May 26, 2014

Exciting American Things!

After my recent Hens on Ice tour took me through Europe for 7 months, I got acclimated to much of the local lifestyles. Living abroad for extended times, I learn about life in other lands, as well as gaining more perspective on life as an American hen. Arguing that one place is better than the other is futile (and infuriating with stubborn birds); I've come to accept that countries are just different from one another, and we can learn and better ourselves from all these differences if we take a broader view to our daily lives.

That being said, I am readjusting to American life after my extended leave. Now that my wings are thawed after a Scandinavian winter, I'm taking a peck at exciting American things I can truly appreciate after being away.

This is the life.
Exciting things in America:

Water fountains. I saw my first public water fountain in 7 months when I arrived at JFK. Most people aren't thrilled about layovers in New York, but having a free drink of pure-ish water overshadowed the airport's mayhem. "Look! Water fountains!" I exclaimed to my hen friend Madge as she entered the restroom. Women exiting the restroom stared at me as if I was disturbing them, but I was excited enough to take a bird bath. If I was thirsty in Europe, I'd have to buy a drink or put my beak under a public sink. I avoided the latter except for desperate situations.

Free refills. Excessive drinks are things I've taken for granted at home. Fountain drinks abroad are rarely bottomless, nor served in barrels. I had to pace myself through that miniature glass of Coke unless I wanted to pay another 3 Euros/3 pounds/999 Kroner for another. I quickly learned that beer was a better deal. I at least didn't expect free refills on booze outside of my grandma's house.
Free money!

Cash back. This is a perk about which I'd truly forgotten. On my first night back on American soil, I shrieked, "Cash back?!" to both the Wal-Mart cashier and my hen friend Becky as I paid for my beer. At least Becky understood my situation. The local Tampa woman in a Wal-Mart vest stared at me until
I made a decision. No outrageous international ATM fees, and I didn't even have to go to my bank for that $20! It felt like free money.

Groupons. Not only is everything cheaper in the USA than in Europe, but if you time it right, you can get what you want twice as cheap just by buying it through Groupon, Living Social, or another social deal website. After 7 months of overpriced meals, any price in US dollars seems cheap. Then, in hunting for dinner option deals, Becky and I nabbed $30 worth of delicious food at a sassy restaurant for $15. I waddled out fat and happy for $7.50. That's the price of a coffee in England or a cookie in Denmark.

Bigger friendliness. Most local people I encountered through my travels in other lands were friendly, polite, and/or mostly tolerant of my interactions. However, I found that conversations were a bit more direct, without many forced "How are you?"s. So after months of dealing with basic politeness and sometimes only feeling tolerated as an outsider, I was almost startled by the frequent over-the-top, in-your-face, American friendliness of customer service. I also had to readjust to harmless small talk from strangers. In Europe, most small talk from a stranger turned out to be a vagrant wanting money. So when a man next to me at Starbucks wanted to talk about my hat and what was new with the Buccaneers, I initially flinched and recoiled. Then I realized this man was just waiting for his coffee like me, and wanted to chit chat about a common interest. I relaxed my feathers and resisted throwing a quarter at him.

Back in my homeland, I'm embracing these things that make America great. Sure, we have our problems, but all countries do. Europe may have better public transit and healthcare, but I'll enjoy my bottomless soda and cheaper everything.

Read more! The Hen's Guide to Surviving Sweden!
Relationship advice? Dear Hen, My Boyfriend Loves One Direction!

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