Sunday, September 9, 2012

Back in America

The fact that I haven't blogged much lately has more to do with three kids under four than lack of material. Still, I've gotten fairly comfortable in Croatia. I feel like I've adapted to some of the major cultural differences and have identified and come to terms with those things I can't adapt to. I'm not shocked very much anymore as a foreigner in Croatia.

But now we're back in the States for five months. And since I've come back a few times already, I was prepared for some of the things that shocked me previously.  The fact that there's far greater diversity didn't surprise me. The ambition and self-promotion that comes across whenever you turn on a TV or radio was expected. Even seeing how much food is wasted hasn't surprised me as much as it did in the past.

Here are four things that did take me off guard when I came back this time.

- Entertainment. The other day my wife went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew her license leaving me in charge of the three kiddos. Fortunately, the DMV in our area is in a mall. It's also located across from a play area where you can leave your tot for 8 bucs apiece. Coming from Croatia where the play areas are hard to come by but free, I said no way. My four year old was not thrilled. Neither was my two year old.

But their moods quickly changed when we walked around a bit. This mall also came with free entertainment. They watched kids bounce high into the air off trampolines, stomped on projected images on the floor that produce simulated reactions, received free balloons and looked at the dogs at a pet store, stared at big screen HDTVs with slow motion videos of dogs shaking the water off and ate free orange chicken samples in the food court given out by servers in cool red visors. It was all new, all free and kept my three children entertained for two plus hours.

- Dogs. In our small town in Croatia, dogs are kept on chains outside and fed scraps once a day. In the small town we're staying at in Massachusetts they ride in cars, heads and tongues hanging out - enjoying the good life. As I took a walk yesterday, two chihuahuas seemingly drove an SUV as it passed by. I shouldn't be surprised though. After all, I drove my dog to the vet the day before I left Croatia.

- Cold. News alert: It's not that hot in Massachusetts! The average temperature has been 75 degrees farenheit (23 C) since we got here. But you wish you'd put on your long underwear before going to your local grocery store. It's hard to feel sorry for businesses running low on money when they spend so much energy on cool air. On the other hand, Americans would accuse Eastern Europeans of the opposite - but equally puzzling - extreme in the winter time.

- Signs. Some of our friends who recently moved to Boston from Slovenia pointed this out the other day. Everything on a sign here is qualified. If you have to drive slowly, another sign will tell you why. If there's a stop sign, an accompanying sign will qualify it with a "four way", a "here" or even "Please".

Do these relatively small things say anything larger about our culture?


Nikki said...

Wow you guys are back in the States! Very interesting to read what has surprised you. I feel like I've gotten used to so many things here in Zagreb. I've met a lot of new Canadian and American people who have just arrived in Croatia and I was surprised by the flippant nature of "plans." I forgot how people tend to be with the whole, "oh yes, let's definitely get together sometime." With Croatian friends, we text and plan to meet at a certain time and place. Not some random future time (that will probably not happen for a good long while).

Jared Watson said...

Great post. I think those little things say TONS about a culture.

Anonymous said...

The one thing I missed most was the shower! Not having to hold the telephone and having water