Finland vs. the US
Since coming back to the US a week ago after two years in Finland, there have been a hundred moments of "well THAT'S different." Different, either from how I remember it being, or from how it is in Finland. The thing to do would have been to keep a running list of such moments, but I'll just write the ones that come to mind right now.
Stop signs. Finland...does not really have these. Once in a while, yes, but usually it's an implied yield. When two equal roads meet, the car on the right goes first. So coming to a full stop at stop signs here is really jarring.
Road signs. Magdalena mentioned this one - road signs are constantly telling you things in the US. Don't park here! Don't litter! Put on your seatbelt! This road is slippery when wet! In Finland (and I suspect Europe in general), the signs use pictures or symbols more than words. It's a much quieter driving landscape without signs yelling at you all the time.
Store employee chit-chat. This is an interesting one, because when we moved to Finland, I didn't think the absence of store employee chit-chat was as tremendous as I expected it to be. But now, coming back, it is crazy to me how much these strangers just TALK while they go about their jobs in my presence. "How's your day been? How is that working out for ya? Oh, aren't' these great? This is going to take another minute because..." etc. It seems to be an almost involuntary reflex for Americans to fill the conversational void, like it wouldn't even matter if I were there to listen: it simply must never be silent. It is a striking difference between the US and Finland, and for whatever reason, it is more noticeable coming back to the US than it was going to Finland.
People speak English here. I KNOW. But I'm used to enjoying relative anonymity in public spaces in Finland, if I speak to my kids in English there. I know people who speak English can understand all the stupid things I say to my kids in Finland, but it requires extra effort on their part and if they're caught off guard, well. But the other day in a store, I said to my kids, "I have some peanut butter in my purse, but that's it, so if you're hungry, that's all I have." And then I realized that everyone around me now knew the snack contents of my purse, and I just felt kind of dumb and exposed. So much of parenting is just inane exchanges, and I guess it was nice not always having an audience for mine. In America, not only do other people hear and understand the stupid things I say, I get to hear and understand their stupid things! We were at the beach and a little boy near us said something to me in English and I about fell over, I was so surprised! I just keep forgetting.
There are way more cops out and about. This could be a result of our driving from Oregon to Idaho on the Monday before the Fourth of July, but there were a ton of cops out, pulling people over. I almost never see that in Finland. Speed cameras, yes. Cops, not so much.
You don't have to put in a deposit for shopping carts here.
And those shopping carts' rear wheels are fixed instead of spinny. I used to prefer that, but the Euro/IKEA-style carts have really grown on me! Much easier to drift between aisles.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD. Come on, you knew this was coming from me. But it will get its own post.