I spend about a month in the US every year. Every year, I´m struck by something that makes me step back, reeling from reverse culture shock. This year, I´ve got a bit of a list going, of things in the US that just strike me as odd.
Not necessarily bad or good, just odd.
Because these things just don´t happen in Mexico.
The other day, I went to the grocery store. After paying at the self-checkout (another oddity in itself), this cupon popped out with my receipt.
Really--the grocery store is just giving me $5 for shopping there?
I could get used to this.
Then a few days later, I bought a pair of jeans. In the bag, the saleslady threw in a "gift bag". After opening it up, I found over $100 of cupons, two diapers, and all kinds of other offers. Sure, it is good advertising, but . . . really?
OK, I´ll take it!
#2 Obscene Amounts of Mail
Every day, piles and piles of mail arrive at my parents´ house. Sometimes it´s useful information. Sometimes they are legitimate bills. Sometimes they are requested catalogues. But often, they´re just ads addressed to "the resident".
In contrast, we get mail in Mexico maybe 8 times a year. Literally half the time, it´s because my mom sent someone a birthday card.
#3 Sour Candy
Growing up in Mexico, my kids know they need to approach candy carefully, in case they´ve stumbled upon a piece of candy covered in chile powder. In fact, they´re starting to acquire a taste for spicy candy.
While we don´t have to worry about spicy candy when wandering candy aisles in the US, we´ve discovered a new flavor to watch out for--SOUR!
It´s everywhere! And a certain kid I know really, really doesn´t like it.
#4 Restaurant Bills
OK, I have seen this one on a number of cultural comparison lists. But it´s so unsettling that it deserves these multiple mentiones.
The majority of the time, when I go to a restaurant in the US, the waitress brings our food, and then plops the bill down right on the table with it--as if the bill is a side dish.
Wait--did I want dessert?
Apparently not, as they just want me to eat and get out.
As frustrating as it can be to flag down waiters when asking for the bill in Mexico, I do like the feeling that I am welcome to stay for as long as I please.
And not rushing us through to get the next family to line up at the hog trough.
#5 Talking to Strangers
This isn´t such a comparion with Mexico (because in this respect, Mexico is somewhat similar to the US). However, my husband and I spent two weeks in Sweden this spring. It was beautiful, and I loved noting Swedish innovations that would be really useful on this side of the world. (Biogas, recycling, seperate bike/walking paths, etc.)
But, upon our arrival at the airport in Houston, I stood in line in the bathroom. Three different people talked to me. I came out of that bathroom and told Mario, "I´ve talked to more people in that bathroom in the last 10 minutes than I did in two weeks in Sweden!"
So, stay friendly, America! (Or, Texas, as it may be more pronounced there.) ;)