As I get ready to leave the US for good, I can’t help reflecting on my 4 years here (on and off), and how it’s really the little things that make life different all over the world. With a hefty does of generalising and triviality, these are 10 things that I’ll miss about everyday life in the United States.
Free and guilt free. They’re everywhere and I love it, the supermarket, the mall, protests marches, even restaurant’s you’re not eating at. Of course, there are places that will turn you away, but as someone with a tiny bladder, it’s such a weight off my shoulders to be able to ask to use the restroom without dying of shame. In Belgium, a lot of times they aren’t available, or you have to pay which requires the forethought to carry coins.
Ever-Flowing Tap Water
This is a funny one because paying for water never bothered me growing up, I simply sucked it up or brought my own with me. However, since being in the US I’ve really gotten used to the never-ending stream of it at restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Also, why is the US so obsessed with ice?
While of course it varies daily, and DC just had the rainiest summer in forever, overall, it’s so nice to be able to divide the year into four categories with individual colour schemes and atmospheres. To know that in August we wear shorts because its roasting hot and in February you’ll need your gloves because its freezing, rather than just 50 shades of rainy and grey most of the year, which is what I grew up with in Belgium.
I have a tumultuous relationship with American temperature regulation, but sometimes it’s really nice to be able to sleep in a reasonable temperature when its 35°c outside.
I grew up in a country where almost all shops are open 9am-5pm, Monday to Saturday. While I believe that there’s a lot to be said for restricting consumerism and all that, it’s a lot more relaxing to organise your week when you know that you can get whatever you need on Sunday or go to the supermarket at 11pm if you need to.
The Abundance of Non-Standard Foods
As someone with a lot of allergies and dietary restrictions, the fashionable nature of niche foods (vegan, gluten free, paleo, hybrid…etc) in the US is pretty convenient. While they aren’t all good (or even logical, see chocolate hummus) it’s definitely nice to know that if I’m craving cheesecake, there’s a dairy-free, gluten free one waiting for me in the frozen section. Equally, it makes eating out in restaurants more feasible for me than in a lot of countries that I’ve previously lived in.
This is another case of over-generalisation, I don’t mean to say that we don’t have online shopping in Belgium, it’s just not as ubiquitous or as easy. For example, we don’t have Amazon, and so have to order from the UK or France, we also don’t have Prime, so delivery is slower and more expensive. It’s just not considered such a staple of behaviour at home.
Essentially Unlimited Data
This took me a while to figure out, as a very late and reluctant convert to the world of smartphone, I had no idea how much data was reasonable and so got a ½ gig plan. When I was living in New York I never had any problems with it, used google maps and YouTube whenever I needed to and thought no more about it. It was only when I moved back to Belgium and ran out of data within a week that I realised I hadn’t been staying within my ½ gig and that it had just kept ticking over from 4G into 3G with no more said about it. Talk about becoming accustomed to standard!
Random Discounts and Sales
In Belgium, we have officially regulated sales periods twice per year, once in January and once in July. Otherwise, it’s pretty trick to reduce prices. So, imagine how I felt when I moved to the US and got 10% off at a store because there was a line for the checkout desk. While I know that there are a lot of issues with sub-standard products being reduced, and dodgy representations as to the original prices, I definitely still get a buzz when I walk into GAP and get handed a 25% off voucher.
I grew up in a country where the menu was considered a sacred text, not to be messed with. I don’t care if you don’t like mushrooms sir, the chef designed it that was and it’s terribly arrogant of you to assume that you know better. So as a picky child, who then turned out to have a lot of allergies, even thinking about asking to change a dish used to break me out in a cold sweat. However, the blazé approach to customer service in the US has absolutely spoiled me in this way, and I’m now totally unafraid to change everything completely.