Dixie Peach: The Unfamiliar Familiar

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Unfamiliar Familiar

I suppose it's a mark of having lived in Germany for a long time that when I go to the US I feel somewhat like I did when I first visited Germany - except I'm already fluent in the predominant language of the US.

When I first visited Germany I nearly gave myself whiplash looking at everything around me that was different. Much of it was language related but some of it was things like how houses are styled and seeing streetcars all over or seeing names of businesses that don't exist in America. Now my eye has become accustomed to how things look here and it's when I come back to the States for a visit that things seem unusual.

When I first arrive in Memphis one of the first things that catches my eye once I leave the airport are the cars. Unless they're a Mercedes or a BMW or a Volkswagen, I probably won't recognize it. We don't have Buicks or Pontiacs or even very many Chevrolets here and what car brands that we do have in common - Fords, Toyota, Nissan and some other - the models are often different than what is sold in Germany. And the size! They all seem impossibly huge! Why are my fellow Americans driving around in their living rooms?

Television is another revelation to me. I'm unfamiliar with most of the programs and what programs they have that are shown in Germany are often a season or two ahead of what's currently being shown here. If I watch one of those Hollywood celeb gossip shows I often don't know the person about whom they're gossiping. I can recognize Oprah when I see her but her hair is different than the last time I watched her show. People reading the news aren't the same and who in the hell is Rachael Ray? And evidently judging by the commercials I watched during my last visit, pharmaceutical companies want you to ask your doctor about writing a prescription for every ailment you may have or have even considered contracting. Some things do stay the same though. They still blow the riverboat whistle sound on WMC-TV during station breaks. If you tell me that after hearing that riverboat whistle sound my whole life they've stopped doing it, I'm going to cry.

When I go to a grocery store to pick up a few things I not only have to re-familiarize myself with the layout of the store itself, I now find that I don't often recognize the packaging. They logos get jazzed up or packages have slightly different colors and it takes me a while to get used to the new look. And the packages themselves. They're [i]huge[/i]! I know we had jumbo packages of stuff when I lived in the US but I'm used to now seeing smaller bags and jars and bottles. I'm simply not used to seeing Cheerios in a box that's bigger than the car I now drive. I'm not even used to seeing Cheerios because they're not sold in Germany. And everything is New! Improved! Low fat! Low carb! All natural! I noticed on the last few jars of Hellmann's that I've bought the label boasts of Hellmann's being a source of Omega 3 & 6. Folks! It's a jar of whipped up egg, oil and seasonings. It's a jar of fat. I don't think the Omega 3 & 6 are going to cancel out the damage the jar of fat is doing to my heart.

But damn if it's not a tasty, tasty jar of fat.

Restaurants, especially fast food ones, are good places to remind me that I'm no longer in Germany. I forget what I consider to be a large drink here is a small or medium there and a large there means "Will be served to you in a bucket.". And the difference in restaurants in the US that I like is getting free refills. And iced tea! Iced tea that didn't come out of a plastic bottles! And not having people right up on you smoking cigarettes!

Even my hometown changes and I fail to recognize things. The last time I was home the big change was a new multiplex theater. I used to have to haul my butt to Tupelo to catch a movie but no longer! Businesses change hands, new neighborhoods are built, roads are rerouted - I sometimes get turned around on a street I've been on a thousand and one times before. Still, a few things don't change. You still get stopped by passing trains. The old men still play checkers in front of the courthouse. And you still can't get into the Wal-Mart on a Saturday morning at 10:30 without getting greased up and using a shoe horn to stuff you in.

I can't wait to start my homeland culture shock.



Blogger Carol said...

Oh DOOOO blog about your impressions and how things are going!


11:35 PM  
Blogger Dixie said...

Ohhh...we'll have to see about that. Normally when I'm back home I don't use the computer very much...I just don't have time. But if I don't update from there I'll take good notes and report back and add photos as well.

11:42 PM  
Blogger The Big Finn said...

One thing that I'm proud to tell people in America is that I've never heard Lindsay Lohan utter one word.'s true! I've only seen her in Us Magazine.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Mahala said...

I'm excited for you :)

3:15 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

This anticipation is a fun part of the journey.
Maybe you will be able to take some notes on your immediate impressions when you can't sleep that first night home. I quickly fall right back into thinking huge, shiny cars are normal.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Debbie said...

Yeah, definitely write more when you can. Next month I'm going back for the first time since moving (year and a half ago) and expect it to already feel odd.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Brace yourself: Sonic now serves breakfast (all day, even). And last month they introduced fat-free peach smoothies and peach sundaes.

You're welcome.

6:41 PM  
Blogger UmmFarouq said...

It was a total culture shock. After four years not visiting home...I nearly had a breakdown in Target. There were far too many choices. I got out of there with hardly anything purchased because I just couldn't face it all. Easy Does It.

Cereal choices alone...Enough said.

When my Mom's phone rang, the number calling and the name of the caller popped up on her TV screen. It was just too much. Cool, but overkill.

And Sonic! Robin is right. My kids and I did not know what to do with ourselves. And I could swipe my credit card through the Sonic drive-up window.

Have FUN.

9:31 PM  
Blogger sari said...

I can't wait to hear about your trip!!!

11:54 PM  
Blogger Dixie said...

Fat-free peach smoothies. I just swooned.

I wonder if Sonic will mind if I just bunk there for a few weeks.

12:34 AM  
Blogger Twango said...

I can imagine the culture shock of coming back home. My boss has a 4 door Jeep SUV type vehicle here. When he went back to Italy in June, he said he felt like he was in a coffin his car is so small.

I so wish I could get y'alls direction in a couple of weeks and drag a certain Mister with me.

3:16 AM  
Blogger Gardner said...

very nice description of the reverse culture shock.

Hope you have a great trip and can endure, enjoy, the trip.

10:42 AM  
Blogger J said...

As an infrequent visitor to the US, I totally understand what you mean. One of the things that surprised me most the last trip (Dec 2004) was the number of used car dealerships and American flags.

11:15 AM  

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