Sunday, April 15, 2018


Until I spent significant time living outside of America, I could not pinpoint and as easily identify qualities of American-ness. Having been back in America for nearly two months, I find myself in a unique position to objectively notice American qualities and trends and yet, I'm still an insider and still very much American. 

Disclaimer: These observations are generalizations and don't apply to all Americans as America and the people living in it are vast and diverse. Obviously.

1) Americans can't get enough sparkling water/club soda. It used to be back when I was a kid that club soda was for a) mixing with booze b) making an ice cream soda or c) drinking with piece of lime or lemon when you were at a party, on the wagon and didn't want to call attention to yourself. Now, it's completely different. Sparkling water which is a fancy name for club soda is ubiquitous and available in a massive amount of flavors. This observation comes from not only noticing what the friends who I've been staying with have at their homes and are drinking but also from peering into other people's grocery carts, one of my favorite pastimes.  My theory for this love of bubbles is that Americans are very focused on hydration because everyone, me included, knows that most ailments and a general feeling of malaise can usually be chalked up to dehydration. Unfortunately,  hydrating, through the drinking of regular flat water is boring. Sparkling water gives Americans the feeling they are doing something healthy while enjoying a little extra zip.

2) Americans are afraid of being poisoned...sort of. Favorite American topics of discussion are things or people that are toxic, the presence of toxins in the environment and in the body, methods of cleansing and detox.  If you are American and come into contact with something or someone toxic or just know you're being exposed to toxins through everyday life, then you need to cleanse and detox. This can be done by a) drinking large amounts of cold pressed juice but eating no solid food for days at a time b) making and eating (or is it drinking?) bone broth c) going to a spa or a retreat and having various kinds of treatments d) doing Keto, Whole 30 or some other extremely restrictive diet where you are not allowed any sugar (very toxic) booze, carbs, dairy, meat, you name it e) sweating excessively and drinking lots of water....but not sparkling.

I've also noticed at the grocery store that there is a lot of fear about the frightening yet real possibility that toxic groceries might come into contact with those groceries deemed to be non-toxic. Multiple times at the check out I've been asked if it's o.k. for the cashier to put my laundry detergent in the same bag with a food item. I always say that it's fine because a) I don't like living my life controlled by fear and b) the laundry detergent has a lid on it.  Apparently this is a big deal though because the cashiers seem afraid of making a mistake, putting something toxic next to something non-toxic and being held personally responsible for poisoning a customer. Just now, I was at the store and the cashier checked with me to confirm that it was o.k. for her to wrap my already plastic wrapped chicken in plastic. Plastic, by the way is toxic...but raw chicken juice, well that's the shit that killed Elvis.

What's funny is we are only afraid of toxicity when it suits us. We are happy to eat greasy chicken wings, drink beer, burn fossil fuels, hold a cell phone next to our bodies at all times, wear make-up, get our nails done, get our hair dyed, pour a shit ton of chemicals on our lawns, etc, etc, but shudder at the thought of placing an unopened bottle of Windex in the same plastic bag as an unopened box of not clearly non-toxic fish sticks.

3) Speaking of words...Americans love to say the word literally. Literally I cannot tell you how many times I literally hear this word in a day. Here's a sample conversation between two people that I made up to prove my point.

Friend 1: "So literally I'm standing online at Whole Foods and the cashier literally puts my 7th Generation granite counter top cleanser in the same bag as my Pirate's Booty so I'm like, "can you please keep the cleaner separate from the food?" I mean, do they not train these people? 

Friend 2: (Oh and we also often reply having completely missed the point) "How does that 7th Generation stuff work? Is it good?"

Friend 1: "It's o.k. I really don't like to use toxic products around my house."  I'm trying to limit our exposure to toxins."

Friend 2: "Yes, I know. I literally HAD to tell the kids the other night that I'm no longer buying them Hot Pockets because those things are literally full of toxic chemicals. And I had all the carpets removed from my house because not only are carpets made of toxic fibers, they literally trap dirt and other toxins from the air."

Friend 1: "I love Hot Pockets. Especially when I'm hungover."

Friend 2: "Yeah, me too."

Friend 1: "Hey, do you want something to drink?" 

Friend 2: "I'd love a sparkling water, I literally sweated gallons at the gym this morning. I'm literally so dehydrated."

Friend 1: "Oh good for you. I love sweating out the toxins."

Friend 2: "Literally, the other day I was so dehydrated that I thought I had a brain tumor. I had such a headache."

3) Americans are very generous. I'm not just saying this to make up for all of the things I just wrote. It's true. according to the Philanthropy Roundtable, "between 70 and 90 percent of all U.S. households donate to charity in a given year, and the typical household’s annual gifts add up to between two and three thousand dollars. This is different from the patterns in any other country. Per capita, ­Americans voluntarily donate about seven times as much as continental ­Europeans. Even our cousins the Canadians give to charity at substantially lower rates, and at half the total volume of an American household." 

Recently, I told a group of friends in Boston about a 17 year old boy who attends the Diepsloot Combined School. His parents passed away a few years ago. He is a very good student and is at the top of his senior (matric) class. My friend Meghan wrote a detailed blog post about him and his life which you can read here.  Earlier this year, due to an error, he mistakenly didn't receive the award for being a top student at the school.  I had spoken to one friend in Boston about the situation a few weeks ago, and then she and I told our other friends to see if we might be able to gather some items to give to him in an effort to try to reward him for his good grades. 

Literally, my friends in Boston open their hearts, their closets and their wallets and gave the most beautiful gifts to this young man. In addition to a very generous amount of cash, they found, bought and gave clothing, much of it with a Boston theme, with enthusiasm and love.  Two friends even gave a baseball which was caught at a Red Sox game. One of them told me she had been keeping the ball in her car, waiting for the right moment when the right person would come along who she could give it to. This boy doesn't know a lot about Boston or baseball, but when we explain about the sports teams in Boston, how the baseball was caught, and how this group of people are all rooting for him to succeed in life I think he'll understand a lot about America. 


  1. everything in here is so spot on! Love the conversation. Especially people missing the other person's point entirely. And what a feel-good story at the end about the supplies. Wish he was in Alexandra and could soon learn all about baseball there...

    1. Literally once you are aware of that strange phenomenon you will begin to hear the word constantly. Glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.