Culture shock

5 Nov

When we moved to Spain, I knew that going back to the states periodically would give us random bits of culture clash. And sure, enough the last two weeks in California gave me ample opportunities to experience this.

In the parking lot of Wal-Mart (don’t ask me what I was doing there!) I saw two people stacking 2L soda bottles into the back of a giant SUV. They probably had 30-40 bottles of soda! You’d be hard pressed to see this in Spain — I have no idea where I would even begin to store that much soda. I wonder how long it takes these people to consume that and I wonder how long before diabetes sets in.

Then in a frozen yogurt shop they had two cup sizes: 16oz (.5L) and 32oz (1L). I just wanted some frozen yogurt, not a bathtub of yogurt, complete with a mountain of toppings. And of course the frozen yogurt was sickeningly sweet. Urgh. (Though color changing spoons redeemed everything!)

And then, while escorting my mom to Costco I witnessed people jockeying for parking spots. People would circle for 10 minutes, even though there was plenty of parking a short 2 minute walk away. How does this math add up?

And today is the day after election day and the republicans have clearly won. Really? Republicans? Did the entire country miss the last 6 years where they have opposed everything that Obama has done? 6 years of keeping this country hostage. Less than a 10% approval rating in congress, yet the people have spoken. They want more deadlock and they are happy with how things are. W.T.F.?

Then in San Luis Obispo for Halloween, the city gets stupid. Fun and parties are effectively outlawed — if you get a noise violation? They start at $700 and go up from there! And everyone must show ID when purchasing alcohol. I watched an 80 year old lady get carded for buying booze. What happened to respect for the elders? How about common sense?

These experiences are surreal; they’ll stop you dead in your tracks, but leave the people who witness your reaction around you puzzled. None of these things are unusual for the people in California, but when you’ve had a different perspective for the last 18 months, things start looking a bit weird.

7 Responses to “Culture shock”

  1. Rusty 2014/11/05 at 14:18 #

    It may be the people stacking all that soda run a small liquor store and buying it to resell in their store. If Walmart was having a sale that made it less than the price their local distributor charges them it could be an OK deal.

    I agree about the Yogurt: why such giant cups? They usually sell it by weight, so you can put less in it if you want, but it’s strange to have a normal size helping in a giant container.

    The people at Costco circling were probably lazy, but there is a slight change they were going to be getting something big and didn’t want to cart it so far. But I’ve seen the same circling happen at malls, where people pass up parking spots that are 100 feet further out. That is strange.

    The liquor regulating people in CA have been running “stings” on small stores and clubs, finding 20 year olds that look like they’re 40 and sending them in the buy booze. The store owners retaliate now by carding everyone and making it a political statement. But they don’t do a good job at the political statement because they don’t tell anyone why they do this.

    While republican candidates “clearly” won, most of the propositions that passed were quite liberal, and the conservative propositions largely failed. This could just mean that people generally want democrat-style laws, they’re just not happy with the actual democrats themselves.

    I know whenever I’ve been in Europe for a few weeks and come back to the US I get some of the same feelings you’re encountering!

  2. Kara 2014/11/05 at 21:04 #

    Have you watched Super Size Me or Fast Food Nation (book is good too) yet? That will explain a lot. There are people who drink 6-10 2L bottles of soda a day and end up going blind.

    • Mayhem 2014/11/06 at 10:45 #


      I have seen super size me and read the fast food nation book. Both of those were factors that increased my desire to leave the US.

      My views on food have become even more anti-fast food since arriving here. I mean, anything “fast” isn’t exactly Spanish. :)

  3. Tyler J. Wagner 2014/11/06 at 00:38 #

    They are the proverbial frogs in the boiling pot.

  4. Aleta 2014/11/06 at 03:35 #

    Yes, I read Fast Food Nation in my early 20’s and that was the start of my long-standing disgust with food in the US. I’m actually afraid that it will be difficult to find anything edible when I visit the States, so much of it is not real food.

    I saw someone post the following sign on their FB wall the other day, and it’s very apt:

    “Wake up America, your food is banned in 30 countries.”

    It’s referring specifically to GMO’s but there’s also concerns of antibiotics, hormones, and mad cow disease, to name a few…

    • David 2014/11/06 at 20:55 #

      I find all of your examples pretty shocking myself. Perhaps “shocking” is not the right word, disheartening, aleninating, saddening, and shocking all rolled together.

      So not everyone in California normalizes the sort of bizarre behavior you observed.

      • mayhem 2014/11/07 at 01:31 #

        Of course not and of course my friends were not part of these observations. Even though my friends at times were part of this observations, but I generally kept those more to myself. (e.g. a diabetic addicted to skittles)