This post is an ode to the Land of the Free, where quite literally, you are free to order 40 oz (1136.52 ml) of milkshake from ColdStone Creamery in one giant cup, because it’s your god-given right to do so. A summation of 7.5 years of living abroad as an expat where — whenever anyone asks me what I miss most about America, and they expect me to say, you know, ‘family and friends’ — my immediate response is “Dunkin Donuts Coconut Iced Coffee” with my eyes just a bit too wide with wistfulness. Having just returned from my East Coast trip, this post is about the 5 things I miss most about America. My forever homeland, the purveyor of fatty foods and elevator chats, and the place I relish in both loving and mocking. Mostly loving.
Let’s Talk About… 5 Things I Miss About America
I will try to make this not completely about food. But I can’t promise anything.
1 | Buffalo Tails
Otherwise known as boneless buffalo wings. I get that London restauranteurs just love them some overpriced greasy American food in dimly-lit restaurants — the darker the venue, the more ‘authentic’ it is apparently — and therefore we can get buffalo wings this side of the pond. I get that. But what I can’t get is that it’s 2017, and I don’t want to have to work around bones for my meat. Work for my food? I’m American, after all. Oh, and what’s with this ‘no blue cheese with your buffalo’ nonsense? I need blue cheese because cheese, and I need the celery to pretend I’m consuming nutrients. It’s obvious when you think about it. Reason to Live in the United States of America #1.
2 | Butter Machines at the Movie Theatre
I want you to imagine this scenario. You’re at the cinema, and you order popcorn. It’s about 5x the size you thought it’d be, but that’s OK, because you didn’t knowingly order that gargantuan size and therefore the calories don’t count.
The teenager behind the snack cabinet asks, “Do you want butter on that popcorn?”
“Is that even a question?” you respond indignantly.
He turns towards what can only be described as a Butter Machine (the only robot I want on my side when the machines take over), and presses on a dispenser. A hot, gooey ooze of melted butter comes streaming out all over your tub of popcorn. Your eyes glisten with happiness. You’re handed the tub back, and you make your way to the movie.
BUT WAIT. Is that… is that another butter machine over at the condiments station that I can apply myself, juuuuuust in case that first round wasn’t quite the butter-dream I was hoping for? Why, yes it is. Butter round two commences.
This is a pretty accurate description of what it’s like to visit a cinema in the United States of America. And holy cow, do I miss it.
3 | Shopbop
And, more broadly put, shops like Nordstrom and Shopbop and Sephora that just have everything. Like a zillion brands, both big and small, some affordable and some not, but it’s in dollars so it’s kind of like being cheaper anyway. Those kind of stores. Based off of the sheer number of US bloggers I follow that link everything under the sun to Shopbop, I am now convinced this is the Holy Mecca of Clothing, and I wonder how I even get dressed in the morning without it. And yes, I know they probably deliver to the UK, and no, I do not want to pay $1,384 in shipping & taxes, thank-you-very-much.
4 | A Big Ol’ Pot of Filter Coffee.
Not this ‘Americano’ nonsense. (And I still don’t know — what the heck is a ‘long black’?). I mean a stout, steaming pot of cheap-but-delicious COFFEE. One that you drink all morning with half-and-half *wistful sigh* and get on with your day.
A little anecdote of my misadventures with coffee-ing in London:
A few months ago, I had a meeting at a hip-and-cool East London coffee shop. I guess I was feeling a bit nostalgic that day, and I decided to forgo my usual latte for a filter coffee.
“I’ll have a filter with milk, please,” I ordered with the barista.
He looks at me quizzically. “Which one?” he asks, handing over a booklet that I could only assume was a copy of Beowulf. “These are our filters.”
My eyes widened as I poured over the never-ending list . “Uhhh… that one?” I say, and point to an arbitrary one. “With milk, please,” I add in.
He shakes his head slowly, as if trying to negotiate with a non-understanding simpleton. “Oh no, that one shouldn’t be had with milk.”
I smile, trying to maintain my composure. It is East London, after all. “What about that one?” I asked, pointing to another.
“I’m afraid not,” he says with a sigh, staring at me expectantly, and at this point I think he assumes I’m American.
I finally give up and ask, “Oh then, which one of these can be had with milk?’
“Oh, none of them, or course. You lose the complexities of the roast that way,” he explains.
I blink. Stare.
“I’ll have a latte.”
5 | Friendliness (At least say “Hello” in a lift, please! It won’t hurt you!)
This is not to say that life in the UK isn’t friendly. Here’s something to chew over, though: when I get into a busy lift, I often catch myself having the conversation that I would have had with the random people in said lift in my head. You heard me right: in my head. Literally things like, “Crazy weather we’re having?” and “Oh, we’re going to the same floor! Imagine that,” or even a, “Hey, where are you from? Slough? Oh, that’s cool.” This entire witty repertoire transpires in my head while, back in reality, everyone in the lift stands in silence, staring straight out into the abyss with every attempt not to accidentally make eye contact.
There is something to be said that everyone I have ever met who’s travelled solo in the US — including Stag — can walk into a bar and leave making friends. This just doesn’t happen here. There is a sense of “I have my friends, I’m fine, so just leave me alone please” that permeates here, and I know I am one who perpetuates it.
If I’m honest, 7.5 years of living here (and I say ‘here’ because I am unsure whether it is the UK as a whole, or just general city-living that is the culprit), and I have noticed a significant change in my typically super-extroverted personality. I find it increasingly difficult to engage with strangers. I get anxious before every social situation (although I end up having a blast, the build-up has me in near dread). And I find it hard to express myself verbally these days. (This is a hugely terrible development for my career progression because — let’s be real — it’s not like my “skills” was impressing anyone; I mostly needed to talk my way into being liked. Not so anymore!).
All this combined means, whenever I return to the homeland, I find it really difficult to remember to engage with servers, strangers and drivers when they strike up a conversation. But after a few days of practice, I remember how much I appreciate it. And I realise how much I miss it living away from America.
Americans (or frequent visitors of the US of A), what are your top 5 things? Do you agree with mine? Expats in particular: would love to hear your list of things you miss!