Granted, it has only been a few weeks since we moved. Yet I already consider it a long enough period to share some of my first impressions of the new city and lifestyle. The change for me has been huge and while naturally not everything is perfect, there are a lot of things I really like so far. So here is my list of things that are ‘awesome’, as the American would say:
1 Chicago as a place to live: Wow – wow – wow, what a wonderful place on earth. I remember a lot of people telling me in advance how much I would enjoy the city, but I did not expect it to be that stunning. As this deserves more than just a single paragraph, I need you to stay tuned to some of my ‘Exploring Chicago’ posts and pictures, which will be going online throughout the next weeks (just waiting for the weather to get a little nicer). But to say the least: if you like New York, you will love Chicago. It is informally called ‘the second city’, but for me it is on the verge to becoming ‘first’.
2 Luxury of time: I hardly remember any moment in my life where I felt I genuinely had a surplus of time and the freedom to enjoy it. I am suddenly in full control of my own schedule and can build it completely the way I want to. While this felt frightening to me at first and still requires some getting used to after having been working crazy hours for many years, I start to see the beauty in it. The first few weeks have already been filled with new ideas, personal experiments and interesting encounters. Once my plan for the year gets close to finalization (almost there), I will certainly share what keeps me busy.
3 When it looks yummy, it usually is yummy: Okay, we have cakes and stuff in Germany, but after you have tried one of the local pies, ice creams and deserts (chocolate is a different story), you learn what yummy is. OMG, I have hardly tasted anything as delightful as the cheese cakes, carrot cakes, cupcakes, rice crispy treats and many other typical American sweets. I am sure they are full of fat and sugar and do not at all support a healthy diet, but if I stick to it being a once-in-a-while treat and not a daily pleasure, there is hopefully nothing to worry about. Right?
4 People’s friendliness: Some of you might refer to it as ‘superficial’, but I am absolutely blown away by the friendliness that I experience in Chicago. No matter which store or restaurant or café or other place I enter, people always welcome me with a smile and do their utmost to help me with my request, wanting me to leave a little happier than I came. I am conscious it is not all that simple and a core element of the US’ unique cultural coding. But comparing the first impression I get here with my experience in often grumpy Germany (oops, sorry), I can say it is very refreshing and makes settling in a lot easier.
5 Driving: I am probably driving the biggest car I ever sat in (I would have chosen a smaller version, had I been consulted), but that does not really matter because driving is nowhere easier than in the US. Yay! Roads are laid out in a very structured pattern and with the street signs fixed visibly above each street, you always know where you are. Some roads even run through the entire city, so once on, you always find your way back home. There are no ‘left goes faster than right lane’ types of rules (at least not in practice) and roads as well as parking spaces are so big, that there is room for even the largest vehicle … or the least capable driver 😉.
6 Going digital: No matter what I want to get accomplished, I can be sure that there is at least one app attached to some digital however it works type of method to get it done. Ordering groceries, calling an Uber, getting stuff picked up for the dry-cleaner’s, parking the car, pre-ordering drinks at Starbucks – all managed quickly and easily. Digital signatures are a given, so I rarely must go through the painful exercise of having to print something, to then sign it, scan it and email it back somewhere. Or worse: stamp it and post it. And finally: there is Wi-Fi everywhere. What a wonderful non-bureaucratic life.
Sounds all perfect? Well, not quite … But let us just enjoy the thought for a moment and wait for next week when I dive into my ‘come on give me a break’ type of early observations.