5 Things I Miss About the United States (+ 1 Thing I Don’t!)
It’s funny, I never considered myself to be all that patriotic or attached to life in the United States But now that I live in the Netherlands, there’s some things I really miss about my home country… and one I don’t.
I miss my favorite foods.
I try and keep an open mind about trying new foods, but I didn’t realize how set I was in my eating habits until I moved away. Food is generally an important part of every culture, and living in a place where I no longer have the same access to that part of my culture was pretty jarring at first.
So, I miss Mexican/Tex-Mex food. As someone who grew up in Nashville, spent a lot of time in various parts of Texas, and lived for two years in Los Angeles, Mexican food was an integral part of my diet. Give me tacos, a burrito, enchilada, tostada, or a taco salad any and every day of the week. We have a few Mexican places in town, but they’ve all been a let down so far. And one of them charged six euros for guacamole! Ummm, I don’t think so! The most satisfied I’ve been was when I took the time to make my own Chipotle-inspired chicken taco salad. (Maybe another Food for One coming soon?) But it’s still not as good as the real deal back home.
I actually miss driving everywhere.
When I was in college, I used to bemoan having to drive everywhere. I longed for Nashville to have proper and efficient public transportation and wished I could just hop on a bus or tram to go downtown. Then I moved to Los Angeles without a car, spent two months taking the bus everywhere, and realized I missed the ease of having my car. (Spoiled child moment – I did fly home and drive it back one weekend.) Most people complain about the insanity of LA traffic, and I certainly had my fair share of those moments, but I used that time sitting in traffic to belt out my favorite songs, listen to podcasts, or make phone calls. It was time for myself.
Now that I live in the Netherlands where the public transit is pretty good and actually really clean, I take that the majority of the time. I drive for some of my work as an au pair, but typically you can find me walking to the metro in my neighborhood when I want to go anywhere outside of our little town. Sometimes I do miss riding around in my little Honda Fit, listening to my favorite playlists, and driving around town.
I miss being on the same time zone.
This is easily one of the hardest. When one of your best friends is living nine hours behind you, and she’s going to sleep as you wake up, and waking up as you cook dinner, you can get a little cranky sometimes. The majority of my friends and family are 7 hours behind, which is still pretty difficult. The best times for me to Skype are when they’re asleep, and the best times for them are when I’m asleep. I studied abroad in London 5 years ago, so I already had experience living ahead of everybody else, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
I miss sleeping in and staying my pajamas all day.
I was talking with Annalise (of Auslander Annalise) and one of the funnier cultural differences is that back home in the States, if you’ve got a day off and no plans to go out, you can stay in your hideously patterned pajama pants all day and nobody bats an eye. And when we talk about sleeping in, we mean sleeping past 9 a.m. Here in Europe, the majority of people I’ve met are up and about by 8 a.m. on the weekends, and nobody stays in their pajamas. I can get away with wearing black yoga pants, but I still miss wearing my polka dotted flannel bottoms until 7 p.m. Maybe this is where they get the “Lazy American” stereotype from!
I really miss free stuff at restaurants.
If you’re American, you’re used to sitting down at a restaurant and being given a free bread basket and a glass of water. This is not the case pretty much anywhere else in the world. They don’t really drink tap water here in Europe, so all water is bottled. The majority of drinks come in glass bottles at restaurants and you’re giving a separate cup to pour it in. Depending on the place and drink, there’s no ice either. I’ve gotten in the habit of filling up my own water bottle at home so I don’t have to shell out a couple euros for a small bottle of water with no refill.
I do not miss the prioritization of one’s career over everything else.
I think it’s ironic that for a country with a reputation for being lazy, we also have significantly less allotted vacation time. In the U.S., most companies give employees two weeks paid vacation after a year of employment. (Though as far as I know, this is not even federally required.) Here in the Netherlands, the minimum is 4 weeks, and in France and Germany, they typically have 5 weeks.
In the U.S., if you are planning to leave your job, you normally give two weeks notice to your employer. Here, I’ve learned that some people give several months notice to their employers – sometimes as many as six. I was shocked! I have known people in the U.S. to give a month’s notice, but then they are “let go” early, meaning they miss out on pay they were counting on receiving. I was talking with Annalise about this yesterday. In “Corporate America,” you could work for a company for years and think you have a good relationship with them, but the minute you decide to leave or are no longer of use to them, it’s like you never existed. It’s definitely a stark contrast compared to some other places in the world.
If you live or have lived outside your home country, let us know in the comments or on social media things you miss about it! If you’ve lived in the same country or region your entire live, tell me both some things that you love and that annoy you about your home area.