Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road

American Shocker

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On my recent trip back to the US, I had a few cultural shockers. This came as no surprise to me as I’ve been living outside the states for a while now. Nevertheless, at the same time it came as a shock to me. I know this sounds contradictory, yet it remains. I expected some surprises yet still found myself surprised.

Some of them stand out in particular. There were the things like grocery stores and shopping in general that were something of shockers. But then there were things that I did not fully expect. One of these was parking lots. I won’t go into much detail on this but the entire concept and practice of parking lots and their use was a bit much for me. I can only think of one big parking lot in all of Kyrgyzstan and it is much smaller than the one at the Wal-Mart down the street from my parents’ house. Another was ice in my drink on an airplane. What are these things called ice cubes??

The biggest cultural shocker to me came when I first landed in the US. I had a short layover at Dulles. I was ready for dinner and right by my gate was a Five Guys and a good burger sounded like a good idea to me. So here is how my exchange with them went.

Me – I want a cheeseburger and a coke.

Five Guys – What do you want on it?

Me – Excuse me??

Five Guys – What do you want on it?

Me – I’m sorry??

Five Guys – What do you want on it? (now with a little emphasis as they wonder who this moron is trying to order)

Me – Umm, Umm, Umm

This umming continues on for a good twenty seconds as I try to comprehend this unimaginable question, “What do you want on your burger?” Eventually I was able to quietly get out mayonnaise, ketchup, lettuce, and onion. But the shock didn’t stop there.

They hand me an empty cup. What am I to do with an empty cup? Where is my coke? Why do I not have a drink?

Just as I am about to ask them where my coke is I slowly look around and realize: I get the drink myself at a self-service fountain! Wow! But then to my continued shock, there are so many choices. What now??

After contemplating this new obstacle to my dinner for several seconds I figure out I want a root beer and I can get ice in it and it is a fountain drink.

Who knew that ordering a burger could be so difficult?

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