Getting back into the groove in the States

I’ve been in Switzerland a very long time. When I go back to the States I have to get used to some things again. Getting back into the “American groove” can even take a couple of days.


The first thing I have to get used to is the money. Obviously something you can’t do without. When I use American currency I feel like it is play money for the first couple of days. …I’d like to buy ‘Boardwalk’ for $400, please.


It used to be that cars sizes were huge in America. Europe has always seemed to favor smaller models: VW bugs, minis or Fiat 500. Generally speaking, in the States, as the gas prices rose the car sizes shrank.

In spite of the general size of cars being smaller, they are still many large ones. When we are in the States it never ceases to amaze me the sheer number of SUVs[i] on the streets. These are multiuse vehicles; they work well as a truck or family car, the perfect compact, large luxury vehicle. It seems like every family has at least one. Although you can and some people do buy SUVs in Switzerland they are not as numerous as in the States.

I guess just another case of America super-sizing.


I think I’ve mentioned this before but the amount of time that Americans spend in their cars is considerable. Driving somewhere when it would be faster to walk is always something I have to get used to. On the other hand, in America sometimes things seem close although they really are quite far away. You can easily have a 1 ½ – 3 hour commute to work and not think twice about it. A 45 minute ride to the closest grocery store? Normal.

Close or far, as far as I know, Americans almost always drive to the grocery store. When we moved to Lengnau I went from walking to the grocery store to driving. Even though it is only a little more than a half a mile away. More than once I’ve gotten that “wild and crazy American feeling” while in the car going to the store. Doing something so American.

Sometimes Swiss can so get used to doing things the American way on vacation that they continue when home. Shortly after getting back home from America, Ben and some of his friends decided to go to the movies. They didn’t find anything they wanted to see in Berne so they looked at what was showing in Zurich. They ended up driving to a cinema in Geneva. A trivial driving distance of almost two hours by car. Luckily that “American feeling” didn’t hold on too long. Soon they were doing things the Swiss way again.


No, no, don’t get me wrong here. I do not think talking is strange when I go to the States. I did, however, notice in the mid 90s, that my niece and even my sister did something strange when talking. I have since found out it’s called “uptalk” or “high-rise terminals”. Read this next statement and you will see what I mean.

This sentence is a statement although it ends in a question?

At first I was baffled. We never used to talk like that. What happened in those few years that my niece grew into a teenager? (Notice that was a real question; it started with a question word.) I thought it was one of the strangest things I had heard  and somehow cool at the same time. It seemed like the thing to do and I didn’t want to sound like a stranger in my native country. So I tried it out a couple of times.

Then I realized that there were other subtle changes in the way my sister and her daughter spoke. The word “like” was popping up all over, where it didn’t belong. Also, “whatever” was used quite often as a response to a question or statement. Speech and languages evolve everywhere. That’s normal. I’ve seen it happen in Swiss German, why shouldn’t it happen in English? It just caught me a bit off guard.

Okay, so, like, when I go to America I have to adapt to the situation presented. I get to ride or drive in cars a lot and use play money for awhile? It’s like, totally fun. But I try not to lay it on too thick? Yeah right, whatever.


[i] Sport Utility Vehicles

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