Coming Back to the USA – Reverse Culture Shock

This isn’t a book review. This is just me, bitching about Americaland. After being away for nearly two years (and not properly living here for much longer) I’ve come back and moved, of course, to Portland, Oregon. And while I can confirm that Portlandia is essentially a documentary and Portland is very far from the staid Midwest, it’s still firmly AMERICA.  Which is interesting, and sometimes a little overwhelming.

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The first thing that struck me is how bloody friendly everyone is here. Yesterday I was trying to buy my chamomile tea and poptarts in shameful anonymity and the cashier not only commented on my interesting breakfast choices but struck up a full conversation with me. I thought about telling him they weren’t for me, because what kind of well-adjusted adult eats poptarts for breakfast? But it was too late, and before I could stop him the cashier had told me his entire life story, which ended with him smiling brightly and saying, “Not everyone here is this crazy, just me.”

This might be nothing if it was a one-off, but it is not. I don’t know if I have a face that attracts random people who want to tell me their life stories or if it’s just a time-honored Portland tradition, but so far this kind of thing has happened to me nearly every day. I smiled at the man, took my poptarts, and resisted telling him that he was far from alone.

The second thing: things are SO BIG HERE. Houses, cars, meals, streets, appliances – everything is just enormous. Who needs a washing machine big enough to fit not one but multiple small children in? Who needs a car that would give an elephant an inferiority complex? I know we’re a nation of big fat people, but it just seems so unnecessary. The rampant, empty consumerism here is astounding, and sad. When you see how many people in the world live on severely limited resources, and then come here where everything is big and disposable, it’s shocking.

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Also, grocery shopping? Ridiculous experience. The vast amount of brands and varieties of shit that’s available to the average consumer is stupid. It’s just stupid. I suppose it’s a mark of our economic successes that you could potentially occupy yourself for several hours choosing between a plethora of types of condiments, but come on guys. Don’t we have better things to do, like come up with 9/11 conspiracy theories or freak out about ebola?

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And not only the variety of foodstuffs, but the amount of processed and packaged shit, is so noticeable now. Aisle upon aisle of frozen cheesecakes, breakfast sandwiches, cookies and crackers, boxes of ready-made meal kits, etc etc. I don’t understand. It’s NOT THAT FUCKING DIFFICULT TO MAKE FOOD FROM SCRATCH.  Honestly. Buy some fresh vegetables, cheeses, and grains and you can make just about anything you want. And why does bread have to have high fructose corn syrup? I’m honestly not a health-food nut (see shame poptart purchase above) but if I’m making a sandwich I don’t want my bread to be full of sugar!

Gah. Ok. Enough ranting about American supermarkets.  Quick update on the book reviews: I now have an actual, physical address so can receive paper ARCs and galley copies of new books instead of just ebooks, so hooray! Look for even more astounding book reviews of awesome books coming soon, and entertaining reviews of terrible books. And if you’re an indie author or publisher and have a book you want me to review, I’m happy to take submissions. Please read my submission guidelines for instructions. Thanks!

 

 

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