Home of the Free and Land of Convenience

Another Hannah post here (confession I started this post weeks ago and never finished, so it is slightly outdated). I want to point out a few of the differences we have found between America and the countries we have visited so far. The differences aren’t necessarily good or bad, they are just different. Nine times out of ten, the difference has to do with convenience with the more convenient version being American.

Appliances: We have been traveling for 8 weeks now and have not seen a single microwave!!!! We have stayed in hotels, hostels, homes of adults, and apartments of college students; not one microwave. With the lack of microwaves, there is also a lack of microwavable food in the grocery stores. No Lean Cuisines, Hotpockets, breakfast sandwiches, or minute steam vegetable bags. While I miss the convenience, I know most microwavable foods are highly processed and not very healthy, so I can’t fault them for taking the time to prepare fresh food. Suddenly an appliance that most Americans use everyday seems unnecessary, and it was unnecessary for centuries until it was invented and became a staple of what I thought was every home but turns out to be only every American home. ***Update we encountered our first microwave after I wrote this and used it a lot!***

A common size washing machine in Eastern Europe

In a strong second place behind the microwave comes the dryer (the one you simply toss clothes into directly from the washer). We have encountered only two dryers and one of those was owned by an expat American. At one Airbnb a “Dryer” had been listed in the amenities of the ad. If fact this was a drying rack to lay clothes on, which is the most common method. We think that our host might not realize that a drying rack is not considered a dryer to us. Even in London on the train from the airport to the city we passed rows and rows of townhome-like flats with clothes lines in the back yard. In America, clothes line and drying racks seem like a thing of the past or something used to lay out delicate sweaters, but it turns out that most of the world still uses this as their primary drying technology. I will say that we have greatly missed having a dryer especially since we move around a lot so we have to plan ahead so that our clothes have enough time to dry before getting packed again. But I also know from an environmental standpoint, drying racks and clothes lines are the way to go! They use only nature’s 100% renewable wind and sun. †

One product we have found in almost every country so far is Tabasco! In case you don’t know, Tabasco is produced on Avery Island, Louisiana, next door to my mom’s home town!

Stores: Need a quick run to the store for toothpaste and bread? Well don’t expect to find them in the same building. Need asprin and water? Plan on two separate stops. We have found in most countries (including Germany, a quite western country) grocery stores are primarily for groceries and there are separate stores for hygiene, cleaning, and household items. Pharmacies are also separate and do not even have water much less chocolate bars in them. On one hand, this has repeatedly proved annoying because we are used to Walmart and CVS type convenience stores with one stop shopping, but again, I can’t fault them for not selling junk food at a medicine store.

Water and Restrooms: These two items may seem very different but they go hand in hand. Josh and I struggle to stay hydrated for 2 main reasons: 1. Water availability and cost, 2. Restroom availability and cost. In America, tap water is free in almost every restaurant, but in many countries you have to pay for even tap water. Or in some countries, the tap water is not healthy or even if it is healthy, there is a stigma against drinking tap water. The result is that you have to pay for water. We try to take full water bottles with us, but there is also no place to refill them once empty as water fountains are not typical in most places. And then when we do have plenty of water we are scared to drink it!

Josh refilling water bottle with a smaller collapsible bottle because the tap is too low (a common occurrence). PS. This kitchen was in the flat of five college students and was not the cleanest.

When we head out for the day we have no idea where we will have access to bathrooms. In America, building codes require public restrooms for businesses, and it is usually easy to pop into a grocery store or Starbucks to use the restroom. Most buildings in Europe predate such ideas and we were almost laughed at when we asked a CVS type store if they had a restroom. Also, we are often eating from some type of stand or market which certainly do not have restrooms. Something that has become more popular as we move west is public restrooms in key locations that require payment for use. This might sound crazy at first, but I will say that the bathrooms that cost 50 cents to a dollar are kept very clean and well stocked so I don’t mind paying.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s