Coming back to the States after a few weeks in Poland requires a few adjustments. Among them:
- Driving a car with an automatic transmission. My left foot is bored, restlessly searching for a non-existent clutch, and my right hand wanders to the gear shift every time we approach an intersection.
- Hearing English everywhere. This always surprises me: I get used to having to do a little, occasional mental work to understand what’s going on around me. Hearing rivers of voices that are all intelligible to me initially feels a little intrusive.
- Hearing other languages everywhere. I go to the grocery store, and I hear Spanish, German, Hindi, and Arabic.
- Seeing different races. In the passport check line at the airport, I saw all the colors that make America. In Poland, I see a non-white walking down the street, and it’s difficult not to stare.
- Seeing boys’ underwear in public. On the way back home, we stopped to grab a little something for the Girl to eat because she didn’t eat too much during the journey. Waiting in the check-out line: two adolescent African American boys with their pants seemingly at their knees. I’d mentioned this style in Poland: it seemed incomprehensible to them. It seems incomprehensible to me.
- An entire row of paper towels in the supermarket. American consumerism is all about choice. What could possibly be the difference among the towels?
- Having someone bag your groceries for you. Perhaps it’s the ultimate sign that Americans are in some way spoiled, but it still surprises me when I go into any grocery store in Poland and have to frantically bag my own groceries before the next customer’s purchases start sliding down into the bagging area. Why not bag as the cashier working? That’s another thing to get used to:
- Not having to pay for the bags used in the process. No one provides free shopping bags. The cost is nominal, but the cashier always rings the bags up last. It doesn’t make sense.
- Not having potatoes with every meal. I don’t want to see a potato, in any form, for at least a month.
- Being warm. In the early morning, temperatures in Jablonka could be in the high forties. During the first week, the temperature seldom rose to the mid-sixties. The warmest it ever got was seventy-five. Back in South Carolina, it’s almost seventy-five when we wake up. It takes some getting used to.
This post is part of the thread: Polska 2010 – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.