Having just left America, and not yet gotten used to New Zealand, let me take a moment or two of your time to reflect on some of the things I was exposed to there – things I might eventually bring home with me, and things I’ll be glad to be without.
Some of them are typical American, other are random customs and things I was introduced to based on the segment of people I got to know. To avoid any risk of consistency they appear here in arbitrary order 😉
Salad before dinner: In Denmark salad goes with the meal and some places even after. In America more often than not the salad comes first, usually on a seperate plate.
I found that quite appealing. It is nice to start the meal with something fresh and crunchy, and it makes me eat more salad and less empty carbohydrates.
Fuzzy socks: Warm like slippers and as soft as the Leopard 😉 I have grown quite attached to my fuzzy socks. (Thank you Sydney and Hussein.)
I wear them whenever I travel these days – it seems that when the feet are comfortable, all the rest of me is more inclined to be so too. And for some reason it is always nippy near the floor on planes. Fuzzy socks: The cure for the common (air plane) cold 😉
American pillows and bedsheets: Layers of sheets and blankets that come apart when I turn over in my sleep. And no matter how carefully I fold the end of the sheet over the edge of the blanket it always comes undone during the night so the scratchy side of the blanket reaches my skin and makes it itch.
Huge pillows too stuffed and unflexible to mould to the shape of my neck. Very useful for sitting up in bed and writing, but when sleeping they’d better be left out of the bed, or a massive headache will be a regular morning guest.
Mixed desserts: As earlier mentioned here, Americans like everything bigger, easier or just more. So you don’t just have a brownie or a scoop of ice cream, you have brownie with ice cream, chocolate syrup, sprinkles and nuts. I am not complaining 😉
The accent: Most kiwis I’ve met so far thinks I am American. After more than 5 months in Ithaca I apparently sound like a native. That does _not_ please me! I can only hope that during my time here in New Zealand I’ll eventually begin sounding civilised again.
Cocktails before dinner: As I still haven’t developed the taste for neither wine nor beer, getting the option of a sweet mixed drink is rather appealing. For there have certainly been days where I’ve felt the need for that one drink with my dinner.
I appreciate the irony of having grown up in a country where most people drink, and quite a few drink more than is good for them, yet it has taken me moving to a place where the alcohol culture is much more restrained and puritan to appreciate unwinding with a drink.
Smores: Crispy toasted marshmellows with hot liquid centers, graham crackers and melting chocolate. Another example of bigger-better-more, but a very tasty one. And a good excuse for not doing much besides staring into the fire.
I am in the process of getting Christoffer hooked on these things – you are next.
Extra personal space: Americans have two to three times more personal space than we do back home. Whenever someone passes within a meter of you they will say “Excuse me” and look uncomfortable. I shower every day and generally do not go around armed. The first part is true for most Americans I’ve met and seen (Many fewer sweaty smelling people there than home – more care is taken to always be clean and smell good) so I don’t understand why people feel so bad walking close past each other. To me it seems exaggerated, something that might have started as a courtesy and then turned in to a nationwide obessive compulsion.
Chocolate chip things: Chocolate goes in so many more things here. Chocolate chip cookies, muffins, bagels, pancakes, waffles,… How can one object to that?
Pancakes for breakfast on weekends: Mmmm… Dessert for breakfast. Chocolate chip pancakes or waffles with butter and maple syrup. That one is definetely coming back to Denmark with me.
Thanksgiving: Feels like Christmas without religion, gifts and over-excited hyperactive children.
Only the best parts are left: the family getting together, being thankful and celebrating the lack of hunger and the joy of one’s loved one’s.
To bad it is Halloween and Valentine’s Day we are importing to Denmark these years – this holiday is much better.
Wastefulness and over-processing: Few people buy organic, everyone I’ve met pours out water like the supply is endless, food is very processed and many things have all sorts of weird stuff added.
I look forward to organic, carefully handled milk from Thise, no D or A vitamins poured in, the cream yellowish in summer when the cows graze outside. To flour that is just ground grain, nothing else. To bread that does not taste sweet. To food that comes in managable quantities – who needs milk in 4 liter cartons? To pure, tasty water straight from the tap, no chlorine.
Christmas stockings: Not only do they look very cozy and nice through December, they are yet another excuse for suprising your family with something (silly and) nice.
If I ever get to the point of pondering having children, they are most certainly getting both kalendergaver, normal gifts and stuffed stockings. And so am I 😉
Courtesy: Americans treat each other with a great deal more courtesy than anywhere else I’ve been. Especially (not surprisingly, they do after all get paid to be friendly) shop clerks and people in any kind of official and uniformed service job, but also just the average person on the street.
In the begining I had to stop myself from looking behind me to see who the lady addressed “Ma’am” was, as it took me a while to realize they meant me 😉
I like it. Especialy as I find myself in return smiling more, and treating strangers and clerks with more respect and friendliness than I did back home.
That it is OK to accept a compliment: There is no Jantelov in America. If you are good at something you are allowed to take pride in it, and when people compliment you for it you are not required to politely explain you accomplishment away, but can say thank you and smile. Not just allowed to, but even expected to.
It took me quite a while and some weird reactions to my Danish-bred “Well it was all because so-and-so helped/told/taught/… me x” to understand this.
When I get back, I hope I can manage to keep just saying thank you and not feel the need to explain things away upon receiving a compliment. After all, it seems fair to get the credit for one’s effort and work.
Cocoa butter body lotion: Maybe we have it in Denmark too and I just never noticed. I certainly find that I like the smell of me with a faint hint of chocolate. Even though that introduces the risk of me taking a bite 😉
I am sure there is more, but it eludes me. So as I am still jetlagged, the rest must wait.