Living Abroad: 10 Things I Miss About America
It doesn't take long after moving to a foreign country before you develop a profound appreciation for certain things in your homeland. Some of these are pretty obvious - of course you'll miss your friends and family. Others are a bit more surprising, like things which used to annoy the hell out of you when you had everyday access to them, or things you barely even took notice of. Here are the top 10 (non obvious) things I miss about America, in no particular order.
Around this time of year, America is invaded by armies of orange pumpkins. They find their way into our everyday lives for an entire month via coffees, lattes, breads, pies, cookies, muffins, and of course their original forms, which we promptly cut up and carve hideous faces into. While Italians do celebrate Halloween, I've been really disappointed by the severe lack of pumpkins around here. No pumpkin espressos or pumpkin pizzas. I didn't even see canned pumpkin in the supermarket when, on a whim, I walked in just to look for it. Mind you, it's not so much the literal pumpkin that I miss, it's the cozy fall feeling that you get from drinking a spiced pumpkin latte from Starbucks while you wait for your pumpkin muffins to bake.
Growing up and throughout college, I enjoyed football. I was happy when my team won and sad when they lost. That's about it. I was never a die-hard fan, just... a fan. In fact, I recall telling somebody that I didn't think I'd miss American football in Europe. Surprisingly though, I do. I check the Packers Twitter religiously to keep updated on their games and have somehow found myself more emotionally invested in the results than I ever was at home. Like the pumpkin thing, I think it's more the general feeling of watching a game on a crisp fall day with friends that I miss, not literally watching Aaron Rodgers throw a touchdown pass. Either way, I'll be happy when I can refer to football again without having it mistaken for soccer.
Dear God above, I really miss turkey sandwiches. My go-to lunch in America was a turkey, cheddar, avocado and tomato sandwich on wheat bread and I cannot seem to properly duplicate it here in Italy. Yes, the paninis are to die for, and I'm sure I'll miss fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil on focaccia just as much once I return home. But right now, I'd do just about anything for a pound of sliced deli turkey from Lund's in Minneapolis.
4. Peanut butter
If these were in order, peanut butter just might be number one. I love, love love peanut butter. It is, without a doubt, the food I'd choose if I were stranded on a desert island. Now here I am stranded on a peninsula, and there's hardly any peanut butter to be found. Back at home, a 24 oz jar of Skippy would barely last two weeks with me. Here, I'm reduced to making a little 4 oz jar which cost upwards of 5 Euros last just as long. While I'm grateful I was able to hunt down said 4 oz jar of Skippy, I find myself eternally frustrated that there's nothing larger. They sell Nutella by the gallon for God's sake. WHERE ARE THE MASSIVE PEANUT BUTTERS!?
5. Coffee shops
For two years of college I lived a block away from a lovely little coffee shop. I'd go from time to time when I needed to study or write a paper (though I rarely actually accomplished any studying or paper writing). One of my dear friends would drop in all the time, and now I'm kicking myself for not accompanying her more often. It is literally impossible to locate a coffee shop here, which is frustrating, given the surplus of bars and restaurants that serve cafes round the clock. But a cozy little shop with squashy couches and free Wi-Fi? Nonexistent here. This also ties in with my ongoing battle against Italian
6. Netflix and Hulu
Now I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Why does she want to waste her time watching T.V. shows? She's in Italy, for God's sake!" True, but I'm not vacationing or studying abroad for a short period of time in which I should live it up every waking moment I have. I'm living and working here, I'm exhausted at the end of the day, and sometimes I just want to watch Juan Pablo on the Bachelor, okay!!?? Much to my dismay, Netflix and Hulu are "not available in my region." Thus, I've resorted to cokeandpopcorn.eu (which actually has a massive selection of free T.V. shows), but sadly, they don't have The Bachelor. I guess I'll just have a marathon waiting for me whenever I return home.
7. Free water
In America, I drank water directly from the kitchen sink, and it's free and complimentary at restaurants. Here, I'm told the tap water "isn't always good," (the vagueness is a touch worrisome) and you can expect to pay anywhere from 1-3 Euros for water at a restaurant. Families buy bottled liters of water like we buy milk and refilling a bottle is frowned upon. Now, if the tap water tends to be a bit dirty, fine, I won't drink it all the time. But I can't get behind the whole paying for water in restaurants thing. It's annoying and I miss the days when I could mindlessly bother the waiter for "more water, please."
8. Free (and clean) public restrooms
So you're going out for a day of sightseeing. Not wanting to waste the price of a metro ticket on a glass of water at lunch, you drink your fill before you leave the house. A few hours later you're at the Duomo and need to use the bathroom. First, good luck finding one. Second, be prepared to pay. Third, consider purchasing a home STD test immediately following your use of the restroom. Okay, so all that might be a bit of exaggeration, but let me just say this. Public bathrooms in Europe are few and far between, usually cost a Euro to enter, and aren't the cleanest places on earth. God bless America and our bathrooms that are polished with tax dollars.
9. The U.S. measurement system
Cooking is done in grams, bodies are weighed in kilograms, distance is measured in kilometers, and temperature is recorded in celsius. What? Math has never been my strong suit, so I'm grateful for the conversion app on my iPhone. But it can get a bit tiresome converting cups and tablespoons into grams for a cupcake recipe, wondering if you've gained or lost weight when you step on a scale, and being momentarily freaked out when you check the weather and see it's going to be twenty degrees that day.
After much Googling and asking around, I have come to the devastating conclusion that Milan does not have an Italian version of Target. Nowhere in this city does a structure exist that houses fashionable clothing at a reasonable price, home decor that makes you feel like a grown up, and Archer Farms brand food that looks healthy but really isn't. I suppose this is for the best; after all, I don't need any designer Missoni clad fashionistas glaring at me as I walk down Via Montenapoleone in my Target brand Missoni shirt, but still. I miss utter bliss of wasting time in Target with a friend, each of us vowing to stick to our lists but always leaving with a few extra Chobanis, a new mascara, or on those crazy days, a new set of sheets. Target, I think of you often. Know that no matter where in the world I am, you are forever in my heart.
**Edited to add: Problems 1 and 6 have been solved!! A friend in America is sending me a pumpkin spice latte in the mail, and two people have offered solutions to get around my Netflix/Hulu woes. Thanks guys!! :)