- Face cloths
- Base board electric heating
- Automatic cars
- Ice in soft drinks
- Clothes dryers
- Hand sanitizer stations
- Paper towels in public washrooms
- Room temperature towels
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Semi-solid beverages like milkshakes and Slurpees
I’m about six months short of this blog’s tenth anniversary, so I know that every second reader out there has a cousin Philippe from Normandy, who loves Slurpees, washing his face with a cloth and Lincoln Continentals. The list is mostly tongue-in-cheek.
But I’m interested in how you experience a new place not only in the enormous differences (People constantly use words I don’t understand! There are vineyards everywhere! It’s sunny!) but also in the small and subtle ones. I’ve written about these changes before, like how in Malta there’s an ice cream season and fish availability depends on the wind.
You discern the foreignness of a place when you experience the prosaic details of your life differently. You’ll have lukewarm Coke, and moist hands leaving the bathroom and the like.
These sounds like complaints, but they’re not. Except for Slurpees. I miss Slurpees.
Because this assortment of minuses is replaced by an equally fascinating miscellany of new quirks. When I lived in Ireland, I discovered the pedestrian wonder that is the trouser press. In Morocco, I was both disgusted and delighted by watching the butcher, well, butcher a chicken right in front of my eyes. France is already serving up its own curiosities. The orange juice is better here. There’s a weird culture of motorcycles getting the right of way. Everyone greets each other in our little town, even the newcomers. The towels are warm.
Some days, the little differences seem to be the real source of a place’s foreignness.
EDIT: Some additional suggestions:
- Dinners out on Monday nights
- Enormous coffees to go
- Shower caps