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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Things that struck me coming back to the US

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Things that struck me coming back to the US

Okay, so don't make fun of me, but I hadn't been back to the US in 2-1/2 years.  I know, that's not really long when you look at it, but apparently, as I stood there like an idiot in the aisles of Target....to the point of the salesperson actually grabbing my arm and steadying me, asking if I was okay...how embarrassing.  I think he thought I was going to faint.  Honestly, I think I might've been ready to, and I honestly think the worst part for me...was that  my mouth was hanging open in awe and my eyes must've been somewhat glazed over.  Sensory overload!  So after a week, I thought I would sit down and write a list of the things that struck me, being back "home"...and made me realize, boy, I've been gone longer than I realize!

First, let me say, my mantra over here was always, "I am going to enjoy Europe to its fullest and will go back when we're ready to move back" and "if people want to visit and grandparents want to see the grandkids, they'll just have to come over here...that's why we got a big house"...I know, cruel and selfish, but that was my thinking.  Of course, dangle a free ticket home, courtesy of the US goverment before my eyes and guaranteed seats and tickets no less....that shifted my thinking long enough to make arrangements for all of us....deployable hubby too....to go home for the holidays.

I mentioned before that we almost didn't make it due to the big snow.  Our flight day was the first day flights were flying...and later that evening, the airport was shut down to the SECOND big snow, and we would've been stuck well after Christmas Day.  Thankfully, everything worked out for us this time around.

So, after some shopping trips and a few trips just driving around, visiting a few old friends from high school no less, I sat down to make my list.  In no perfect order, these are the things that stood out in my mind, coming back to America after being gone for a bit:

  • The huge portions when we went out to eat....by GOD...I had forgotten how much they put on the plates!  This goes along with my second observation below.
  • The high numbers of people I saw who were truly obese.  Yes, there are overweight people here in Europe and yes, I can stand to lose some weight myself...I can't use the "just had babies" excuse anymore....but there were gobs and gobs of people just struggling to walk around, get out of their cars, and I remember stores having one or two of those electric carts in the past...not five or six!
  • The all-you-can-eat buffets.  European buffets are much different, and they have no clue what a REAL buffet is....I honestly went straight to bed both days we ate buffet food.  My eyes and stomach did not know how to handle it and couldn't tell me when I was full.  I paid for that with an overstretched stomach that just plain HURT.
  • The hovering in stores by salespeople...can I help you, can I help you?  I know this is a theft deterrent, but you'd be hard pressed to even chase down a customer service person in a store over here...in fact, customer service is almost unknown in Belgium and Germany.  The products are supposedly so well made, they speak for themselves!
  • How many women are wearing UGGs....it's rare you see them here, except on other Americans you meet. I even saw a dry cleaner that had a sign out that said "Yes, we dry clean your UGGs"....WOW!
  • The LOW, LOW prices!  I almost fell over when I saw a sign at NYC area airport that advertised a drink for $1.99.  We just paid 3,50 EURO for the same size drink at Brussels Airport!  Of course, I forgot all about the sales tax being added at the register, so I promptly gave my son only $2.  It didn't even click when he came back and asked me for 17 cents...I said, for what?  Then realized....ooops...no matter, the lady took pity on him as an international no doubt and gave him the soda anyway.  I even saw many, many things that were much cheaper than our PX overseas as well, where everything is priced in dollars too....hmmmmm.
  • The drinking...and I don't mean alcohol.  I mean the Starbucks coffees and lattes and the superbig Gulps from 7-Eleven and everything in between.  Americans are always drinking, wherever they go, on-the-go, and those drinks are filled up to the top and if it's a cold one...it will have loads of ice.  You'll be lucky to get a little sippy cup size over here and forget the ice!
  • The hustle and bustle, especially shopping.  I got run over a few times...of course this was the holiday season...but everything is just much....faster in the US.
  • Everyone drives everywhere.  I saw very little biking and walking, unless we went to the local park, which we did once.  Here in Belgium, people ride their bikes to go shopping or wherever, in all kinds of weather.  You also see a lot of little old ladies doing their shopping, pulling their little cart behind them.  I saw no such carts in the US.
  • Much is open much of the time.  It was such a thrill to go shopping at 1 am and to go grab a burger after the ball dropped on New Year's Eve....all things you can forget over here with the strict shop opening hours, as well as restaurant hours...except for places like Berlin and London....even parts of Paris shut down before midnight.
  • All the TV channels!  My dad had over 1,000 channels!  I channel-surfed through them a few times...every time my dad asking me what in the world was I doing?....me answering, I just want to see what's on....him responding, then just use the channel guide function...huh?  Who knew there was a Scream Channel and a "We only show women with big titties" channel or whatever it was called...since when were there so many channels?
And, so that's what struck me, both the good and the bad.  We all of course thoroughly enjoyed ourselves...the highlight of course being with family but without shame, I will tell you that we shipped home to Belgium....a total of SEVEN boxes and had our suitcases stuffed to the maximum.  Thankfully, each of us had a suitcase up to 50 lbs we could take home with us at no charge...whew.

Have you been gone for awhile?  How do you feel about going back?  I guess there is a thing such as reverse culture shock?  I believe it now although I wouldn't have last month:-)

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    6 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    We are moving back to the states in April and we have been overseas for 3 years, we both are looking forward to the price drops and almost everything being open 24hrs! And having more options to get stuff instead of only having the PX! It's definitely going to be such a change, but I'm ready for it :) I

    January 10, 2011 at 2:37 PM  
    Blogger kristina ivey said...

    i just moved to europe...and im losing so much weight! God knows i needed too! i hate being the fat american! :(

    January 10, 2011 at 9:59 PM  
    Blogger tavasemissions said...

    When I started reading this I thought, "I wonder if she'll mention something about the size of the people..." and you didn't disappoint! That is always one of the first things I noticed when I would come back to the states...

    Here is my list and some of them you mentioned...

    Size of people

    Size of portions

    Waste at restaurants (food waste, paper waste, etc...)My favorite cups are 2 that I took from McDonalds, their reusable plastic cups that you are supposed to leave there for them to wash and reuse. My mom didn't realize you were supposed to leave them and took one, I liked it so much, I took another!

    Free bags at the supermarket and other stores (although DC implemented a 5 cent tax per bag if you want one in the district, but that wasn't until mid 2010. btw--I think this is a great idea and think the entire country should adopt this policy)

    Pennies

    Lack of street food (ready to eat and fresh produce/sea food etc...)

    Lack of supermarkets in walking distance to home.

    Fewer kids playing out of doors...

    Oh I could go on--but I'm just making myself homesick for Seoul!

    January 11, 2011 at 12:42 AM  
    Blogger Michelle said...

    It's funny, I have been following you since you (and I) moved to Germany 2 1/2 years ago and with the exception of your move to Belgium we seem to experience things at about the same time. Stateside culture shock is no exception. We, however, moved to San Antonio in December. I still feel much the same way that you did while you were stateside. I am shocked by the restaurants on every corner, all of the new juice bars and "health" food places that seem to have spread all over the country, and the driving. We cannot get around without a car, I mean, I live barely two miles from Sea World and I had this idea that my children and I would ride our bikes there during the summer, but alas, crazy traffic, no bike lanes, and a lack of sidewalks ends that idea. The obesity really took me by surprise, as well. With television being my only connection to the States, I imagined judgmental women looking at my extra 10 pounds with disgust, but here I am amazed by the amount of morbidly obese people that I see everywhere I go. I have experience this reverse culture shock before, when I came back from Korea, but 2 1/2 years is a really long time and it was truly shocking.

    January 11, 2011 at 4:16 AM  
    Blogger Luba said...

    It's funny because Hubby and I are currently in South Korea.
    Anyway, We are here until Jan-Feb 2012...so for me, 17-18 months...then after that we are hoping to go to Germany...so if all goes according to plan we will most likely be away from the states for 4 years or so...
    I can't even begin to imagine the changes!!

    January 12, 2011 at 6:53 AM  
    OpenID unexpectedtraveller said...

    I know what you mean! Every time I go to the US, these things hit me even though I should know better by now. I like the US and some cities are better than others (same applies to Europe) but sometimes Europeans make the mistake of assuming it's familiar and expect it to be the same as things over here.

    The Unexpected Traveller

    PS: Talking of over-sized portions: http://unexpectedtraveller.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/heart-attack-on-a-plate/

    January 24, 2011 at 7:28 PM  

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