It truly takes being outside the country to appreciate (and sometimes, mostly dislike) you're home country. I've never been what you would call a patriot. Because I have no native American blood in my family, I've always identified with Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Scotland and Wales more than my American roots. But after being outside the country for a prolonged period of time, I found myself missing some of America's better points.
Look, Mom! Forestry!
This may sound silly, but I grew up in Ohio. We have a ton of trees. I never noticed until I went to Holland. They don't have a lot of space, so little luxuries like driveways, garages, and you know, oxygen-producing trees get set aside. That's not to say that it's a barren wasteland; it's just that with everyone having such a small yard, there isn't enough space for a forest everywhere. They have a lot of smaller trees that you see along the streets in cities in America, but I was missing the giant trees that scrape against my house at night. When I came home and was just driving around, I realized that yes, Ohio has trees-a-plenty, and that I missed them dearly.
10. Department Stores
Consumerism? Heck yeah!
I love shopping. More specifically, I love having the ability to go to one store and buy milk, socks, a book, a fishing rod, lawn furniture and a video game. Granted, The Netherlands had some half-decent stores. Hema had a lot of different products, yes, but they didn't offer these products in multiple brands. So, you're stuck buying the home brand at each store. I like having options. Also, there aren't stores with an all-out grocery store attached to a regular store that also has an auto department. Call me a consumerist, but I do love places like Target, and dare I say, Walmart. (I realize Walmart isn't ethically at 100%, but neither are a lot of things. What about Apple? They have to have suicide prevention fences on their buildings in China because every one hates working there so much. I don't see you all protesting against Apple...)
9. Having a Car
I only wish my car still looked this good..
Everyone always talks about how awesome Europe's public transportation is. I'm here to say, aside from trains transporting you for longer journeys, I reeeeaaaaallly don't like public transportation. Here's why. To ride the bus from the where I was staying to the mall and back cost us each 3 Euros. (This keyboard is racist and only has a pound symbol.) Which is about $3.84 according to Google. So, I'm spending about 8 bucks for my fiancee and I to go about 10 minutes in a car (20 round trip). There is no way it would be that much gas, even with my car that's on its deathbed. Also, when I want to go somewhere, I want to get there now. I don't want to wait for 10 minutes for a bus. I don't want to sit by some woman who thinks she's a size 4 when she's a size 14. So, now you're thinking, why Sarah why don't you ride a bike? That's simple. I don't know how. Also, I try to learn, and I get hurt Regardless, even if I could bike, I don't want to be soaked by the time I get to work because my mode of transportation is a bike and it's raining. I don't want to be sweaty and gross in the summer if I'm biking to a job interview or party. I like my car. I like being mobile and dry.
8. Real Debit Cards
What in God's name is Maestro? And what's with the little square box of mystery? And who the heck puts a picture of their debit card on the internet?
Okay so. Someone in The Netherlands thought it would be awesome to issue to their people these debit cards. Except, they're not real debit cards. Well, not by American standards that is. They don't work online. They don't swipe. You have to put your pin in every where. You can't pay for things by phone, such as you know, a phone bill. They think it's better to use your bank account info to make bill payments. To me, that seems less secure. I'd rather my billing companies have a card number that I can cancel at any time than my bank account, which is difficult to change. Trust me. I've been there. Also, this same person who thought these lying debit cards were a good idea, also thought it would be a good idea for foreigners to not be able to use their Visa and MasterCards anywhere within the country as well. My debit card, which acts as a credit card that only spends what's in my account, could not work in 99% of the places I went to. That includes places in Amsterdam as well. It only worked at Media Markt (like Best Buy but smaller) after me trying to explain to the clerk that I'm American and somehow that means that my debit card isn't good enough for their pin machines. I was very irate. I don't like having cash. I lose it. Especially don't like having change when that change is worth 2 Euros a piece. They need to make their system more savvy for internet purchasing and other people entering the country wanting to buy anything. Really, it will only benefit them if I can easily spend money in their country.
7. Cheap Food
This is my chicken mushroom Alfredo bake from Fazoli's. This 400 calories of heaven is only $3.99. Take that, Europe.
I've always been an on-the-go person. Between class, work, dogs and life, there were times I was gone from 6:30 a.m. to about 2 a.m. I would usually pack a lunch, but there wasn't a way to keep my dinner in tact for that long. I found myself eating Subway or the delicious chicken place at Kent State that is now long gone. I could afford to do this because food is cheap. Well, fast food and sit-down restaurants that is. While I really enjoyed healthy food being at a reasonable price along with learning new recipes, I missed being able to go out and get some cheap Italian food with unlimited bread sticks. I missed going out with friends for dinner and a movie. I felt like all anyone ever did over there was "hang out" which meant drinking and sitting in a living room, or going out somewhere to drink. I don't like alcohol. I'm allergic to it, actually. So, my friends and I will go get a cheap dessert at Applebee's and play some random game at the table. I missed being hungry and able to run to Taco Bell and get some nachos and cheese for 89 cents. Which leads me to number 6.
6. Mexican Food
Get in my belly. Right now.
Oh, Mexican food. How I love thee.. Let me count the ways. Seriously, Mexican food is my favorite food ever. Give me a taco, chalupa, enchilada, fajitas or even some nachos and I'm the happiest woman alive. Unfortunately, being an ocean away from Mexico and 17ish hours away from Spain, I was without my love for months. Sure, they try to make Mexican food. It's never right and/or the same. People add corn to it. (Which, by the way, is the only time I saw anyone there even eat corn.) They get the spices wrong or forget ingredients. I love Mexican food because it's flavorful, relatively healthy if you eat it the right way and low-cost. Over there, they had a "Mexican" restaurant call La Puerta (The Door, really?) where enchiladas were about 16 Euros or $20.46. Also, there are no chips and salsa for free, either. I didn't eat there, but I can't imagine it would live up to my standards. Whenever I come home form time abroad, I either have Chipotle or go to a random Mexican place as soon as I'm off the plane.
Story of my life, right there.
Who doesn't want unlimited, legal movies and tv on any internet-ready device for $8 a month? That's right. Nobody, that's who. I found a way to watch Netflix, I had to pay for an extra IP address scrambler service to which I'm not sure how legal that actually was... (Bad wording. I care not.) I love Netflix. I don't even bother with cable anymore because I have entire series at my finger tips. I don't have to search random awful links to watch House because they're all in one place: a lovely place known as Netflix that loads quickly the first time.
4. Mountain Dew
I'm pretty sure I consume that much Dew in a month. . .
Let me preface this by saying that cans in Europe are smaller. Thus making America's stupid way of measuring things actually better for once.
Since I was a young child, I've loved the Dew. While I preferred the now illegal Surge to Dew, I can say I currently do the Dew quite often. I was shocked, nay, offended, by the lack of Dew in stores. How could this country not love the citrusy, caffeinated goodness known as Mountain Dew? I mean, here in the lovely US of A, I specifically go to restaurants because they serve Pepsi products (aka the Dew brand) instead of Coke. I spend my life away on 69 cent Polar Pops just to have my Dew on the go. Granted, this clothing store called America Today sometimes had Dew, they don't always have the ordinal flavor. And, it's a Euro a can. Paying $1.28 for 12 oz of Dew? Well, to me it was worth it every once in a while, but I shuddered when I thought about that 32 oz of Dew I could get back home for so much less money. Side note: America Today was also the only place that had Reeses...Yeah... About that...
3. Places Actually Being Open
Girls from 711 stay up all night -- 24 hours a day
Where do I start on this one. Hmmm... Okay. here's the deal. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, stores close at 6 p.m.and the supermarket at 8 p.m. in Arnhem. Thursday is some special "shopping night," so, stores are open until ten. I don't like this shopping night. It's in the middle of the week. Why not make it Friday when people don't have to be up early the next day? But I digress. And on Sunday, you're screwed because the only store open is a specific kind of supermarket and even then, they're only open form 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Unless of course it's shopping Sunday (the first Sunday of the month). Then, you can actually shop on a Sunday. I was really confused as to why everything closed at six. I mean, that leaves so little time for people who work normal jobs to get anything done. Also, what are the teens and young adults supposed to do if they can't wander the mall or Walmart at all hours? Oh yeah, drink. Because you can do that a age 16 there. I now get why my Holland friends are always out drinking, either nothing is open or it's too expensive to eat out. I get it. -light bulb-
2. Right on Red
It only makes logical sense.
While I wasn't actually driving a car there because everything is stick, I was often in automobiles. On these journeys, I often noticed people not moving in the right lane at a stop light. I was very, very confused. I've always been a pretty good driver. Never had a ticket. No accidents. So, I brought up "right on red." Apparently, it doesn't exist there. So, if you're stopped at a light wanting to turn right at 2 a.m. coming back from god knows where because nothing is open at 2 a.m. in Holland, you're supposed to just sit there until it turns green. This concept blew my mind. Right on red just . . . makes sense. If no one is coming from the left, and you're the first one at a light, in the curb lane, then turning right on red makes sense. It keeps traffic flowing. I know they have more pedestrian traffic, but still. Give something to the drivers. They already have higher European gas prices, tiny roads and stick shift cars. Why not throw them a bone, eh? You better believe once I was on US soil I took every legal right on red there ever was.
And number one!
1. Free refills
I'm not even going to make the joke about what beverage that strapping fellow is refilling... Mostly because I would do the same.
I drink a lot of liquid. I mean, a lot. I can drink two 2-liters a day of any drink. I can guzzle down a gallon of lemonade. I will refill my drink at every restaurant at least twice. But my love of refills runs deeper. I eat all the bread sticks at Italian places and get many, many more. We all devour those chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants. Heck, we even get refills on ketchup, right? Yes, ketchup even costs money. They just want you to spend your life away on liquid. Some places even charged you for tap water. Seriously . . . It's like the land of the thirsty over there. I got so many dehydration headaches when we were out and about. It wasn't pretty. We all know that drinks are how most food places make their money. Just imagine how much they are making under these circumstances: all food is more money, all drinks are way smaller than America's and you have to pay-per-drink. They're making a fortune. I missed drinking tons. I missed having more than one bread stick. I missed it all so much...
So there you have it. My list of things I love in America. I got a little homesick after a while. I just missed things being my kind of normal. However, being abroad made me realize how good the little things here are. Whether or not those little things are enough to keep me on this continent, well, that's still debatable.