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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cultural Contrasts

Ok, I know, I know, whenever I come back to the US, I always put up a blog about the differences I notice, but what can I say...I'm a born and bred American who has lived in Europe for the past 15 years.  I notice stuff!
This time around, there have been some obvious things that have left me a little gobsmacked.  I was in the grocery today and was overwhelmed in the produce section!  Now of course, it's California in the dead of winter so even coming from the midwest would certainly create a bit of culture shock. But the fresh produce was so beautiful. The many varieties of lettuce looked freshly picked from a local garden and a huge bunch of cilantro was a mere 59 cents!  The green serrano chili I bought for my guacamole was much hotter than the red ones I buy in Sweden.  California tomatoes remain the overall disappointment as they hot house all of them and bleed out all of the great flavor.  I'll stick with the tomatoes from Holland we get in Sweden!
I also do not have to buy avocados, grapefruit or lemons.  A friend of my dad's gave him a case of beautiful, huge avocados so I've been eating one a day and have started making guacamole!  We get freshly picked grapefruit from my dad's gorgeous tree and the lemons are free from the beautiful tree in our back yard.  Free citrus fruit!  So awesome.
Television remains annoying and great.  Great because there are a zillion things to watch on TV or online. Annoying because the commercials and repetitions are incessant.  I hate the tape delayed manner in which they cover the Olympics.  Some of the public interest stories are nice, but the overwhelming focus on the American athletes means we miss many other great stories.  Fortunately I can live stream throughout the day so caught the epic finish of the women's cross-country ski race between the Swede and the Norwegian.
One of the most staggering encounters has been with a Cadillac commercial.  View it here.  Basically, the commercial pokes fun at Europe's tradition of taking an entire month off during the summer and promotes consumerism in its most indulgent form.  It's a bad commercial in my mind. Perhaps it's because I'm in the midst of my month off (we take it in Feb. instead of most Swedes who take it in July) and wouldn't trade this privilege and joy for any possession in the world.  One of the reasons we continue to live in Europe is related to the work/life balance that Europe values.  I just don't want to work 50 weeks of the year anymore.  No amount of stuff could entice me to value making more money over less time off anymore.  This is likely the greatest difference between America and Europe.  I'm not trying to make a political statement about which is better or worse...but I think work as a means to an end is ultimately less satisfying than
long vacations that allow you to fully recharge so you are motivated and excited to be at work when you are working.
America and Sweden...the two countries where I hold citizenship.  I guess I just feel really, really lucky to be able to blend the best of both worlds, critique the worst and enjoy the benefits and privileges that these two worlds bring to me.