Ten American Things I’ll Never Get Used To


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Although I’ve lived here for 18 years now, and although there are a lot of things I’ve gotten used to and in some cases even adopted, there are some things that, by now it’s safe to say, I’ll never get used to. Here are ten of them.

1. Bobby socks for men. Yep, men here (including T) often wear socks that barely show above the shoe, just like girl bobby socks in the fifties. The only difference is the absence of pompoms. I know they’re considered perfectly normal here, but to me they will always look ridiculous. Sorry, guys.

2. People who you haven’t seen or spoken to for years, who call and expect you to immediately recognize their voice when they say “Hi.” Hard as I find it to believe that anyone can, apparently most Americans have no problem recognizing someone by this one-syllable sound. “Hi.” It must be a specifically American hearing gene. Caller ID on smartphones helps, though.

3. Mushy, overly sweet stuff that’s more corn starch goo than apple,Β  in a terrible crust, being called Dutch apple pie. I’m not only insulted in the name of real Dutch apple pies everywhere, I’m also confused. Because the expression goes, “as American as apple pie”. So why not just call it apple pie, or American apple pie. Because that’s what it is. If you feel you have to hide behind the adjective Dutch, then maybe it’s time to just improve your apple pies.

Photo: geology.com

4. The lack of geography knowledge. This still takes me aback every time. A few weeks ago it happened again. I was at a bank and I told the teller that I needed to transfer money to the Netherlands from my account. She asked me, “Um, is the Netherlands in another country?” You’d think I’d be ready for it after 18 years, but no. My favorite one is still something an American friend told me years ago. He was at a Red Lobster in south Texas, and, surprisingly, the waiter recommended the lobster. “It’s from a foreign country,” he said, fully expecting to impress. My friend doubted it and asked which country. “Maine,” the waiter answered.

5. The outrageous price of flowers. Sigh.

Photo: csmonitor.com

6. Creationists. The velociraptor and stone-age humans roamed the earth at the same time? And the velociraptor is the one that’s extinct? Really? I think they’ve watched too many Flintstones episodes. Hmm. I always assumed the dinosaurs in The Flintstones were meant as a joke, but maybe not . . .

7. And somewhat along the same lines: the automatic assumption that I’m religious. Every time someone says “God bless you,” I feel like answering, “I doubt it,” but I don’t, because it’s always said in a context that the only polite thing to say back is “Thank you.” So that’s what I say, unless I’m in a bad mood, or feeling like a smarty-pants, in which case I give one of my special hmms.

8. The abundance of wildlife. If I live here until I die–and that seems more and more likely–I will never stop being amazed that deer just graze along the side of the road in our subdivision, without even looking up when I drive by, and that squirrels sit in the tree two feet outside our window, waiting to be entertained. (And our dog never disappoints.)

Photo: sodahead.com

9. Being fat.

10. Fox News. And Glenn Beck. And that anyone can just make up their own facts. Who knew that the right to free speech would result in such a total confusion of reality.

19 responses to “Ten American Things I’ll Never Get Used To

  1. I miss squirrels.
    I honestly don’t remember seeing “Dutch Apple Pie”, but then my father has always made apple pie regularly, so I never looked anywhere else for it.
    I won’t mention how many roses you could get for €5 the other day at the flower stalls by the Hema on the Oudegracht. πŸ˜‰

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    • Maybe Dutch apple pie is an HEB thing. HEB is the Texas grocery store. Yes, the squirrels are as common here as pigeons in Holland. I would miss them, too. But even though they’re common, they still fascinate me. And my kids, too. The last year that we lived down on the border we started seeing a squirrel or two and I hear they’re becoming more common there now, but when we lived there they were highly unusual. So even though we see about a thousand of them a day up here, our kids still point each one out, like Dug from the movie UP: “Squirrel!”
      As for roses: SIGH!!!!

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  2. Perhaps you should have written “the Texan things I’ll never get used to”. As a resident of a foreign country, the US I love is the US of New York, Boston, San Francisco, Berkeley (where I lived once), Portland (Oregon), and Seattle. And although I’ve only driven around Chicago, my wife tells me I’ll love it when I finally get there next year. The people there seem entirely normal to me.

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    • Haha! I’m not saying that Americans are abnormal, Michiel. Anyway, have you ever met a normal person? And I love all those places, too, and then some. I love Austin so much it hurts. But there will still always be things I won’t get used to, good and bad.That’s all I’m saying.

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  3. Love it. Can totally relate as an American, yet so totally horrified at the same time. Texas is another country so maybe that explains the Maine comment. Maybe explains a lot about “Americans” as well.

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    • You may be right. Though I think the geography thing is definitely a country-wide problem. But yeah, Texas only started having Geography in the curriculum a while ago. I was actually working in a high school the year it started. Since it hadn’t been part of the curriculum before, the class was taught by someone who hadn’t had geography herself. She was always just one chapter ahead of the students.

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  4. Well, ya know… we Americans get confused easly over all this Dutch and Deutsch thing (re: Pennsylvania “Dutch”) anyway, so maybe the Dutch apple pie is really some German concoction… in which case maybe gets the Dutch off the hook on this one. But you guys can’t escape the tulips, windmills, and those guys wearing the black robes on the cigar box.

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  5. I grew up here and 6,7 and 10 still shock me. And 8 makes me sad because all I can think about is how quickly our wildlife and wild spaces are going away. Funny about the socks. You’re right, I guess they do look like bobby socks. I wonder if that’s why my dad refuses to wear them.

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  6. Very interesting observations. About the Dutch apple pie, it has a streusel topping as opposed to a crust top, so it is different than “American” apple pie, but I’ve had incredible American-style Dutch apple pie. I’m sad that what you’ve tasted have been (sounds) so nasty.

    I’m an American, but never felt like fit in in America because I am not a Christian. I always found it amusing (annoying as all get out) that in a country that prides itself on separation of church and state, being religious (i.e., Christian) and patriotic are often synonymous.

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    • Hm, I’ve never realized that in America streusel-topped pie is called Dutch and crust-top is called American. But I think the type I’ve had has a woven crust top. I know there’s good apple pie here, though you really have to look for it.
      As for separation of church and state, don’t get me started. I’ve got a post in mind about that.

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  7. Geography and foreign language – two things that many Americans never feel the need for, simply because the country is so large. I think the “Maine” comment demonstrates, you can live to adulthood in the U.S. without needing to know all 50 of your own states. That kind of insulation can be comfortable, but also leads to some of your other observations that seem to indicated an unhealthy lack of perspective-taking.

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  8. Going by your list 1-by-1 πŸ™‚
    1. I don’t like wearing those socks. Where the elastic is at really bugs me on my ankle so I’m the only one here who wears the longer socks.
    2. That also goes for people who I’ve talked to last week, but I don’t really recognize the voice because I don’t really ‘know’ them? Let alone I know their number enough to recognize it on the caller ID.
    One time I was convinced I was talking to one of the Aunts so I kept saying “yes Ma’am” etc. Turned out it was my sister-in-law’s ex-husband LOL
    3. I’ve read the explanations of the streusel on the apple pie, maybe the confusion between Dutch and Deutsch but it doesn’t make sense to me. I just asked Beth what makes the apple pie “Dutch” and she says the crumbs on top, but the Dutch don’t put crumbs on top of apple pie? If/when they do it is called “Apple Crumb”? I make the dough myself from flour, butter and sugar, put in the apples (with out without raisins, depending on if they like it), beat up an egg to pour in between the apples, use the bit of dough I’ve saved to make strips to put on top of the apple pie and that is ‘my’ apple pie. See? Easy as pie πŸ˜‰
    4.That one made me laugh!! Do you ever watch the people on television? There was a quiz on television the other day and the guy asked someone “What wall divided West Germany from East Germany”. The answer: “the Great Wall of China”. Do I need to say more?
    5. I can understand that huge *sigh*… What makes a dozen of red rozes costs $60+ here and only 10 Euro or so in the Netherlands? I have a bunch of flowering plants now in the backyard so I can cut them to my heart’s content and still have flowers inside too
    6. Never knew there were humans living in the dinosaur era…my bad!
    7. Compared to the Netherlands, religion is a huge thing here in the US. And yes, everyone assumes you are religious too…which I am not. Yes, I was born in a catholic (mother’s side)/neder-duits hervormd (father’s side and can’t even translate it into English) family but never got baptized. My mother broke with the tradition of baptizing children after 5 days of being born, a huge shame to the family, but she said my sister and I can always make that decision when we’re grown-ups. Now my family here is baptist and Jehovah’s Witness and they can’t understand why I am not a religious person. Gives for entertaining discussions about the religious believes and the Bible πŸ™‚
    8. I LOVE the wildlife here!! Here was the first time ever I saw a deer in the wild and a squirrel hopping across the road on top of a telephone line πŸ™‚ and hummingbirds, gophers, even snakes! We don’t see that in the Netherlands unless you go to the Veluwe with binoculars and then you stil have to be extremely lucky. Here they are afraid of snakes but they intrigue me and I haven’t been around them that long so I haven’t developed a fear for them…yet. We have the poisonous ones here like the copperheads and cotton-mouths and I do recognize them enough to stay away from them. Beth says I should be afraid of them *because* I don’t know them, but I have never been chased by them so it’s more unknown to me than scary if that makes sense?
    What I really don’t like here with the abundance of wildlife is all the dead animals along or on the roads. That is something I can’t get used to. Or a vet who doesn’t want to take in a rabbit with a broken leg. Back in Amsterdam I always brought those animals to the vet and they would set the leg, keep them until healed and then let them go again. But not here 😦
    9. I always wonder, especially when you see programs on television about ‘my 1000 pound life” WHY did they let it get like that? I mean, once you hit 250 pounds because of over-eating (I do not count the people who are overweight because of physical problems like a non-working thyroid etc) why not think about the strain it puts on your heart and joints? Why not realize it is not healthy for you but instead put another dutch apple pie in your mouth…? I am no health nut by no means, I’m loving my cookies and chocolate too much for that, but somewhere along that increasing line of weight gain, why don’t people stop eating and think about it. Or *do* something about it?
    10. I never really watch Fox News, but I agree with that people make up their own ‘facts’ on television in general.

    Can I add another one I can never get used to? People sueing other people over the silliest things. Like this woman sueing the microwave company because it didn’t say in the manual that she couldn’t dry her poodle in there and it died. Where is your common sense then, I wonder…Or why is the winner of the Superbowl called the “World Champion”? Where are the other countries? How about the fact that (mostly younger) people don’t listen? Okay, I might have a slight accent eventhough I deny it to the fullest, but I don’t speak Chinese. One day at the Wendy’s drive-through I ordered some food and a ‘frosty float’ (soft drink with that soft icecream). At the window the girl handed me a Coke and some icecream in a cone. what was I supposed to do, make it myself??

    Sorry this has become such a long comment LOL I’ll try to keep it shorter next time.

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    • LOL. Yes, the suing is something I need to write about, too. Oh boy, so much to write, so litle time!
      As for being obese, it’s not as simple as eating less. If anything, I eat healthier here, most of the time, than i did in Holland. But I don’t move. I used to walk and cycle everywhere and now I drive everywhere. I didn’t grow up feeling I had to spend free time getting in shape. I was in shape and I stayed that way just getting from point A to point B. I find it hard to take the time to exercise. I always feel I should be doing something else. I also find most exercise boring as all get-up. I like swimming, but I get shoulder spurs . . .
      The Great Wall of China. I think they asked that at a Miss America contest, along with who the vice president is and nobody knew?
      I don’t watch Fox News either. But Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart keep me in the loop.

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  9. A reverse take — One American’s favorite things about Holland different from the USA (from my recent 2 week trip there):
    1. The bathroom stalls are really little rooms! So spacious and private feeling.
    2. There might not be wildlife, but there are farm animals everywhere we went. And at this time of year, lots and lots of cute baby lambs. City and Countryside not so far apart. (Plus I heard lots of birds every morning.)
    3. Most Dutch were extremely tolerant and polite with Americans who could only speak English. (If only we Americans could be so accepting.)
    4. More bikes than cars in downtown Amsterdam.
    5. You can get almost anywhere by boat!

    There’s much more (such as broodjes, cheese, reasonable sized houses, etc) but those are my highlights!

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  10. No, not that brave or fond of small fish. But did buy some smoked sausages which were confiscatd by customs b/ c of mad cow disease. 😦

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