Monday, November 25, 2013

It's The Little Things

Every once in awhile, I am asked what things I miss most from home. Usually this happens when I meet someone for the first time here in London. Obviously, I miss my family and my friends more than anything else, but usually when these questions are asked, it's in the context of finding out about the little things - the small cultural differences or tangible items that make us who we are. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, (which is definitely one thing I will be missing this year!) I thought I would make a short list of things from home that I have perhaps taken for granted before, but find myself missing and being thankful for now.

1) Knowing what side of the sidewalk to walk on - Yes, back in the USA, I took for granted that everyone tended to walk on the right hand side of the sidewalk. It's just a natural thing to do. You drive on the right, therefore you also walk on the right. Here in London, you drive on the left, so naturally I figured everyone would also walk on the left. Not so much. Maybe it's because there are so many people from all over the world here, but people just walk wherever they feel like walking. And even if you are watching where you are going, people are in such a hurry that you might literally get run into, like I did just the other day.

2) Units of Measurement - Although I do think that the metric system is probably much easier to learn and understand, I did not grow up with the metric system. Thus, when people are talking about the weather and say it's going to be 8 degrees tomorrow, it takes me a minute to realize I don't need to find my long underwear just yet. Also, I have no idea yet as to what my baseline running pace is in kilometers per hour. It will take a few more trips to the gym to have that one figured out, I think.

3) Brand names I've grown to know and love - I'd like to give a little shout out to Jif peanut butter, Puffs Plus with Lotion, Swiffer dust cloths, Crispix cereal, and Neutrogena Naturals face cleanser, to name a few. These products were some of the staples in our home and somehow not having those familiar name brands to choose from does make our house seem a bit less homey.

4) Air Conditioning - Yet another modern luxury that I had taken for granted living in our apartment in Chicago. I know not all apartments have central air, but boy how quickly and easily one forgets what it is like to live without it! 

On a more serious note, I'd also like to say that I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to experience living in another country. I have learned so much already about myself, about other countries and cultures, and about what it really means to be an expat. I am thankful to be doing it in a time when my family and friends can be seen and heard with the click of just a few buttons. All of the issues I listed above are what we'd call "First World Problems", which makes me realize that I also can't express how thankful I am for my ancestors. I'm thankful that they were braver than I will ever be, and were courageous enough to embark on a journey to a new country without any modern day luxuries or means of communication. If they hadn't given up the big things as well as the little things that were important to them, I wouldn't be who I am today.