selfie at Sunday's Redskins/Titans game
Right, I'm here to continue my monthly updates about my amazing time here in the USA - it's now been just over a month and my memories of the old country are slipping away, my accent has gone, and my worldview is changing... just kidding! I'm still very much British and very much enjoying being somewhere where things are familiar yet subtlety different at the same time. This isn't my first time living in a new country - when I was eighteen I spent six months living in rural north Vietnam - so the culture shock isn't what it could be, but it's been great fun being introduced to new traditions. Betsy's already blogged about pumpkin picking, so I shall say no more about that except to say to the UK-familiar Americans who were writing in the comments that carving a pumpkin for Halloween in the UK is just as much of a ritual there as in the US. It's true you won't see much of that going on in London (which is more of a city-state anyway), but get further afield and you'll see it everywhere.
One of the areas in which things seem similar at first glance but reveal real differences the longer you stay here, is grocery stores. I know many of you will be big fans of Trader Joe's and, inevitably, Whole Foods, but I'm talking about the places that most people have to use on a daily basis, the equivalent of Tesco or Sainsbury's in the UK. When you first go into, say, Giant, you see the same stuff - fresh produce near the front, a butchers and a bakery, etc etc. But the longer you stay, the more US stores begin to feel like they saw what nature's bounty could produce, and thought "fuck you, we're making it bigger and trademarking it." Sometimes, that's awesome; I was cooking a roast and needed shallots - and lo and behold, there were giant shallots the size of small onions. That's monstrous, but in a good way.
Same goes for chickens - I don't know what you're feeding them (and probably don't want to), but they're huge! They're also strangely and unnecessarily watery in terms of how they're packed - you tear open the plastic bag and delicious salmonella juice goes flying across the kitchen. But I'm sure that when I'm back in the UK this December, I'll be complaining about how small and expensive the scrawny chickens there are.
In terms of true culture shock, I think one of the main things has got to be junk food. Betsy eats pretty healthily, so keeps me from going off the rails with this stuff, but it has become vitally important to me that I experience all the crap America has to offer. Chips (aka crisps) so far have been a let down. When I left the UK, Walkers were selling pulled pork flavored chips in addition to the usual stuff, like prawn cocktail and roast chicken, and they were amazing - but where's your famed spirit of innovation, America? You basically seem to have cheesy, spicy, and spicy cheese flavors. More investigation is clearly needed. You do have the UK beat on pop tarts though, as well you should. I've only been casting admiring glances at the dizzying array of choice say far, but will update when I finally decide which ones to get. And as for the long-fought Cadbury's/Hershey's debate? I'm not even going to touch that one; I feel like expressing the wrong allegiance could get me deported. I will warn you of this, though - the stuff branded as Cadbury's here is a lie - it's made by Hershey's under license. Caveat emptor...