Summing Up

At one time rumor had it that the America’s ‘streets were paved with gold’ and many came to its shores in hopes of a better life. It’s probably safe to say that we now know that rumor isn’t so true and that the effects of pursuing the ‘American dream’ can be felt around the world.

Lest anyone believes that things are ‘better, bigger, more abundant’ Stateside I’d like to take a brief moment to focus on those things that I’ve found are better right here in our little corner of Spain. I’m not talking about the big stuff (we know about Spanish wines, tapas, football, etc.), but those little everyday things like…shopping carts/trolleys!

Europe/Spain has much better carts than the US (except those horrible green plastic ones Alcampo had for a short time). Don’t know what they’ve done; the carts are just smoother and easier to push around versus the rattletraps found in most supermarkets, parking lots in the US. Part of that could be because in the US we don’t have the put-in-a-coin-to-return-the-cart system. The supermarkets hire somebody with a truck to drive around neighbourhoods, picking up the strays, used for a variety of tasks other than hauling the groceries home.

Then there’s the weigh and pay system for fruits and vegetables. As long as you know which number goes with what – a great system! I remember the first time I helped a struggling ‘foreigner’ trying to figure out the system – made me feel like a real native!

Following on, there’s the virtually checkless society here. When we left the US 10 years ago, debit cards were a relatively new thing. I’m sure they’re more prevalent now, but Spain leads the way in that contest.

Next up on my list: aseptically packaged milk. Americans all know that milk comes from the cow and goes directly into the plastic container in their refrigerator. Condensed milk is shelf-stable. The stuff you drink is not. Almost 25 years ago one of my advertising clients (a very reputable, well-known dairy) tried to introduce shelf stable milk like we have here. It failed miserably (despite the wonderful advertising I might add!) Shelf stable and milk are two concepts that Americans just can’t put together!

OK, America (and just about everybody else) has Starbucks, but I’ll put a café con leche from just about any restaurant in Spain up against a double latte with whatever. Another point to Spain – and more change in your pocket.

I can’t depart Spain without issuing a general apology for some of my fellow Americans: Sarah Palin, George W., Hillary/Monica/Bill, McDonalds (especially where they’ve replaced lovely little Spanish cafes) and just about anything/anyone else American who is totally annoying/embarrassing.

After living in Europe for ten years, I’ve realized just how myopic the American perspective can be. To be fair it’s a big, homogenous country and just doesn’t have the rich tapestry of culture, languages and history that Europe does. I will miss the ‘world’ as seen by someone who lives here, but remember that it exists and treasure my time amongst it.

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