Thursday, April 23, 2015

Comparing "Home" to "Home"

The longer we live in Austria, the more of an adjustment we go through each time we visit the States. Austrian life, culture and routines have become our new normal and as such, returning to the U.S. has begun to feel "foreign". In some ways, American routines and ways of life are still a part of our DNA, and we do settle in after a period of time. But this takes longer and longer with each visit.

The things that we notice to be different between our former "home" and our current "home" also change. During this most recent visit to the States, there were differences that stood out to me that hadn't been as noticeable before. Here are a few...
  • The Egg Yolks - Yes, the eggs are different in Austria (and perhaps Europe in general?) The egg yolks are bright orange. When we first moved to Vienna, we found this to be odd, but now, it is totally normal to us. When I first cracked open an egg in Minnesota, I exclaimed, "The egg yolks are so yellow here! How weird!" I had totally forgotten that this used to be normal to me. It may not seem like much, but it represented to me how much we have adjusted to our new home and how foreign our former country now seems.
  • The Toilet Paper - The toilet paper in the U.S. is so soft! Enough said.
  • The Restaurant Experience - This is a big one. There are several things about eating in a restaurant in the U.S. that are very different and have been difficult for me to get used to. Specifically...
    • The cost of eating out is higher. Drinks are more expensive, food is also pricey, and you are expected to tip 20% (for a good reason...the servers depend on this for income). In Austria, drinks are cheap and tipping is more like rounding up. 
    • There aren't coat racks everywhere. In Vienna, I always hang up my coat by the door. In the US, I have spent time looking for a coat rack in several restaurants, finally to realize that it's not very common.
    • The bill! In Austria, you must ask to pay and sometimes track down your server to do so. I have come to appreciate this so much! But you can also sit and wait for awhile, before finding your server to ask for something. The benefit is you can take your time eating and are never rushed out the door. When you are ready for the bill, you ask for it. In the US, your server brings your bill as soon as you are finished and also checks on you often. After getting used to the Austrian system, this gives me the impression that they want me out the door as soon as possible, and I find the interruptions a bit of an inconvenience.
  • Talking to Strangers - I have mentioned this before in previous blog posts, but it continues to astound me. People are so chatty in the US! I find myself being startled when strangers talk to me in public places. I should remember that they are just being friendly, but I'm no longer used to it.
  • The Size of Things - In the US, everything is bigger - the cars, the open space, the stores (can we say "Target"?), the food portions, the houses, the highways...and I'm sure I could list many more. In the US, "bigger is better" is king, whereas in Austria, bigger can be considered wasteful or over-the-top.
  • Where "Home" Is - In some ways, the US still feels like home to us. It will always be our native culture and after a period of time, we can slip back in. But now, we proudly and comfortably refer to Austria as "home" when we are talking to friends and family. Hearing someone say to us, "Welcome home", when we visit the US feels odd, because this is no longer our home. Home is now Vienna.




Photo credit: 5demayo from morguefile.com 
Photo credit: DMedina from morguefile.com