Friday, September 12, 2008

Culture Shock and Observations

Even though it had been a little over two years since I was last NOB, I didn't find that things had changed dramatically. There were a few items that I noticed though, both good and bad. Such as.....

* I could read every sign and every billboard. Sometimes my mind gets tired here, trying to read them as they speed by. I usually get enough to form some kind of false interpretation! I read every thing I passed no matter what it was...and at a lightening speed with comprehension. I had forgotten what that was like.

* Eavesdropping. Unintentionally or forced to. I was beginning to wish I could just tune people out. Why is it that I think everybody who speaks in a language I don't understand is having some deep, thoughtful conversation. They are probably talking about the same boring, totally uninteresting things that everybody around me was talking about. I did hear some juicy stuff though!

* Fast food. Everywhere. Every type you can imagine. Even on a stick! Thank goodness.

* Cars. There is certainly no let up on the huge SUV's. They were everywhere. Once in awhile a smaller, more gas efficient model would be seen, but not often. And cars are everywhere.

* Roads. What a joy. I could even drive safely at night! Except for the multitude of deer I had to watch out for. Or the occasional raccoon or skunk. All roads were in great condition and well signed. And nobody jumped a red light, tried to turn from a non turn lane or drove the wrong way on a one way.

* Cell phones. And Blue Tooths. (teeth?) Drove me crazy. I don't want to hear your conversations but they are everywhere. And talking on them is so commonplace now that I don't think people even realize that others can hear them. A guy sat two chairs away from at the boarding gate and shouted into his phone "I just sent that payment! I should only be two payments behind now!" Another time I was in a changing cubicle and the girl in the next one over was sending a cell phone pic to somebody while at the same time discussing the shoes she was trying on. My question. Why would you try on shoes in a private cubicle?

* Prices. I found most restaurant prices high. Beer relatively the same as here. It just sounds like more when you pay in dollars! And let's not forget gas. It ranged from $3.48 to $3.79 while I was there. Guess which was the weekend price? Speaking of gas, I pumped and paid at the pump. It took me awhile the first time. The gas pumps have become much more sophisticated now. It pissed me off too that I had to wash my own windows. Pissed me off even more when the wash water tub was empty!

* Beer. Everyone is drinking ales and micro brews. Whatever happened to Bud, Miller, Coors and Michelob? I did find a beer I liked and was similar in taste to Sol. Miller High Life. Laugh if you want.

* Stores. So much to say. The choices in all of them was overwhelming. I walked every aisle in every store I went into. The array of offerings was mind boggling. How do you ever decide what mustard to buy when there are over 50 kinds? And even in mega WalMart, all 28 cashier lines were open and manned by a friendly person! Incredible. I love to joke around with check-out people, try to get them to tell me something personal or at least make them laugh. (unPC comment coming up!) Especially the fat girls. They are always so much fun to joke around with. I miss being able to do that here SOB. I also did an experiment and asked stock people where such and such was located. To a one, they personally walked me to where the item was! Customer service is still alive NOB.

* Siestas. Nobody understands them and nobody takes them. I sure missed that piece of SOB culture!

* Flowers. They were everywhere. Either on display for sale, in peoples' yard, planter boxes or just growing wild. I miss the variety of flowers. And the many colors.

* Vegetables. I sort of timed my visit to coincide with two things: the State Fair and the onslaught of harvest season. Tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, squash and corn were everywhere and I did partake in more than my share. I even ate freshly picked tomatoes in the driveway with a shaker of salt! Heaven dripping down my arm and chin.

* Temptations. Everywhere I went I was assaulted by one thing or another and enticed to spend my money. There is much to buy here in Mexico, but I think the folks NOB have it down to a science on how to tempt people in. Advertising, display of merchandise, 50% of marked price sales! I could have spent a lot more money if I didn't have such a strong sense of self control. I should have never walked down that snack item aisle though. I had to go back and get a basket!

That's it. Nothing major. Just a series of small things.


Anonymous said...

Did you not find SOL in MN? We have it here in MI. I've found that Coors Lite is close to SOL.
KW from Michigan

Anonymous said...

“I even ate freshly picked tomatoes in the driveway with a shaker of salt! Heaven dripping down my arm and chin.”
What a wonderful description. I can almost taste those tomatoes.

Kelly said...

Ohhhhh Wayne, you made my eyes water with your description of eating a tomatoe and a shaker of salt.

I grew up in Ohio but have been in Aridzona for 20 years. My dad grew tomatoes back then and I often took a salt shaker and would head out to the garden to pick and eat a tomatoe.

We can't get good tomatoes here, and I swear to God I would pay $50 (thats not pesos) to eat one like you described. I hate you. :)

Steve Cotton said...

Great post, Wayne. Nice comparisons. As for why the woman who was trying on shoes in a private cubicle -- maybe she was taking pictures to text with friends asking if the shoes matched her red leather teddy.

Brenda said...

It was the vast array of varieties of one item that threw me when we went to Tucson. As you say 50 types of mustard, how do you choose? There were a few times when I just stood by the shelves and gawked. I am sure I looked like a dunce; but how do you decide on one thing when there are 100 others so similiar.

islagringo said...

kw: a few liquor stores now carry SOL as an imported beer, so a tad expensive. It is not available in bars/restaurants thought.

jackie: nothing beats the taste of a tomato still hot from the vine!

kelly: why can't you get good tomatoes in Az??

steve: I don't think they were that kind of shoe!

Brenda: Exactly! I literally inched my way along some of the aisles. I'm sure people thought I was nuts!

Sandye in Kansas said...

Wayne, in case Kelly doesn't see this and answer you, I would guess that tomatoes are not a big crop in Arizona because of the extreme heat and dryness. I know our tomatoes here in Kansas suffer in 100+ weather and need a LOT of water during that time, so I would think they probably don't like the 110-115 heat and extreme dryness in AZ.

Jonna said...

The last time I was in the US - it's been a year now - it was the eavesdropping that got me too. I can ignore conversations next to me in
Spanish but it's impossible in English. I wish it was something you could turn on and off.

The other thing was I kept greeting the employees when I walked in a store. I got the weirdest looks, saying Good Afternoon to the sales girl when I walked into Bed Bath & Beyond. I do miss BB&B though, terribly!

Islaholic Trixie said...

Love your comparisons Wayne. Now I want to know how many different languages did you hear spoken while you were out and about while NOB?

islagringo said...

sandye: that makes sense. Thanks for explaining it. I didn't realize that it got quite so hot in Kansas though.

jonna: I so agree! It would be great if we could just tune out the crap.

trixie: I heard 3 other languages that I can remember. Spanish, of course. The other two are unknown to me but were probably Samolian and something from the Middle East. Downtown Mpls has a lot of employees from these countries.

Sandye in Kansas said...

Wayne: Yes, it can get that hot in Kansas. I didn't mean to infer that it's that way all summer, tho. We usually (depending on the year), have a few weeks of weather right at or a little above 100. I probably shouldn't have put the "+" on the first post. I just know that it's hard to keep the tomato plants healthy when it is that hot.

Babs said...

It's the SMALL things that count!

Kelly said...

Wayne and Sandye,

Regarding the inability to grow tomatoes in Arizona, its a combination of things. Heat and lack of water are part of it, but the biggest problem is the soil, and I use that term loosly. Here is a great description I found online:
Our soil isn't "soil" at all, but is granite that has been worn down to a fine consistency by thousands of years of water (or lack of) and weather. It has no nutritional value, and has a high enough pH that only native plants will flourish in it. So, to grow tomatoes (or anything else that doesn't occur naturally here), you have to replace the "soil" with something more like a midwesterner would recognize.

So there ya have it :)

islagringo said...

kelly and sandye: and now we know!

babs: you are so right. no matter where you live.

Hollito said...

Talking of gas pumps and beer...

I am currently in the USA, and while I mostly enjoy it, this two things make me go crazy.

Gas pumps:
We enter the fuel station with my rented car, look at the gas pump, get out my CC, slide it in and - this darn gas pump asks me for a ZIP code!? How funny. I have a german Visa Card since ~20 years. Worked everywhere so far. How should I get a US ZIP code? So cancel.
Go inside and ask the man (or woman) to open that gas pump please. Conversation was more or less always like this:
"How many gallons?"
"I have no idea, it is a rented car I just picked up yesterday"
"But I must know how many gallons. I cannot just open that pump."
"Listen, I do NOT know how many gallons it will take to fill the tank. (Only thinking: And I am metric and are not used to gallons, miles and inches!). So how can we solve this?"
"Sorry, but I must know the amount of gallons."

And so on and so on.
We switched over to the CC of my wife, because she HAS a valid ZIP code because she lives in El Paso...

Why does it have to be so hard?

In Germany nobody will ask you to act like this. You put the fuel in the car, walk in, pay, and you´re done. :-|

I walked up to the 7-Eleven just a few steps from here to buy a sixpack of beer the other day. When I put it on the counter, the woman asks me for an ID card. WTF? I´m in my forties and shure do not look younger...
I tell her that I do not have an ID card, because I am from Germany and just visiting the USA. She says that she needs my passport with the Visa then. WTF???
So I walked back, took my passport, smashed it on the counter and waited for the things to come. The stupid woman asks: "Where is your birth date?" See, there are three dates in the passport: The date of issue, the date of expiry, and my birth date. All is in English , too.
Nearly exploding, I told her my birth date. She typed all into the register, even the visa #, and then I could leave with my sixpack...same game in the supermarket when I bought a cigarette lighter (!!!).

Again: WTF?

You are allowed to drive a car here which weights a few tons with 16, but you are not allowed to buy a beer or a cigarette lighter without showing an ID card, even when you are over 40?

Welcome to the land of freedom! *cough*