Thankfully, this was anticipated. Still, the thing about culture shock is that you never quite know exactly in which way it will manifest, be it homesickness, or cultural differences, or (usually) both. Having been here a week now, there are a few things I've already noticed about Dallas/USA that are going to take some getting used to.
It should be said that these observations aren't necessarily negative, although it can come across as such for those who are completely used to them. It's not a value judgement (in fact there's nearly always a good reason why something is the way it is, it's just not obvious to the external observer). These observations are more a case of pointing out that:
So here goes...
Nobody does it. Not unless you have a dog and you have to in order to make sure that your carpets stay clean. As a form of personal transport? Forget it. Now in Dallas' defence, it's a big city, and even walking from SMU to the nearest train station is about 15-20 minutes. On the other hand, Dallas has some of the most beautifully manicured sidewalks and gardens I've ever seen, lots of lush lawns. It almost seems a shame to not make use of them (but maybe that's why they're so neat and tidy). There's also one other factor that almost certainly contributes...
Okay, I *was* told to expect this. But it still hits hard. For you Australians, imagine Adelaide in the high summer, and crank it up a degree or two. That's what's considered a "mild" summer in these parts, and apparently that's what this one is. Small wonder nobody wants to walk at this time of year.
Okay, I wasn't quite prepared for this one. Of course it makes sense when a large enough proportion of the population has a first language other than English, but walking into a supermarket where all the signs are bilingual, or reading a document that's been written in both English and Spanish still came as a bit of a surprise. A pleasant one, it should be said. The advantages of learning more than one language are well documented, and constant exposure is one of the best ways to learn. There are also benefits to developing inter-cultural dialogue. With any luck I'll pick up a bit of Español by osmosis whilst I'm here (beyond "dos cervezas por favor").
What do you do with it? It's been a week, and I've acquired enough pennies to bankroll a venture capital firm. Maybe not *that* much, but the amount of coins that I've picked up in a week is much more than what I would get in Australia. It seems to be a combination of taxes (which get applied after the sale price, so a $2.50 espresso becomes $2.71 after taxes), and the fact that tipping using coins kind of looks cheap. So the coins get pocketed. And the pocket gets heavier, so you empty out the change when you get home, and then... huge pile of pennies. It doesn't help that Australia eliminated the 1 cent and 2 cent piece back in 1991. Maybe I'll buy a big jar or bowl or funky-looking vase (Klein bottle!) and progressively fill it with pennies as an art piece.
Maybe this is just the bank I'm using, but when I see "Available Balance", I assume that I can, by definition, "avail" myself of that balance. Not "we're still processing the payment and no, you can't have it". Not helped that in Australia, "Available Balance" is differentiated from "Balance" for that very reason. I may have stuffed up here, and there may be an overdraft fee in my future. At least the practice of banks charging fees at every available (pun intended) opportunity seems universal.
Remember, however, culture shock can be a positive experience. You sometimes expect (or are told to expect) things to be worse than they actually are, and you end up pleasantly surprised. I was told to expect to find nowhere with decent espresso; it turns out it's there if you know where to look. I was also told to expect terrible beer. Texas actually has some very fine beers available, and (somewhat dangerously) it's cheaper than Australia. $3 pints. You heard correctly. And from the (limited) sample I've seen, the Knox-Henderson district of Dallas has a really eclectic and cool mix of places to eat and drink.
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