Living as an expatriate means adopting to local customs and manners, and after years abroad, those come to feel completely normal. Thus, it’s an effort to adopt home practices again (I still say Dank u wel to clerks and marvel that all the conversations around me are so understandable).
But I’m finding that the best way to get back into the swing of it is to rapidly adopt practices that would be impolite or illegal in Europe, but rapidly make me feel at home in the US.
Herewith, my short list of this trip’s favorites:
- Drinking beer while holding the neck of the bottle instead of the body (The bars didn’t even offer a glass.)
- Ignoring the warning signs. (Parents’ don’t just let children climb on the statues, they lift them up onto them.)
- Passing on the right. (US drivers settle into a lane and stay there, letting traffic flow around them).
- Walking on bike paths. (It’s universal along the lakefront, despite the bells and cursing of the cyclists).
- Darting and lurching in parking lots. (Everyone seems to have the right or way, cars, bikes, pedestrians. So they all jump forward, then stop to see what everyone else does, then jump forward again, in a lurching dance that is impossible to navigate.)
- Drinking big, cheap drinks. (‘especially those that come in big-gulp Tiki cups)
- Eating big, fried meals. (Two Lipitor will surely absolve the sins of eating a Patty Melt and an Italian Sub. On the same day.)
- Buying liquor in the food store. (I don’t complain about trips to the grocery when they hand out whisky samples at the end of the aisles.)
- Playing cat-and-mouse with traffic police. (There are traffic cameras at the intersections to catch people inching over lines, but there’s still nothing like driving 5-over and trying to spot the radar before they spot me.)
A fellow in line behind me at a festival beer tent suggested to his wife that she really could use a beer to wash down the fudge that she’d just eaten. That, however, was a bit too far off the path, no matter how far I was ‘going native’ again.
I can already sense what repatriation will someday be like… slightly more painful than going cold turkey from drugs. But, for now, back to Mother Europa in the morning.
…and putting all my bad behavior behind me.