August 2, 2010

I Occasionally Like To Make Lists: Top Ten Reasons I'm Thrilled To Live In The US Again

Yesterday, Sunday, August 1st, was my last day living in Europe.

Not forever, hopefully. I know that I can always come back, and I know that I probably will some day.

But it was the last day of the three years (and two weeks!) that I've been living in Europe since I graduated from university.

I spent the first two and a half years living in Rome,

 Colosseo, Fori Imperiali - Roma

teaching English, riding a scooter, cooking delicious pasta al dente, working at UNICEF, blatantly violating traffic laws, and generally enjoying la dolce vita.  

And I've spent the last seven months living in Madrid,

 Gran Via - Madrid

being amazed by the clean and efficient metro, eating endless tapas, especially calamari a la romana, being enchanted by a beautiful new city, meeting amazing people, learning a new language, and traveling around the stunning countryside,

and staying at my beach house in Santa Marinella,

 Spiaggia Grande - Santa Marinella

playing with my cousins' kids, swimming, getting tan, sewing, teaching Valeria how to sew, and relaxing.

Needless to say, I will miss Europe dearly.

But when I moved away from Rome in December, I already made lists of reasons I would miss the eternal city. And I'm afraid making a similar list for Madrid would be fairly redundant.

So instead, I decided to make a list of reasons I'm thrilled to be moving back to the United States, a country in which I haven't lived in seven years!

Maybe looking at the bright side will make the move a little easier.

around the corner from my house

Ethnic Food.  
You have no idea how much I miss being able to turn the corner and go for Chinese, or cross the street for sushi, or around the block for Indian food. Yes, Italian cuisine is delicious. But every once in a while I crave something different. Here it's impossible to find, and when you do, it's prohibitively expensive. $10 all-you-can eat Indian buffet? Yes please!


I can't wait to go back to doing everything online, never having to see a human teller again, depositing checks at an ATM after business hours, and not having to fill out paperwork for every transaction I want to make.

Whole Foods/Trader Joes. 
I miss all the organic (hippie) food I grew up with that is impossible to find in your average European grocery store: Quinoa, almond butter, rice milk, monk fish, to-go sushi, coconut milk, sugar snap peas, and freshly cut flowers.



Ok, I know that listing three stores in a row makes me seem a little shallow, but seriously, so many things under one roof? It's a convenient concept Europeans don't quite understand yet. Except in France, where giant megamarkets like Carrefour are taking over, Europe is still living in the last of boutique-shop era. Which is wonderful for things like the butcher, the florist, the baker, the salumiere, but annoying when you want to buy multiple things like socks, leggings, cat food and a toaster oven without making multiple stops. 

24-hour Stores. 
Or at least corner stores open until midnight. Hardly anyplace that sells food (except restauants – obviously – and a couple of 24-hour snack shops in the center of Madrid), is open past 8pm. This is a reason that I'm particularly thrilled about moving to New York City, the mothership of 24-hour service!

harvard square

People (mostly) Being Less Homophobic. 
Granted, this doesn't apply to the entire United States, but seeing as my next two stops are Massachusetts and New York, I think I'm on the safe side. I can't wait to hang out with openly gay people again, I can't wait to be able to mention gay friends without some homophobic douchebag saying, “eww gross”, or have to explain why I think a gay couple who really wants a baby and feels fit to be good parents should be able to adopt just as easily as any loser straight couple can get knocked up. Spain was a little different (in fact Gay Pride week there was a sight to be seen), but Italy is very very behind, not only in gay rights, but also society's perception of what it means to be gay and its reaction to it. This was one of the things that really really bothered me about living in Rome, and I hope to see it change over the next few years.

Gay Pride Madrid

And while we're on taboo subjects in Italy, 
I can't wait to live in a city where people 
aren't afraid of you just because you look different. 
Again, Spain is a little more culturally heterogeneous, but Italy is still incredibly culturally homogeneous, especially racially, and so people who look different stand out. And they often are the target of people's ignorance and prejudices. You look Romanian? You must be an alcoholic rapist. You look African? You're trying to sell me something on the street. You look like a Rom gypsy? You're a kleptomaniac baby-stealer. And people are not ashamed of their prejudices, no matter how ill-founded and discriminatory they may be. I can't wait to live in a city like New York where immigrants are the foundation that support it, the hands that built it, and the cultural contributors that make it a cosmopolitan mecca.

I miss being tired and hungry and being able to pick up the phone and have delicious food at my door in thirty minutes. 

Free wi-fi. 
The main reason I didn't carry around my little netbook more often in Europe is because it's so hard to find a place to plug in. There are plenty of times that I would have loved to sit and blog from a little cafe` or in a park, but all I could do was write the blog drafts and publish them later. Which I could do at home too. I can't wait to move back to a place where almost anywhere you can sit and eat or drink you can also bring your laptop and get some work done. Or I guess not get work done, which is more likely if you have the internet in front of you :)


Iced Chai. 
I've never been Starbucks obsessed. Something about paying more than four dollars for something I can make at home in the morning (and make more delicious) for about forty cents irks me. So since Starbucks was never something I formerly indulged in, it wasn't something I missed when I moved to Europe. But when summer comes around and I want something cold and fresh but I don't want coffee, I'm always up for a nice tasty Iced Chai. 


Perhaps some of my list is a little superficial, but I'm not sure I think that's entirely problematic. Some of the best parts of every country are superficial things. In fact, I think that this evening my mother and I are going to enjoy some Whole Foods scallops with an appetizer of Trader Joe's pate` and sour dough bread toasts. Maybe even while browsing! To wrap it up, I'll have to schedule an Iced Chai date with some gay friends tomorrow in a cafe with free wireless internet  :)

What are your favorite things about the United States?


Sam said...

i love this post! i never was quite sure of your whole story, with where you live exactly. so this gives me a better idea. i think i jumped in reading your blog at an odd time so this clears some things up :) I did a presentation on Carrefour in a retail management class and had to come up with a business plan on integrating it into the US. So I know a lot about that store!

I have an idea of what my favorite things are in the US from being in Australia for 4 months. I know that is nothing compared to your 7 years or what not, but I definitely missed some things! I couldn't wait to go to a proper Target (Australia had target but just wasn't the same). Easily accessible internet was a big thing and my TV shows.. Mexican food! It wasn't the same in Oz. I also couldn't wait to go shopping at Forever 21 and other stores that sold cute clothes for cheap. That just didn't exist in Oz, everything was so expensive.

Julia said...

When I was backpacking through Europe the only thing that I really missed was free water. That was not a problem in Rome, thanks to the aqueduct, but I could not get a free glass of water for anything in the world while at a restaurant! And maybe it was cheap, but hey, I was backpacking!

Oh yes, and not having to struggle to speak another language. I wanted to be able to speak the languages of the countries that I visited and loved the challenge. But after a while, I got exhausted and could not wait to easily understand what others were saying.

Crystal said...

It is always easier to know what you love when you are missing it or looking forward to it. I've been to Italy once (and can't wait to go back!!!!) and I can remember that by the time we were leaving I couldn't wait to understand what people were saying, even if they weren't talking to me (sadly I don't know any other languages), and more variety in food (even though I love Italian too).

Your post is a good reminder to love where I am not just where I want to go!

Crystal said...

Also, like you mentioned, parts of the U.S. are very different from others. I live on the East Coast (CT) and LOVE it here! And for many of the reasons that you are looking forward to coming back.

Keenie Beanie said...

Marshmallows! I lived in England for a year - which is hardly foreign (just two countries separated by a common language, as the great George Bernard Shaw saying goes). But I tried to toast what passed for marshmallows over there and it just turned into a saccharine liquid mess. S'mores were unthinkable.

Welcome back!!

Jamie Lee said...

I loved your list! Never been to Europe, but now I get a glimpse of the things that it doesn't have, haha. I'll be prepared for it when I do go SOMEDAY :]
Love your blog & I left you an award on my page!

Jen said...

Oh I love your Boston pictures! I miss Boston! I went to university there (Boston U.) for four years, and I loved living there. That is what I miss! Enjoy your time back there!

Valerio said...

mi sembra che l' italia sia il tuo paese in parte di origine, io se fossi in te, non parlerei degli italiani descrivendoli così ottusi, e quasi trogloditi.
credo che in 2 anni e mezzo o 3 anni che hai vissuto in italia non hai trovato altro che gente disposta ad aiutarti, e a mostrarti le meravigliose qualità che ha questo paese! Vai a new york,goditela, perchè io e credo che tutti gli italiani ti siano grati per non continuare a stare a qui a lavorare, aumentando il nostro deficit pubblico! :)

Amanda said...

SO much of my list on moving back to the States from France was the same - mostly the shopping and food, ha! :) I was only in Paris for 6 months, but it was enough to make it a huge culture shock coming back. Or, as they properly termed it at my school in our debriefing, "re-entry shock" (sounds like something Astronauts experience!)

Lost in You said...

Great list.

I think it's the accessibility of the items not the superficiality that makes everything tops on your list. At least that's how it came across to me. Accessible doesn't always equal superficial.

Favorite things about the US? The diversity. That within just a few hours of driving I can find a wide variance of culture and people. It's great!


Nicole Z said...

Great post! I was only abroad for 3 months but I also missed the accessibility of things - 24 hour stores and "super" markets. I'm from the South, and around here we live on good ol' iced tea. You can get tea anywhere, but that was another story. Nothing tasted better when I returned than a gallon of sweet iced tea! Oh, and of course a giant plate of Mexican food. :)

Dani said...

I loved this post. I lived in Italy (Florence to be exact) for a summer. And while I adored it & desperately want to go back (maybe even live there again) I feel you on a majority of this. We had a little chinese restaurant down the street from our apartment that we were able to go to, but it was very well hidden & hard to find if you didn't know the place that well. There was also this place called the O.K. bar that we would go to to get traditional American foods like burgers & milkshakes, but again that is one of those things that you really need to know the place to find. I feel like places like the two I listed above are always a lot harder to find because it's so easy to fall into the tourist trap restaurants. In Florence, all of the really great & amazing restaurants take a little exploring & getting lost. Usually the one's that are extremely accessible & right by tourist attractions have high prices & the food was not as great. When I was there people thought I was Italian, so I was always treated well, but I did see the stereotyping. The banks was the #1 thing that I missed, banks in Europe don't seem to run as efficiently & conveniently. The 24-hour stores are a big one for me too. AND the internet! Ahh, we had wireless internet at our apartment, but it was soo temperamental that it hardly ever worked for me. It was such a frustrating experience especially since it was the primary way for me to communicate with my family back in the states. I'm so glad you posted this, it gave me more of an insight into your story. I was never too sure of that before.

Madeleine said...

As a Brit I can't comment on what I love about the U.S, although I did think Target was awesome when I last visited.
But most of the things you wanted in Europe, you could have found on my island! The UK is much more progressive than some of our neighbours, and has most of the things you've missed, including wifi, tolerance, Starbucks, and a multitude of international food and people!

Kathy said...

Hi there! I came across your blog through a link on Desiree's page. I can relate with you in so many ways. I moved back to the States almost a year ago after 2 years in London. While London is a bit more "American" in some things than Rome and Madrid, it's definitely got a European flair. You have already listed many things that I've enjoyed, but I also like the freedom of hopping into my own car (I live in Denver and we have public transport that I use, but I have to drive most of the time) and just the overall convenience of things evidenced in things like 24 hour shops and delivery. I'm sure I'll be spending more time checking out your blog in the future. Mine is just a baby blog and I'm finding my voice with it, but I like so many of the link-ups you do so I'll probably start more of those! Thanks for sharing.

Sewing Princess said...

I lived many years abroad and certainly ethnic cuisine is what I miss the most now. No problems for the internet...I am always on both at work and home without hiccups.

Like you I love travelling...thankfully my next trip is coming up soon.

You should try and get a job with the UN or the European Institutions.