Notes from a week back in the US: The good, the bad, and the other stuff. I was really struck at first by the strange feeling of being in a place that was completely familiar, but also completely foreign. To see it all from this new perspective was really incredible.
* People, get off your damn cell phones. It's insane. Looking around at the airport, more than half of the people in any given scene were on their phones. They weren't even making arrangements or anything crucial like that, just blathering. Then, a friend picked us up from the airport and on the way home got a call. I was sort of okay with it until the words, "No, I'm not doing anything. What's up?" came out of her mouth. Actually, you are driving in city traffic, paying a toll, talking to your friends who just flew here from six time zones away? She proceeded to yap on the phone the rest of the way home. When I'm in Germany, I feel that I should limit my phone time in public - it's impolite and irritating. When I'm in the US, I feel that if I'm not yapping on my cell phone, everyone will think I have no friends.
* Oh yeah, and you don't have to be in such a damn hurry all the time. I know it makes you feel important, but you haven't even given yourself a chance to feel the benefits of slowing down.
* So many cars. Consider ped zones! They improve your life, I swear.
* It's so diverse!! There are people who are neither super-white nor Turkish! LOTS of them!
* Everyone sounds American! I got in the habit in Germany of turning my head at the sound of American English. My head was spinning the first couple of days in the US. Even towards the end I was doing it pretty frequently. And it feels like everyone is a potential conversation mate. Oh, the freedom!
* It's a bit loud, though.
* Shorts, shorts, everywhere.
* And flags! Ye gods, there are a lot of national flags flying, hanging, and otherwise displayed in the US. A short conversation we had our first morning there -
Me: "There are American flags everywhere!"
Damon: "Yeah, I wonder what happened."
Me: "Uh, I think it's normal."
* All the trash goes in the same can! It's so easy! When I cut a tag off something I don't go to the paper trash with the tag and the packaging trash with the loop. I can toss it all together. And I can toss it in the room I'm in (in Germany we didn't want 4 trash cans in every room of course so you have to go to the appropriate room to find the can for the particular type of trash you have.)
* Yap yap yap yap. In Germany, you get small talk only from people who are likely to see you again - your neighbors, coworkers, classmates. In the US, you get it from everybody. They go on and on! Examples from the airport alone:
- Lady from ag department who caught us accidentally importing a piece of fruit: "...yeah it's alright, we just need to take it, no problem, then you take this paper, and go over there? by number five? and turn right, and take it to that guy, and he'll stamp it, and hey! what does your customs form say you live in? your US address? oh, you're going to maine? something harbor? my brother works in boothbay harbor! he's a....blablabla"
- Guy at security when I took off the shoes I'd been wearing for about 16 hours: "step on through...wow! good thing you took off those shoes! it looks like your feet needed a break!! have a nice day!!"
- A guy wanted to get around me in the store. Instead of just silence or a short "excuse me" it was, "Excuse me, can I just reach over your head for just a second here?" So many extraneous words!
And....I can use extraneous words too! This is my language!! When someone came up to me for directions, at first I had the knee-jerk, "oh no....prepare inadequate German langauge arsenal for emergency situation..." but then he asked for directions IN ENGLISH!! YES! And I could say more than just "Go straight to whatever street and then left"...I could say any combination of words and extra information and "i'm not totally sure but"s that came naturally! It was so easy. My lazy side wants to move back NOW. My intellectual side says I should keep with the German, not be just another unilingual American. The whole inner argument makes me just want to take a nap. (There's the lazy side again.)