Monday, August 30, 2010

What Americans Would Miss

A recent article on a great travel blog that I discovered just the other day tackled the topic of What Americans Take for Granted.  And quite frankly, I found it fascinating.  However, at the same time I'm not sure that I thought it did the topic justice.

There are so many things that we Americans take for granted, whether we have lived in the States our entire lives or whether we live outside the U.S. and only return stateside for visits from time to time.

Don't get me wrong, I am in 100% agreement with most of what was covered in the article.  I just was left with the feeling that there was so much more that could have been covered on this topic.

Maybe my perspective is a bit different because I am about to celebrate my 5 year wedding anniversary - which means that I have lived 5 consecutive years abroad in Cairo (not including the first two years I was based in Cairo) as an expatriate.  Now, keep in mind that we have made the trek back to the States once a year so I am not that far out of touch with American society.  I mean, I still know the secret handshake and the clubhouse location (wink wink nudge nudge).

So rather than spending just ONE Fourth of July out of the USA, I have spent a good 5 Fourth of July holidays.  But I know people who have lived abroad for over twenty years, so I would say that this list will continue to grow over the years.

So what DO Americans take for granted?  I am going to tackle this from my own in, what do I think that Americans would miss (if they were living outside the States, that is?)

Good driving.  I'm not saying that all Americans are good drivers.  On the contrary, I would say that a lot of them are not good drivers.  But still, the rules are there.  And the majority of people follow at least the basic outline.  And then there are police out there providing real accountability (as in - not out there to line their own pockets with spending money) so that people follow the rules.

Wide open spaces.  I have that Dixie Chicks song running through my head right now (what can I say, my mind works according to the music).  But I really mean it.  Try going to just about anywhere in Europe, especially in the cities, and you'll see what I mean.  Downtown Louisville has the widest streets compared to downtown Cairo and plenty of parking space (yes, I said plenty of parking space).  

Ready-made food products.  I have grown rather adept over the years at eliminating recipes that I could never possibly dream of trying because half of the ingredients are ready-made products.  We just don't have those kinds of things in Egypt.  And I must say that we get a LOT of stuff in Egypt that isn't available in other places.

Ice cream.  Did you know that ice cream that is made in America and shipped abroad starts to taste a little stale?  I would know...I have tried it.  I keep telling myself that I will learn how to make homemade ice cream just to get something a little closer to what we get back home.  But then again, no ice cream maker available.  

Doughnuts.  Okay so I am not even that much of a doughnut fan.  My idea of good doughnuts when we were growing up were the Hostess chocolate-covered and powdered-sugar doughnuts.  Still, not even the Hostess ones are available where I live now, much less Krispy Kreme.  

Good Mexican food.  Now we do have several Mexican restaurants nowadays in Cairo, although perhaps they border on Tex-Mex than real Mexican food.  But the chips and queso do the trick so I am happy, at least for a moment.  

Hot dogs.  Yes, we can get hot dogs in Egypt.  And yes, they taste NOTHING like the ones in America.  Now I know what you're thinking - aren't hot dogs made of pork which is forbidden food for Muslims (okay, so maybe you weren't thinking that).  And my answer to you would be yes, but at the same time there are all-beef hot dogs available in the USA that taste exactly like the pork ones to me.  I was never a hot dog fan before I moved overseas.  Now I crave them like mad when I come home to KY.  Blame it on my husband!

American breakfast.  Eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, omelets, biscuits, muffins,...hungry yet?

Being able to get married without having to own your own house and furnishing it from top to bottom.  Long story short is that an Egyptian man cannot even think of getting married unless he owns a flat.  And the flats in Egypt are not the ready-to-move-in kind like we have in the U.S. No, these flats are basically just a hole in a concrete wall and EVERYTHING has to be built from there.

Closets.  I miss American closets.  Any kind will do, sliding door, walk-in, wide, narrow...they simply don't exist in Egypt.  Okay, so walk in your closet and then walk out...then imagine your life without it (that's how I live everyday)

Trees.  I love trees.  I seriously get offended every time I see them cutting down entire trees in Cairo - I kid you not, my heart hurts.  Just ask my husband

Drive-thrus.  Okay so I don't drive around Cairo with a sleeping baby in the backseat on my way home.  But if I DID and I needed a quick lunch or dinner - I would definitely be missing these.

Central heat & air.  I know, I know not EVERYONE has central heat and air conditioning in the USA.  However, enough people have it for it to be common place.  I certainly could do without the turning the air conditioner on and turning the air conditioner off routine that fills my days.  Great if you're trying to build up those arm muscles by lifting the remote and pointing...walking a little closer and lifting and pointing again...walking STILL closer to make sure it works this time...lift and point (I need to replace the batteries in all those remotes).

American television.  Let's put this into perspective.  In Egypt, I have a total of 7 satellite channels that are almost 100% in English that carry American television shows and movies.  And there were not this many channels 5 years ago when I moved back to Egypt to get married (I think there might have been 3 at that time).  So here I can choose from any number of marathons dedicated to my favorite TV shows - but back home in Egypt this is something non-existent.  Maybe it's a good thing because at least I can tear myself away from the TV in Egypt because there is absolutely NOTHING on.  

Walmart (or Target).  I think I have sufficiently covered my love for these stores.

American sales.  Coming home to the States is all about seeing family...and buying stuff to take home.  So back-to-back-to-back sales are definitely well-appreciated.  I was chatting with the saleslady at JCPenney the other day (a new past time of mine after having a baby and living abroad for 5 years) and I asked her if the current sale was ending anytime soon.  Her reply was that they always have a sale going on.  I have found this to be true in many stores that there is always some sort of sale going on.  Yes, this is NOT true in Egypt.  

Parks.  Did you know that we have fences around most of our parks in Egypt?  We have this beautiful (well, beautiful is exaggerating a bit) park right at the corner of our street that is securely locked most of the time.  Someone cuts the grass and trims the trees (shedding a tear), but they apparently sneak in at night because everytime I check the door are padlocked.  So to find park after park after park with SWINGS and benches and TREES (did I mention that I love trees?) is just a wonderful wonderful thing.

Freedom of religion.  I know, I just shifted gears on you.  But seriously tonight as my favorite praise song "Mighty to Save" came on the radio as we were driving home, I rolled down the windows and turned it up loud and sang my heart out...and I thought about how great it was that we have this freedom to worship as we please...and the freedom to stare at the crazy lady sitting at the light next to you who is singing at the top of her lungs.  Forgive me - I live in Egypt!

Freedom of speech.  Americans take this sometimes to extremes (as in saying TOO much) but it's true that this is a freedom that we highly value.  

Freedom to disagree with your government.  Did you know that this isn't allowed in much of the rest of the world?  Maybe I should rephrase that you have the freedom to express (as in say out loud) that you disagree with your government.  You can complain about your president, your representatives in Congress, your senators, you name it and you stay safe.  You may not be the most popular person around at times but you still have that right.

Freedom to be anything you want to be.  I know we could go on and on about environmental limitations and people's backgrounds and listen to all the "well I never got to be what I wanted" complaints, but the fact is that in the USA we have options.  We have MORE options than many people around the world could ever dream of.  (So basically stop complaining and get off your butt and get to work...right?)  I know LOADS of people who could only DREAM of having the chance to come to this country and make a whole new life for themselves, doing whatever it is they put in mind to do.  It's not a perfect country but it definitely opens so many more doors.  I hope that we can all appreciate it as much as we should.

What do YOU think Americans take for granted?

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with this post. Living in Cairo has humbled me to these realities. I also am from the Louisville area and moved here to be with my husband, I adore him dearly but the adjustment to life here has been interesting. Its opened my eyes to many many things I took for granted in the States. I definitely have been a person who believes wholeheartedly in being appreciative for what I have. I just took for granted some simpler things like being able to buy everything I need at one store lol anyhow, I loved this article and your blog!



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