Tuesday 25 Oct 2016

Culture Shock
AJ Robinson

I always find it interesting, meeting people from other countries, other cultures. We Americans really don’t get enough of that. It’s understandable. In Europe, a whole other country can be as little as a car drove away. Hey, if you live in Luxemburg, it’s a short hike to another country! Recently, I got to meet two people from two very different places. They were friends of my daughter; one from Denmark and the other from Spain; young twenty-somethings, a man and a woman. Ironically, the Spanish fellow was an American. He’d been born here, and then his family returned to Spain when he was about ten-days old. So, he was planning to stay and even register to vote in the upcoming election. They stayed with us for the weekend and were rather surprised as some aspects of American life; some aspects that we took for granted.

Eating corn on the cob was a new experience for them. Corn was known, in Europe, but it was mainly considered feed for animals. We got them some nice juicy ears to chomp on. Mine was especially juicy; one bite and I shot a stream across the table! Then there was breakfast; they didn’t know what a bagel was. We tried describing one to them, but it proved easier to just toast them up and show them. Waffles were also a bit strange to them, as was maple syrup. We gave them a complete rundown on the history of that delightful concoction.

And then there was sauerkraut. I thought sure they’d know about that. After all, Germany is a pretty prominent part of the European landscape. Nope, it was not something they were remotely familiar with. But again, they were willing to try it, and they liked it. Of all things, sugar was a bit different for them. Oh, they have sugar in Europe; it’s only that they get it from sugar beets. The idea of sugar cane is quite foreign to them.

It was fun learning from them about the differences between our cultures. Well, except for one little thing. They found our concept of health care quite alien to them. Yes, they have socialized medicine, the bane of conservative existence, in the USA. They just could not understand the concept of not helping people who were sick, of letting people essentially die for lack of basic medical attention. Both had grown up in societies where health care was seen as something like police and fire protection, education, and the national highways. It actually made me smile to think that vast numbers of people live in such countries.

Who knows; maybe one day I will too. My only concern is, where will I be living?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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