I've lived in Italy nearly five months, and in January, I returned to the U.S. for the first time since the move. It was...eye-opening to say the least!
There's a Lot of Junk Food in the U.S.
Of course, I was aware of this when I lived there, but on a visit to Wal-Mart, I really saw it. Aisles upon aisles of products that would last until the Second Coming. All filled with high fructose corn syrup and other unnatural ingredients.
I'm sure there's junk food here in Italy. But in general, the ingredients tend to be cleaner and food will actually go bad within a few months. We've got fewer options for any given product, which, while annoyed me at first, now is my preference. How many options of cookies do you need?
(I will say the caveat on selection options in Italy is definitely pasta and red sauce. We've got 2 full aisles of dried pasta and one full aisle of refrigerated pasta. And there's half an aisle of red sauce. Do you want Calabrian or Sicilian? Arrabiata or plain?)
There's an Entirely Different Coffee Culture
I'm definitely not complaining about this one: I headed to Starbucks for my fix the day after I arrived! While I love Italian coffee in the form of espresso and small cappuccinos, I'm still American in that I love my Starbucks cappuccino with a shot of caramel!
I also like sipping on my coffee in the morning, versus throwing back an espresso in two seconds. I still make pourover (with my favorite Cajun coffee, Community with chicory!) here in Italy.
Consumerism is Over the Top
My suitcase broke on my way to the States, so I found myself at a Ross buying a replacement. To be fair, I've always felt a little cringey in a store like Ross, but having been away a while, it really shocked me at how full of things nobody needs the store was. And how many people were filling their carts with the junk!
I like shopping as much as the next gal (well, nearly) but I realize I've learned to make do with less. I don't do mindless shopping as much anymore, and my wallet thanks me.
While I did finally get a car in Italy, nothing compares to traffic in American cities. And I'd forgotten how stupid the traffic is in Orlando (I lived there for five years). I detested how long it took to get anywhere, and I missed my small town with zero traffic issues (even if I do have to drive manual).
Still, There are Bright Sides
I went to Orlando to visit my son, who settled down there just before I left for Italy. It was wonderful seeing him "adulting" and figuring out life. I also got to connect with an old friend from my time there. We even went to a Scottish Highlands festival!
I also stopped by Asheville for a few days to meet up with friends I'd only known virtually since the pandemic. Asheville is a fantastic town, and it was amazing to have that in-person energy.
It will be interesting to see, over time, how my relationship to the United States changes.