AKA, the post wherein it is revealed that living half one’s life abroad does not make one cool. But in fact does encourage one to think about the strangest nuances in life. And wherein I prove once and for all that - alas -I am not eurochic.
Here are some mental readjustments and silly anecdotes from the last month as we adjust to life in America and I experience the prickling sense that I no longer belong.
1A. Eating and restaurants. Yesterday, I ordered steak. Pnut said “Remember when we first used to go to dinner, how you’d cut the the steak up into tiny pieces first, then eat?”. Yes, like a little child. Because American diners do this thing that makes them immediately recognizable anywhere: we cut with fork in left hand, knife in right hand. Then, we lay the knife down and put the fork (tongs up) in our right hand and pick up our food. Europeans keep the fork (tongs down) in their left hand, knife in right at all times. They spear the meat and then somehow push veggies, potatoes, or whatever else is on their plate on top of the meat and balance the whole lot to the mouth. This is a skill that takes several years to master. However, it is a skill that will allow you to eat dinner peacefully with your European friends, so that they don’t feel compelled to stare, hypnotized, as you juggle your fork from hand to hand. Fuck. Do I have to unlearn it now?
1B. Thank you, god, I will no longer have to act like cutting up a sandwich or hamburger is normal!!!
1C. Free coffee refills? (Ok, it’s not real coffee, but still, it’s free?). Free soda refills? Are you kidding me? Perhaps I’ve died and gone to caffeine heaven. And free water? Really, it’s free?!
1D. Yes please, a doggie bag. And you won’t give me the evil eyes? Even better.
2. Banking. I went to the bank. On a Saturday. Without an appointment. They took my money in a friendly fashion. Belgian bankers, take note! If you are nice, you get more money. If somebody wants to give you money, they shouldn’t need an appointment to do so. And if you are open on Saturdays, it gives you a chance to get even MORE money!
2B. Uh, somebody please remind me how to write a check so I can teach Pnut?
3. Social Decorum. I stand walk down a quiet street, a passerby says “Hiya”. I stand in a queue and a fellow queuee starts up a conversation about the weather. I sit at a bar and the guy next to me says “howya doin’”. Pnut and I go hiking and people we pass say “goodmornin’”. We go to stores, restaurants, businesses and get friendly service. I feel like taking all of these strangers faces in my hands and kissing them on the lips. Thank you Americans, for being NICE. It may be fake, but it’s just NICE to be NICE.
4. Language. Two weeks ago, we went to Burger King. Paolo looked at the menu, and and asked the woman behind the register: “Uh, yes madam, could I please have a whooper?”. “You mean a Whopper?” she replied. “Yes madam, a whooper”. Then she looked at me, I looked at her, and we both cracked up. Why does whooper sound like something sexual when an Italian says it? What is a whooper, anyway?
4B. My mom and dad took a short holiday from Nashville, where they currently live, and went to Chatanooga for a weekend. I tried to call my mom’s mobile a few times, but she didn’t pick up. Paolo’s analysis? “They must be doing plenty of Yankee-panky”. When I finally reached my mom, she said “Tell him this is the South, no Yankee-panky here, just hanky-panky”. “Oh,” said Paolo, “did I say it wrong?”.
5. Fashion. At the Grand Place in Brussels, Americans can generally be spotted by their flip-flop wearing ways. The white-sneakers, of course, are a true give-away as well, but no self-respecting European would dream to wear flip-flops in public. There being snow on the ground here in Jersey, I haven’t seen any flip-flops yet. But I have noticed the new fashion in wearing house-slippers in public. Finally, fashion has caught up to me. I fully intend to parade around Venice in my houseslippers when we go back for a visit this year.