Like any country, the United States of America has its pros and its cons. And lately, it seems to be getting lots of attention because of the upcoming presidential election.
I'm merely an American, born and raised, who has decided to plant roots in Europe, and throughout all the critiques, questions and judgments of my home country, I find myself missing the simple, smaller things I often took for granted when I lived there. Although I left voluntarily, I try my best to stay current on American affairs — both political and cultural — and I visit fairly often.
Nostalgia, however, and a longing for the familiar can transcend even the most picturesque European cathedral or delightful cup of gelato. These are five specific things I miss about living in the US:
1. Complimentary Water
Come on, Europeans. The human body is comprised of 60 percent water. What makes you think people want to drop €2 for a mini bottle? Get it together, Europe.
Call us what you may, but in America, water is absolutely free in most restaurants and bars. You can even get away with a couple lemon wedges if you ask nicely.
While we're on the subject, you should probably follow the US' lead on free refills, too. Granted, wine costs less than water in most Western European countries, but at some point, we all need to re-hydrate. It's a marathon, not a sprint, people.
2. Super Stores
I miss Target, in particular. There are times in life when you find yourself in need of a new ceramic cutting knife, a thermal blanket, a new pair of ballet flats, dog food and also feel like splurging on new shampoo. Where does one go in these moments of crisis? Target, of course!
I never realized, dear Target, how much I took you for granted. The convenience — the sheer, overwhelming convenience — you provide is incomparable. I miss you and think of you often.
3. Health Food Stores
The rest of the world has this strange idea that the average American guzzles Coca-Cola for breakfast and a stick of butter for an afternoon snack. While that may be the lifestyle of choice for a select few, there are plenty of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and flexitarian restaurants and stores throughout the country.
As a Chicago native, I'd like to pour some out for my health food staples: The Chicago Diner (I remember you fondly, friends), Native Foods (you make my heart smile) and, of course, Trader Joe's (come to Europe, pretty please).
I'm not one for breaking rules, but I wouldn't be opposed to bartering European meats, cheeses and wines for cookie butter and wasabi almonds. Just putting that out there. Any takers?
4. Waving And "The Nod"
One kiss! Two Kisses! Three kisses starting right to left! Either way, I'm way too awkward and lazy for all of this effort.
So, you're saying I have to stand up and pretend to kiss your cheek, while making some strange smacking noise with my lips? Your Honor, I object.
The greetings in Europe vary by country, but in most of Western Europe, there's some sort of cheek kissing involved. It makes me miss the days of the simple, yet highly effective wave. With the wave, or even the elusive head nod, you can greet several people in a matter of seconds and from far distances without dealing with pesky, choreographed kissing routines, run-ins with halitosis or awkward lip grazing.
America, we're onto something here.
The Imperial System
The Metric System is overrated and makes my head hurt. Yes, we're the only ones still rocking with the Imperial System of Measurement, but if it's not broke, don't fix it, am I right?
The 12-Hour Clocks
You can keep your 24-hour clocks, Europe. Keep them along with your overpriced, bubbly water.
I've been living outside of the US for a few years now, and honestly, these things alone are worth the relatively expensive flights, and 15 hours of total travel time. Nothing says home quite like aimlessly strolling through Target at 8 am and buying everything but what I actually went there for.