With being away from Chicago for almost 2 years, I knew there would be differences that would stand out. What I didn't expect is just how many and how out of place I would feel at times.
Here is a rundown of my moments of reverse culture shock:
But seriously, these are plates for a family of four right?
In most of the countries in Europe, you have to pay for plastic bags in grocery stores. This might only cost 10 cents but still, most people are bringing their own reusable bags when shopping. It was a real eye opener to see just how many plastic bags were being used for one shopper in the USA.
So, how many types of milk and OJ are there? More than I thought apparently. Finding myself in choice overload in places I would never expect became normal. At least it made grocery shopping a whole new adventure!
Means of Getting Around.
Other than when being in the downtown area of Chicago, I found myself being in the car all the time. Even going to the grocery store down the street required driving. Needless to say, I often missed being able to get on my bike or walk to destinations.
I found it odd how easy, popular, and cheap it was to eat out (often). Drive thrus are found on every corner. Media is in your face constantly trying to convince you of different eateries. Many meals were even cheaper than cooking at home. No wonder obesity is so much higher in America.
From iPad menus taking your order to high tech soda machines to bank tellers on screens, it was obvious that things in the digital area are far more progressed. Let's just say most places in Belgium don't even accept credit cards yet.
After being used to everything closing at 5-ish and also always on Sundays, it was exciting to be able to go to the grocery store at 11pm. I'm thinking employees in Europe are happy it isn't this way though.
One of the first things I noticed when living in Europe is how people genuinely take the time to relax and enjoy life. In France and other European countries, many stores are closed from noon till 2 or 3 because it's in the culture to have a relaxed lunch break. Dinners usually last hours since it's normal to enjoy the time with family. I noticed the contrary in Chicago though. It seemed like everyone was always rushing. Lunches are taken on-the-go and restaurants would serve you as quickly as possible in order to get you out the door.
Oh how I've missed being able to go to one store to find everything needed. Target, I just love you.
In the end, each country has its pros and cons. Europe isn't generally better than the USA or vice versa. I think this just all depends on individual preferences. I'm extremely grateful to experience both worlds and maybe I tend to prefer the European way of living but hey, that's just me! Either way, it was fun to see all the differences I never thought twice about before. I guess some things only shock you once you live in a new culture that's completely new in comparison to your what you're used to.