While I am not a huge fan of the country, I couldn’t help but miss my homeland while I was abroad. It’s got its problems, but it is still where I was born and raised. Instead of missing democracy and patriotism, however, I found myself missing the strangest, most mundane things. I sat up late at night thinking about watching a marathon of sitcom reruns on TV or heading out to Wendy’s for fries with cheese. When I finally arrived after 24 hours of travelling, I collapsed to my knees on the sidewalk outside the airport terminal and paid sweet homage to the land of consumerism and materialism. Ok, that last part might be a lie, but I was still excited to be back. I’ve compiled a list of the top five things about the US I craved while abroad and which most made me want to return to USA. You might not agree with them, but that’s why you don’t run a blog.
1. Big drinks
Let me tell you a story. When I first got back to USA, I met my friend at Panera Bread for a little reunion. She kindly offered to buy me a drink, so I went up to the counter to order. Thinking that I was thirsty, I ordered a large drink. When the cashier handed me the supersize, 33.5 ounce cup, my eyes practically bugged out of my head. I had not had a drink this large in 10 months. In case you weren’t aware, Europe does this thing called “portion control” where they aren’t fat and only indulge in reasonable amounts of food at a time. A “large” drink in Europe is probably 16 ounces, if you are lucky. While I did get used to it, coming back to America and getting giant size drinks for only $1 does pretty much rules. My waistline totally agrees (ok, that’s what’s known as sarcasm, internet users).
2. Cheap stuff all in one location
Europe does have plenty of bargains. The currency in the Czech Republic is super inflated, so that around 20 crowns are equal to 1 dollar. In addition, the cost of living is pretty low, meaning you can get a whole month of groceries for $50 or rent a decent apartment for under $400 a month. However, something Europe lacks is the all-consuming, wallet-stopping power of the WalMart (or other stores like it). When you go to a bargain store, you know that you are getting a low price (perhaps at the sake of quality, but poor people can’t be choosy). Bargains could be found in Europe, but they required traveling to a variety of different stores in a furious hunt. America makes things easy – we put all the cheap stuff together to take away the hassle.
Call me superficial, call me fat, call me whatever – but I had such a hankering for ranch dressing while I was over in Europe that it nearly drove me crazy. I first discovered the lack of ranch in Europe when I was studying abroad in Germany. They actually called Ranch Doritos “Cool American” Doritos because that vocabulary word simply did not exist in their brains. They did not know what ranch was. Since then, I have undergone an extensive search for the dressing. I came close – they do have some kind of garlic-y onion tartar-sauce concoctions that are white and are meant to be used for dipping. But it’s really not the same – not at all.
Oh man, English. The language I spent nine months teaching had become so foreign to me that I almost forgot how to speak it. After returning to America, I was bombarded with an overload of it – advertisements, billboards, people, television. It was a miraculous sort of annoyance – I could no longer talk about people in front of them. On the other hand, I could now hear and understand what people were saying. In fact, the American accent grated my nerves for a while until I got acclimated to it – Americans are just so loud and so, so whiny
Driving. You might think this would be a negative thing. The fact that most of America has no viable public transportation system is certainly a downer. However, I must say that I was very excited to be able to drive once more. No longer did I have to go by a train or bus schedule – when it was time for me to leave my house and go somewhere, I simply headed to my car and left. Problem solved. While it does cost more and add a ton of pollution and destruction to the environment… it’s just so much more convenient.