Monthly Archives: April 2013

Grits, Girlfriends and Garburators: Culture Shock Stateside

When we set out to travel Europe, we knew we would be in for a bit of culture shock, but heading back to our own continent seemed like going home. Even though we were going to the Southern US, and we live in Atlantic Canada, I think we all expected it to feel more familiar.
And to a certain extent, it does, (they speak English and drive on the right side) but I, for one, was unprepared for it to feel quite so different. I guess I expected to recognize stores and restaurant chains. I didn’t expect to have to search for a grocery store (Publix? Who knew?) or a pharmacy. And I did not expect there to be fresh fruit and vegetables in Walmart.
And here are just a few of our other unexpected moments of culture shock:
On our first morning, we went out for breakfast and I ordered tea. It came with ice cubes. And as the girls inspected the menu a little more closely, they told me I could have had “teamonade” instead! But if I actually wanted a cup of tea (which I did) I would have had to order “hot tea”.
Then when I ordered my omelette, our server drawled, “you want grits with that?”. Maybe. If I actually knew what they were. But probably not.
The next day, out for lunch, the waitress bounced over to our table, and said to our reserved little girls, “Hey Girlfriends, how y’all doin’? Can I start y’all off with a soda?” Might as well have been a different language.
And then there was the garburator in our apartment. USA’s answer to composting. Shoving food down the sink so it can be cleaned and treated along with waste products. Hmm. You’d think that would use quite a bit of energy…

So there you go. Different. I mean, to be fair, I always get cranky when Europeans or Brits assume I’m American, and I am quick to point out the difference. So why did I expect them to be the same?

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The Best Laid Plans

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You would think, after all the travelling we’ve done this year, that I would know better. That I would never assume things will always go smoothly. That I would have a contingency plan.

You would think, for example, that when booking a flight from the UK to Florida, I would realize that it wouldn’t necessarily go on time. And if it did happen to be delayed by an hour or four, that our arrival, which, in Florida time, still sounded reasonable, would actually be midnight British time.

So if we had been up since 4:45am, we might be tired-ish by then. So having to pick up a rental car and drive for 2 1/2 hours to our final destination might not seem like such a good idea.

You would think, that being the seasoned travel-planner that I am, I would have just booked us into an airport hotel, or somewhere nearby. Just in case.

Because arriving at your hotel 23 hours after you begin your day might create a few problems – people might get grumpy, or irritable, or so exhausted that their immune systems succumb to the 12 hours of plane-germs and they spend the first three days of their dream beach vacation in bed.

You would think.

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