ Or if you want a refill, or dropped your fork, or whatever, they’re right there.
Con: Several times at home, I found myself saying, “Well, I guess we’re done now because the check is here.” I’m sorry, but if my friend drove two hours to have lunch with me while I’m home, we are staying there as long as we want to. The lunch rush is over, the restaurant is empty, we aren’t hogging a table, deal with it. And you can just keep walking past the table all day, we’ll pay the check when we’re good and ready. There were a few times when we wanted to have another drink, but because we had told the server that we “were good,” previously, they brought the check. I like that in Europe you ask for it. Seems like a better idea than the server constantly coming by, wasting their time, and interrupting your conversation for no reason.
Pro: Sales, coupons, buy-one-get-one-free. Yes, Europe has sales, but not to the extent we do. Get on that.
Pro: Sometimes here you need something and have no idea where the hell to get it. At home, you know exactly where you need to go. You can find anything you could possibly need.
Con: This certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but for me, it’s a 25-minute drive (minimum), to the nearest shopping centers. And by that, I mean strip malls, Target, etc. (There is a Wal-Mart 15 minutes away, but I don’t do Wal-Mart.) If you want a full shopping mall, it’s more like 45 minutes. So if you go all the way “into town,” as my parents say, you should probably make sure you get everything on the list.
Pro: Target. I miss Target like the desert misses the rain (thanks, Everything but the Girl).
Con: Every time I go into Target, I end up spending four times what I planned. You go in there for cat litter and conditioner, and come out with shirts, jewelry, makeup, a DVD, random groceries, cat litter, and conditioner. I don’t know how they do it but they make me overspend every. time.
Con: Everything smells. A lot. I’m a bit sensitive to smell, and I had to leave the Yankee Candle store because it was too much for me. One of my friends here asked me to bring her some products from Bath & Body Works, and it was almost painful to be in there. Don’t get me wrong, people here love their perfumes and cosmetics, but the amount of scented products in the U.S. is absurd. Even showering gave me a headache from all the scented junk in the shampoo/conditioner/body wash.
Pro: I now LOVE infomercials. They are amazing and hilarious. I mean, Pajama Jeans, really?
Or the magic screen door?
Con: The amount of crap for sale that no one needs. But thanks for the entertainment.
Pro: I still have a lot of stuff at my parents’ house. So I basically get to go shopping in my own closet. Which is fun.
Con: Feeling bad for using my parents’ house as a storage facility. Playing the “keep or give away?” game. Wondering what is worth it to keep, and what should go… why hang on to all this stuff if you’re not using it because you don’t live in the same country. But then if you move home, you’ll have to buy all new kitchen utensils. Sigh. It’s a struggle.
Pro: Watching first-run shows on a normal-sized television.
Con: Constant, relentless ads that are screaming at you. (Minus the infomercials of course). I think every time I watched TV, I had to adjust the volume between the program and the commercials. They are so loud, it’s unbelievable. And don’t even get me started on all the ads for prescription drugs. When all the side effects you list are A THOUSAND TIMES WORSE than the condition the drug is supposedly treating, it is beyond me why anyone would take it.
What. The. Fuck. Ridiculous.
Pro: Hearing songs that you forgot you liked on the radio.
Con: You like Don McLean’s “American Pie” a lot less when it’s been stuck in your head for four days.
Pro: Understanding everything that’s going on around you.
Con: Having information overload because you are trying to read every word and listen in on every conversation that is happening. Headaches ensue and it becomes very difficult to focus on the person you are with that is actually talking to you.
Pro: Going out with old friends.
Con: Not being able to hear what they’re saying because the music is so loud and you’re trying to listen to lyrics, the conversation behind you, and lipread the guy across from you. Remember: just because you understand everything does not mean you have to.
Pro: Turn on the TV and you can find news. No internet required, it’s right in front of you 24-hours a day.
Con: The American media is absurd. I particularly enjoy how they manage to beat a news story to death without actually having any information yet. To paraphrase:
Reporter: “Well Jim, we’re standing in front of the apartment building where something has happened.”
Anchor: “Thanks Trish, what can you tell us so far?”
Reporter: “Police were called to the scene about thirty minutes ago, but that’s really all we know so far.”
Anchor: “Were there any witnesses?”
Reporter: “No Jim, but neighbors saw the police car arrive and are now standing around. Let’s talk to one now. Excuse me sir, do you know what happened here?”
Random Guy: “Nope.”
I wish I were kidding. I remember watching TV one summer day in college; we didn’t have cable, I had the day off from work, and it was raining. So on the one channel we got, every commercial break all day long, I heard “local nursing home celebrates 20th anniversary! Story at 5p.m.” I’m sitting there saying, “isn’t that the story? What else can there possibly be to it?” But then again, nonsense news did bring us this guy:
So I guess it’s not all bad.
Pro: Everyone is friendly. People hold the doors and ask “how are you today?” at the cash register.
Con: I’m not a big fan of small talk. I don’t want to make it with the chick in line in front of me at Kohl’s, the cashier at the gas station, or the girl in the bathroom at the restaurant. Yes, the line is long, that doesn’t mean we have to talk about it. Sorry.
Pro: I get to hang out with my dog.
Con: Sleeping in our house is difficult, as the dog will hang out outside the door in the morning. She will cry, bark, and try to dig a tunnel to China until you wake up and let her in.
Pro: My sister and I composed some songs about the dog and her difficult life. We also have very loud conversations with her when she’s being particularly annoying, and it’s pretty funny. Helmets for all.
I think that about does it. If anyone has anything else to add to the ‘Living in Amerikuuuuh Pros/Cons’ list, by all means, go for it!