Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Weight Watchers

So, are you fat...or just pregnant again?
After hearing this in Croatian I had two questions for the recipient (my wife) of this comment:

     A. Is that really what she said?!?

     B. How did you manage to keep your composure?!?

Disclaimer: This blog is called "Culture Shock" not "Generalize Croatia".  Many, many, many people would not make a comment like this to my wife.  

On the other hand, let me tell you two reasons why there is a greater chance Petra will hear this question again in Croatia rather than in America (besides the fact that we don't live in America):

1. Eastern Europeans often tell it like it is.  I've gained more weight during Petra's 3rd pregnancy than she has.  And if  it weren't for some of my friends, I really wouldn't have known.  I saw a mother publicly rub her daughter's belly the other day and tell a bunch of people how her daughter had been gaining weight.  It didn't seem to phase anyone within earshot - except me.  From what I can tell, the mentality is that if you can see it, why not comment on it?  While certainly not flattered by such a comment, Petra's used to it.  Simply put, if you gain weight in Croatia, you'll hear about it.  On the positive side, it's not that big a deal - people just aren't as sensitive about their weight.

2. While being pregnant for the 3rd time within 4 years is not the norm in the States, it's absolutely unheard of here (unless you belong to the Roma community).  There's a good chance the person asking the question was being more critical of Petra's pregnancy than her weight gain.  But that's the reason Petra didn't get nasty - she's happy to be pregnant again and as far as pregnancies go, she's done very well throughout the first 2 and-a-half.  In fact, as we look back we realized the other day that since her pregnancy with Enoh (our first) she's been pregnant more of the time than not.  Some have called her brave, others - crazy.  The fact is she couldn't be happier.

So go ahead, make the weight comments.  It's just the latest item on the long list of things I'm no longer shocked by.

Monday, April 18, 2011

European Ingenuity?

Soon after I arrived in Croatia, I noticed that most grocery stores had a new (to me at least), very organized way of ensuring that shopping carts were put back in their parking spot.  As far as I could see, the only negative was that you had to make sure you had a 2 kuna coin ($0.40 or so) every time you went shopping.  Otherwise you would not have the privilege of using a cart during your weekly shopping trip.  

But then I visited Hungary.  See, for some reason, there are certain grocery products that are less expensive in Hungary than Croatia.  So when I dropped my wife off at the train station so she could make her way up to Budapest, I did the shopping before heading back into Croatia.  

I'll be honest, I'm not usually the one who grocery shops.  When I enter a grocery store, I don't think about getting a cart.  Usually my job in grocery stores is to pick something up that my wife forgot, or grab a snack.  

Back to Story:
So it wasn't until after I got to the drink section, checked the prices and picked out a few liters worth of drinks that I realized I would need a cart.  

Funny thing is, it's stinkin' difficult to get out of a European grocery store if you aren't making a purchase.  They have little electronic doors in the check-out lanes that are shut and won't open.  The only way to get out of the store is to squeeze past someone who is making a purchase and try to be obvious about the fact that you are not stealing anything.  And oh yeah, have I told you how small they make things in Europe?

Once I finally got out of the store, I realized I had no change.  I planned on paying for the groceries with a credit card so I didn't have any Hungarian Forints (no they don't use the Euro) yet.  

Climax and Resolution: 
About the time I start thinking "Why don't I just go back to Croatia and buy my stuff there?" I see a stray shopping cart.  "Thank you Mr. or Mrs. Hungarian who didn't care to get your change back!" I say out loud as I run to the cart and proudly strut back inside the store.  

Debrief - A pair of suggestions and a justification:

1. Why not create some jobs, Europeans?  Hire someone to take the carts back to the store.  

2. While I know foreigners are not usually the ones to visit your grocery stores, why not create a coin slot that accepts a variety of coins?  That way, even in Croatia, you can take a cart with a 1 or 5 kuna coin. 

3. (Not a suggestion).  I needed a post.  It's been weeks since I've posted anything, months since I've written. Here's an attempt to get back into the primary purpose of this blog in the first place - to tell about my foreign experiences in foreign countries.  

So far my series in European Ingenuity has featured 2 brilliant inventions.  Sorry Europe, this one gets a thumbs down from me.