Why Is America Different. Part III

Shopping with Your Own Cart

If you happen to see a person in the street pushing a shopping cart, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with them. Americans often take their own carts to shop, instead of lifting heavy bags with them. My friend who has been living here for a number of years told me once that she still didn’t muster enough courage to go shopping with one of those big carts. I happen to think it’s a great idea: your spine will be especially enthusiastic about it. I don’t have my own cart yet since a single shopping bag I usually end up with would have looked rather silly inside. But no worries: I’m getting there.

Sports Apparel Can Mean Many Different Things

I visited three gyms here so far and two things I noticed were surprising to me. First of all, people sometimes work out wearing the strangest outfits. Some of them don’t even look like they donned any sports apparel whatsoever. Most people look normal, but there are also cases that truly make me squirm. Others are merely curious. I saw women here who, because of their religious beliefs, need to keep their knees covered – they not only wear leggings, but also a “sports” skirt long enough to do the task. Their heads are wrapped in scarves. Second of all: I often see women here who work out carrying their handbags. They usually hang them on the machine they’re using. When they change the machine, the handbag follows them.

Choosing Your Cereal

Every time I’m at the supermarket and I enter the cereal aisle, I’m astonished all over again. I walk back and forth and simply don’t know which brand to choose. It takes many minutes before I decide on only one kind. Back in Poland I never had cereal (do we also have such a wide choice…?), but here I eat it every day. Some have berries, some have cinnamon; others may contain bananas, raspberries or honey; maple syrup or crushed almonds; they may be made of corn or wheat; they can be square or round… I’m telling you: it’s not easy to choose!

Everything Comes Light

One of the biggest paradoxes here is the ubiquity of “light” versions of food. Nearly every product has its “light” incarnation. Sugar, candy bars, beverages… What’s more, it’s usually the “light” version that’s more popular than the regular one. Maybe I’m too much of a cynic, but I find it hard to believe in all those “reduced calories”. And I still can see no point in buying “light” chocolate. If you decide to have some chocolate, at least don’t pretend you’re losing any weight while enjoying it.

Everyone Says: Calories and Carbs

The “light” phenomenon leads to another thing, which I didn’t encounter before. Calories and carbs. Everyone counts calories over here. Information on calories is listed with every bagel you have at Dunkin’ Donuts and every coffee you drink at Starbucks – same goes for all other chains. When Americans decide whether to buy the beautifully glazed donut at a café, they usually say their mantra: “Oh, but it’s so many carbs…”. Everyone here believes carbs are evil and calories are there to be controlled. That’s why everyone orders skimmed milk and ask for some flavored syrup (of course in its “light” incarnation), after which they add three packs of (necessarily brown) sugar. There must be some logic to it, but I’m not actually noticing any collective loss of weight because of it.