My husband and I moved to the US in September 2017. He got assigned to the US as an expatriate and I agreed to follow him, knowing that I would find my job when we come back to Germany. Since we arrived here everyone as been asking us how we like it here if we found our american dream in Raleigh North Carolina.
Now that we are halfway through our expatriation I feel like I finally reach a place where I am comfortable to list the things I like in the US and the things I miss from home.
How do I like it here? What I love about life in the US….
- The national park service: for only 80$ a year you can visit some of the world wonder or just enjoy one of the many parks located in each states.
- Spacious and comfortable homes: If we were in NYC or San Francisco I would probably not include this point but here in North Carolina most of the houses have been renovated in the past ten years and include the type of lavish and not always fundamental appliances that has become the symbol of the american dream (e.g. over-sized fridge with ice dispenser, gaz fireplace). A townhouse like the one we live in Cary, NC would cost 1 million euro to buy and 200 K in renovation provided we find something similar on the market in Cologne.
- Easy access to Nature: Just 30 minutes from our home we have 3 national parks, dozen of lakes and greenway accesses.
- Meetup Apps: For new people in US, it is very easy to find people with similar interests and get to know lot of diverse people in a short amount of time. I used it a lot to meet other french speakers in my neighborhood, go on hikes, etc. Of course, the contact stay pretty superficial at first, but I like that you have the option.
- Friendly and easy to approach people American are generally very friendly in a first meet up. Couple of times, I was a bit overwhelmed by stranger asking me how I was doing at the first encounter but now I really appreciate how it starts the conversation on a friendly note and set a good base to start a conversation.
- Entrepreneur mindset I love that Americans always see potential to make a business and do not limit their endeavor to what they learn at schools or based on preset career path. I am giving German lesson to a former IBM executive who spends her retirement doing some babysitting before taking up another corporate challenge in Germany and I love that people do not limit her potential to her current or past job.
- Positive attitude Though I make fun of certain american neologism that makes heroes of cancer patients and find everything awesome even if it is sometimes just okay. Living here I really see how a positive attitude can give you the confidence to achieve more. You can find a way to be happier by just changing the way you see the world around you.
- Practical skills I love that Americans are not scared of getting their hands dirty with DIY, from wood to needlework. Of course, in Europe some people renovate their own home or make their own cloth but here people take it to a whole different level with specific TV Channel, Instagram account, etc.
- North Carolinian weather
How is life in Europe? what do I miss from home except from family and friends…
- Healthy and affordable food the first three month of our stay we lived in a hotel outside of Pittsburgh and I lived on the gigantic greasy portion with poor nutritional value that restaurant serve. Shortly after my arrival I got bad acid burn and since then I avoid going to restaurant here, unless it is more on the gastronomy side. Here you can cook healthy food if you spend the time and money for it. For the less privileged processed food, all type of fried stuff and dairy and meat with antibiotic and hormones is the rule.
- Real cheese at reasonable price: I know it is a cliché but the french girl misses cheese. There are some good american cheese in wholefood or earth fare but the price makes it a luxury to keep only for special occasions. The large majority of the cheese offering in the US would not even be allowed to be called cheese in Europe as most of the content is emulsifier (i.e. Velveeta). Mozzarella, Swiss and Cheddar often share the same lack of flavor and texture similar to gum.
- Walking, Cycling and Public transport: this is my biggest pain point here, you can not go anywhere without your car. If I really want to go walking you have to drive 5 minutes to the nearest park because the home owner association block every project to install a sidewalk next to our middle class community. In Europe I used to walk or cycle 11 miles a day to meet friends, go shopping or do some grocery. I met plenty of my friend, did my Xmas shopping and caught up with my reading list during my commute to work and I really miss the extra benefits of the alternatives to driving.
- The metric system: French revolutionary invented the metric system and the rest of the world followed with it, not because of idealistic enlightenment theory but just because it is convenient to be able to switch from scales using units related to each other by a common multiplier. I have no idea many turns I missed not realizing that my GPS switched from one mile to one yard to one feet. The same goes with food, I still find no reason in measuring cold solid butter in teaspoons and tablespoons when gram would work so much better.
- Data Privacy and consumer protection: We were barely in the US for a week, when we started receiving scam letter containing personal information obtained from whichever vendor you asked for a quote and finally sold the information you give in the info form to a third party. “You car manufacturing warranty is expiring please purchase an extension with us.” “Can pay your credit card debt, call us now for help”. It does not just stop with letters, I receive about 10 phone calls a day asking for personal information, money for charity or trying to sell me unwanted products. So far, the scams did not work on us but it is really a big pain which I never experienced to that extent in Europe thanks to our extensive regulatory framework on Data privacy.
For professional reasons we have decided to come back as planned to Europe by the end of 2018. I feel truly blessed to experience life in the US in these conditions and I am planning to keep on enjoying our stay until the last moment.
Living globally has taught me that each country and culture has something to teach you. Though it is simpler to cluster the world in black and white oppositions (developed vs. developing, good vs. evil) I have to remind myself often that it is much more enriching to see all the shades of color in the World picture.
When I go back to Europe I want to bring some US optimism and can do attitude in my luggage. I have no doubt that this will enrich my journey.