6 American Habits That Seem Insane After You’ve Lived Abroad

I love my country. We are a great, strange people. But some of the things we Americans do are — especially when contrasted with most other countries — stranger than others. And we need to talk about them.

1. Eating terribly, then eating insanely well.

America is the land of fried cronut burgers, and of raw-vegan-gluten-free-paleo cleanses, and NOTHING in between. Culinarily speaking, we’re like FSU freshmen named Brett who are pledging the most dangerous frat and only have two modes: bored sobriety, or beer bonging half a bottle of Rikaloff in someone’s front yard. And yet, no matter how much we oscillate between explosive childhood obesity rates and fashion models who are literally dying of malnourishment, there are never any real solutions. The idea of just “eating a little bit of everything, exercising moderation, and focusing on fresh/local ingredients where possible” is just not enough: It has to be dangerous overeating or crash dieting.

You go to countries where everything they eat is soaking in olive oil, and every meal comes with a glass or two of red wine, and people look healthy/live to a billion — it seems so unfair! But what’s really unfair is making it so “10 Best Bacon-Themed Brunches In NYC” is next to an article about how to subsist on nothing but juice.

2. Being horrified by nipples.

Americans are so afraid of nips. We just can’t do it! Sideboob is good, underboob is a-ok, regular cleavage is a given — even just cupping your hands over your boobs coyly is fun for the whole family! But the second we show a slip of that xx-chromosome nip, all bets are off. Everything from a sheer dress on TV, to a topless beach, to a new mother breastfeeding her child in the park (???? Really??? This is where we make our stand???) is a cause for national panic, and totally unacceptable for public consumption. And every American — no matter how cultured we pretend to be — has an initial wave of “Hehehe, titties” when we are confronted with a culture that isn’t utterly terrified of the nude female form. It’s not until you come back to the States that you realize how truly silly it all is.

3. Getting far away from family at all costs, as soon as possible.

This likely falls into a similar cultural category to our aversion to kissing each other on the cheeks when we see one another, which can be generally described as “a personal bubble of individual comfort that knows no geographical bounds.” But we grow up thinking it’s pretty normal to want to leave your parents’ house as quickly as possible, I assume to demonstrate our respective #Hustle in this #Capitalistic #Society, and never really look back. While studies have pretty much categorically shown that we are happier when we remain closer to different generations — especially as we age — our goal appears to be “Leave our parents to rot in Bumble, Missouri while we prosper at an unprecedented level out in New York City.” And this isn’t to say that being far away from loved ones isn’t sometimes the most sensible path in life, it’s just that we take it for granted as the normal way to live, and view anyone who is living at home past the age of 25 as an unequivocal failure. And honestly, this — along with all the cheek-kissing we’re missing out on — is rather sad.

4. Wearing things like pajamas to do our real, live errands.

Admit it — we all grew up thinking it was more than acceptable to see people in sweatpants and a tank top while out performing their daily activities. And then we went to nearly any other country in the world, and realized that “getting at least remotely presentable to greet the world at large” was the norm. Is there anything more tragic than spending a year or so in Argentina or Japan or Italy, and coming off the plane in the States to see a large, slow-moving blur of people in promotional t-shirts and pants made out of blanket material? In America, we are in the habit of dividing clothes into “fancy clothes that we are forced to wear for some professional or personal obligation” or “regular clothes,” and not “inside clothes” and “outside clothes.” This seems to be a crucial error in judgment, and leads to entire shopping malls filled with people in camo shorts and flip flops.

5. Resenting people for not speaking English, in our own country and in non-Anglophone ones.

You only need to see an American screaming at a Portuguese Starbucks employee in caveman-level English once in this life to understand. Our simultaneous impatience with the rest of the world for not speaking English, and total refusal to learn anything besides the hilarious curse words in another language, is simply insane. There’s no other word for it.

6. Treating mealtime as an obstacle to be fit into the schedule.

Maybe the saddest thing about our relationship to food — aside from the sheer extremity of it — is that we don’t take the time to appreciate the dining hour as the sacred thing it is. And when you see any of the numerous other cultures around the world who take a serious, re-energizing pause for lunch, or cook a delicious, thoughtful dinner to be enjoyed around the table with good wine and good conversations, our situation becomes straight-up depressing. Shoveling some store-bought sushi into your mouth while standing at a counter, or grabbing the same slice of pizza on the way home as you do every day, becomes the norm for us — and all in the interest of what? Earning a few dollars more at the end of the month? Once you make food an exciting, important point of your daily routine, having that part of the day taken away from you is the worst thing ever. We all deserve our great dining experiences, and not just on special occasions — and only we really view it as a hassle. TC mark

Dreaming about what it’s like to live abroad? Find out here.

23 Reasons Why Everyone Should Live Abroad At Least Once

image – once upon a time

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

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