Tag Archives: Cultural adjustments

Everyday Signs That We Are Back in America

We have been back in the U.S. for a few days. We’re still getting re-acclimatized but have noticed several things that struck as as relatively strange about America. Most of these are everyday things that we never thought about when we lived here but seem odd after 10 months of being away.

The strangest material thing has been Styrofoam. On our flight back from Rio to the U.S. we were served coffee in Styrofoam cups. We didn’t even notice it until Kayan started eating the Styrofoam. It struck us that we haven’t seen Styrofoam cups, or much Styrofoam at all, since we left. It turns out that many countries have banned it due to its negative health and environmental impact. Only on our flight back did we remember it had been part of our lives.

While we’re on the topic of coffee cups, let’s turn to coffee sizes. In Turkey and Greece, the coffee came in small dainty porcelain. Even in Brazil, the standard caffeine boost comes in the form of a cafezino, short and black, often with a wallop of sugar. Take-out coffee is not a common practice in most countries we visited, where food and drink are meant to be enjoyed at leisure and are excuses to break from commitments, not rush towards them.

Coffee cups aren’t the only large things in America. The size of cars has also been an adjustment. It’s no wonder. Gas prices in the U.S. are the lowest of any country we visited. Turkey has the dubious distinction of having one of the most expensive gas prices in the world, and we felt every Lira on our drive from Cappadocia to Istanbul.

Dealing with dollars also seemed strange. The only time we used dollar bills was in Myanmar, where they had to be in pristine condition in order to be traded for Burmese currency. We haven’t seen a wrinkled dollar in 10 months. We’re also getting back into the habit of using credit cards everywhere, even at the smallest of establishments. We spent so much time counting money at food stalls and in taxis that paying for a slice of pizza and a cab ride in New York a Visa made us feel as if we were skipping on the cost.

We have made a lot of effort trying to adapt to customs around the world. While we were told to keep our clothes on in certain places…

We were never advised on which side of the walkway to stand.

After 10 months of oscillating driving sides, this was a helpful reminder than Americans drive and stand on the right and pass on the left.

In a few weeks we’ll be paying for huge Styrofoam cups of coffee with credit cards, filling up our huge cars with cheap gas and hopefully driving on the appropriate side of the road. Until then, we’re still adjusting back to everyday America.



Filed under New York City