Having lived in Europe for half my life and not visiting the States for two years, here are some of my impressions of cha…cha…changes:
1. Ads on TV: The breaks for commercials come often. The programs are interrupted so often that it is difficult to get involved in the program. Although the breaks come often, fewer commercials are shown in a row on American broadcasts. Some commercials seem longer but in total they don’t last as long. More often but less duration. (The warnings shown at the end of ads for medication are so dire that it makes it difficult for me to consider using any of them.)
2. Added Tax: I’ve gotten use to the price marked on an item being the price I have ready to pay. I’ve forgotten that the tax is not marked as part of the price. This makes it difficult for me to pay cash for the exact amount. It does make things appear cheaper!
3. Repeating Stores: Every strip mall seems to have the same stores: Walgreens, Starbucks, fast food and cafes. And the fast food places seem to all be in a row of five or six at a time.
4. Empty Stores: Southern California seems to be filled with ghost malls. Entire malls are empty with signs advertising them for lease. The malls and gigantic stores that are open all have sparsely filled parking lots. It’s easy to find a place to park. Here in Palm Desert that might be due to the heat of the summer but I don’t remember it being like this two years ago. Fast food and cheap eating-places and moderate priced restaurants seem to be doing good business and their lots and booths are full.
5. Green Bags: Reusable shopping bags are available cheaply in many bigger stores. They usually cost 99¢ and have the store ad on them. I’ve so far seen them for Trader Joe’s, Wallmart’s, Targets and Ralph’s. Most places provide recycling of plastic bags.
6. Food for +55s: Cheaper chain restaurants have special menu sections for customers over the age of 55. I’m really pleased, as the size of the portions is smaller and make for a more reasonable meal. Instead of two or three eggs, pancakes and bacon, the menus for the “baby boomers” have one of each. Considering the size of the pancakes or French toast and the unlimited refills of juice, coffee or tea, these meals are plenty big. Some of the higher priced chains also allow a couple to share an order.
7. Choice in Food Products: The quantity of choices in the markets is amazing. The markets themselves are huge and the number of selections within each type of food is amazing. Instead of a choice of different kinds of product, each kind has a myriad of brands of the same kind. I can try a different cereal every morning!
8. International News: Most of the news on TV and in the papers is about international events only when it involves US citizens. The first reports of plane crashes or hotel bombing seem to be centered on the interest in whether or not any Americans were involved. I do remember that when we first moved to Europe we found it difficult to find what we considered “news” in the International Herald Trib.
9. Spanish in CA: I’d use my Spanish so much with people here now that I’d finally become fluent. My friends at school never spoke Spanish in public but only at home. Now it is acceptable to speak languages other than English. Bilingualism
10. Fat Free, Low Cal Food: All food products seem to be marked with either these labels or Cholesterol Free, Natural or Lo Salt. Hey! I can eat as much of anything as I want and still loose weight and stay healthy!
11. Helpful but Lonely Staff: the staff in stores are very pleasant and helpful…when you can find them. In some stores the only staff I see are at the checkout.
12. TV Overkill: How do I find something to watch on 100 channels?
13. Americans, the Friendly Folk: We sat at an outdoor market to eat some “street food.” The men at the same table asked us all about our trip and living in Holland. They did, however, assume we were Obama supporters, liberals and shared their views on most things. What happens when they sit next to the “wrong” people? Maybe Paul and I just looked right to them!