So I’ve been back in the USA for one week (San Diego County to be exact). And I’m kind of overwhelmed. Choices. Too many damn choices. And new ways of doing things. Five years abroad has made a huge difference in my perspective. Everything seems so big—I went into the local supermarket and it was just aisle after aisle of choices. And sanitized. When shopping for food abroad I’m now used to limited choices (like maybe one or two). And smells ((usually good smells).
In the States everything is shrink-wrapped, bubble wrapped, boxed or canned. Want to buy butter? The butter aisle has about fifty choices: butter, margarine, whipped, stick or pats and salted or unsalted (not to mention the various sizes). Coffee is the same way: cans, bags, whole beans, ground, drip, percolator and instant (and lets not forget caffeinated and decaf). Wandering around left me lost, confused and paralyzed with indecision. Every single aisle presented the same challenge.
Checkout was the same. California passed legislation (during my five-year absence) against plastic bags (a really good thing). However, now you need to bring your own reusable canvas-cloth bags with you to bag your own groceries (who knew?). It’s even the same in places like Walmart or Target. I was totally unprepared. ATMs aren’t the same either. When I left the States in 2012 ATMs only dispensed $20s. Now you can select different denominations depending on your requirements by sorting through various menus and sub-menus. It used to be so simple. Abroad it’s usually just one denomination—sometimes you have a choice between local currency and USD.
Go into a local restaurant or cafe here and the menus are like small books. Page after page after page of (you guessed it) choices. I guess I’m not really complaining (or maybe I am). It just seems kind of decadent somehow. I don’t think most Americans fully appreciate the plethora of choice they have. Abroad you simply buy what’s available and make do. Oftentimes the thing you want just isn’t available—in the USA the thing you want is always available or you have fifty alternative choices. And here Amazon, Zappos and REI online are your best friends. Online purchases usually ship free and are on your doorstep in a day or two. It’s taking some getting used to let me tell you.