One of the most exciting and equally challenging aspects of relocating to another country, is realizing that quite a few things are tremendously different from what we are used to. Here is my top 10 of funny, bizarre and in some cases irritating little differences which I have come across so far:
1) SMS – still remember what that is? Well, I did not, but it is in fact the primary means of informal communication over here. WhatsApp has, for whatever reason, not yet made it into the toolbox. At least not for most Americans. I will keep promoting it strongly.
2) Watching TV – is a small nightmare. Why? At some stage you get to wonder whether you are watching a movie that is occasionally interrupted by commercials, or if it is the commercial that is interrupted by a movie. Until I figure out the answer to that, I stick to Netflix.
3) Dinners at a restaurant – have frankly been a lot more peaceful back at home where the waiter is not constantly checking in on you. It is nice to know that someone cares about if I like my food, or wine, or everything else, but I feel that asking once or maybe twice would be enough.
4) Air conditions – a love/hate relationship. I am coming from an apartment with underfloor heating, where the only thing one notices is that everything is warm and cozy ALL DAY LONG. A lovely memory. In a home with A/C, there is no such thing as a stable temperature. It heats up to the desired degree, then lets the place cool down just until it starts to get uncomfortable, to then heat up again to the desired temperature. ALL DAY LONG. You see what I mean?
5) Public toilets – now this might be a ladies’ thing, but did you ever notice – those of you who spent some time in the US – that the doors of public toilets never close completely? There is this inch of free space left and right of the doors that allows everyone to peek inside, or outside, whatever is more interesting. I do not get that. Can someone please enlighten me?
6) Supersizes – of course I need 500 Q-tips in one package if I only go shopping once in a year. For the rest: why does everything have to be so huge? And where do I find the storage space to fit it all?
7) Flanking – this is something I had to google, because I came across this particularity a few times, until I realized it is not an anomaly but a trend, that even has been given a name. Picture this: at minus degrees (let’s just say minus 10 for the sake of it), where every normal person would be wearing clothes that keep us warm, the Chicago lady, dressed however nicely or not, walks the streets WITHOUT SOCKS. Visibly naked skin between the shoe and the trouser, just to look a bit more fashionable than average. Let us hope it is not contagious.
8) Elevator silence – elevators are in fact a very interesting place to perform culture studies. In some countries, including Germany, you become witness of the typical ‘what the weather is like’ random elevator conversation, showing the other person that you took notice of them. In the US, there is simply silence. No greeting, no looking up, no wishing each other a nice day. There could be several people crammed in one elevator and nobody would say a single word.
9) Bathroom standards – okay, I admit, Germans are obsessed about bathrooms. Everything is state-of-the-art, spotless, high technology. It is so nice, you could live in there if you wanted to. While this sets the bar high, I do wonder why toilets in the US are still standing on the floor. Also, why are shower heads fixed to the top of the wall, giving a rain-shower sort of impression, but you can not adjust them in height and there is no hose to even clean the tub or shower with? I am too German.
10) Saving the best for last: my vacuum cleaner. You might be shaking your head thinking why a vacuum cleaner would even make it to the list. Well, mine does. It is a monster and I did not know that when I bought it, let alone that this type of technology still exists. Not only is it so loud that I almost need to post an apology up on the building’s notice board every time I use it. It is also so heavy that I feel I am pushing a lawn mower around the apartment. The power cord does not slide in automatically but must be manually wrapped around two little hooks at the back of the vacuum cleaner, and it comes out so close to the brushes that I ride over it with every move I make. Welcome to the country where dreams may come true. Well, certainly not during cleaning.