This list is hardly exhaustive but these were the top five things I missed while I lived abroad.
Call Americans lazy…I call us practical. We use clothes dryers a lot. Maybe they’re not so good for the environment but neither is trying to get sopping wet clothing to dry in temperatures where mold liked to grow for fun. (Well, this applies more to one’s mental state and the frustration that ensues because there is no clothes dryer.) When I lived in Mexico, I did have access to a washing machine except it was on the top level of a nearby house which required me to cart my laundry up four levels to use a rather antiquated washing machine. There was a clothes dryer but after being warned of its ineffectiveness by some of my co-workers, I gave up and instead spent copious amounts of time hanging my wash. I lived in Cuernavaca and while its temperate climate is great, even when the sun would be shining, hours later my clothes would still not be dry and we’re not talking about thick heavy towels or wool sweaters. I didn’t mind having to do wash but when you’re living in a place where it was so damp mold would grow on the walls (I kid you not), having to put away damp clothing was just asking for trouble.
Europe has nutella, America has peanut butter, or mantequilla de cacahuate as it’s known in Spanish. Sometimes you just need a little bit of home with you no matter where you are in the world and peanut butter for many Americans does the trick. I’ll never forget how happy I was to come across Peter Pan brand at some little convenience store in La Fortuna, Costa Rica of all places. It was ridiculously expensive (around $7 or $8 for a small jar) but my friend and I split it and thus enjoyed the awesomeness that is peanut butter.
Towards the end of my semester abroad in Spain, I was really itching for some of America’s “convenience factors,” one of them being Target, the popular American chain store that literally sells just about anything you could want. Although there were grocery stores in Sevilla (as in you didn’t have to go to the butcher for meat, the cheese store for cheese, etc), they were still very small and nothing like what you would find in the United States. However, a store like Target, a place that offers everything from stemware to pillows, to trash bags, to cereal, well no such thing existed in Sevilla or Spain. There were department stores sure, but these were just another testament to how awesomely fashionable the Spanish people could look all…the…time. El Corte Ingles was not a place to go to wearing sneakers, a sweatshirt, and your hair just casually tied back.
(To spice things up, this is more of one that I definitely did not miss):
Don’t get me wrong, there are multitudes of people in the United States who think it’s perfectly fine to not clean up after their dogs. However, Spain (and other European countries) is a place where the idea of one cleaning up their dog’s caca while walking along dressed to the nines is just unheard of. So if it means the sidewalks are littered with copious amounts of dog caca, some fresh, some smeared in, asi es la vida (that’s how life is). In Sevilla, in the early morning hours there are actually sanitation workers whose job is to spray down the streets and sidewalks, I kid you not. Although I’m sure this is done for various reasons, dog caca is most likely a main one.
While I have been to England and Ireland, I’ve never spent long periods of time in either of them. The countries that I have lived in, well none of them have ever been tea “fanatic” places. By that I mean one is lucky if they’re able to order hot tea in a restaurant and even more lucky if there is more than one selection of tea available. The kicker is in Spain the word “manzanilla” refers to a type of fine sherry but in the Spanish language, manzanilla also refers to the much beloved chamomile tea. So it was always a good time when all you wanted was hot tea and instead got a glass of fine sherry.
What are some of the things you miss when you’re abroad for extended periods of time?