Things I Miss About The U.S.

You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the America out of the girl

I thought, since my return to the U.S. is drawing near, that it would be interesting to list all the things I miss about the U.S. and why. Then, prior to my return to the Netherlands, I’ll list everything I miss about the Netherlands. Not so much as a comparison of which one is better or worse than the other, but to see what each country has to offer and to realize that there are both good and bad about wherever you are. So here’s my first list…


1. 24-hour establishments The Dutch do not have these. Mostly because they’re courteous enough to think about the people who have to work at these places. But, when it’s midnight and you need medicine or wine/beer or food, you realize how much easier the 24 hour work day makes life.

2. Traffic lights not designed to make you stop at every single one to discourage you from taking your car This idea, though clever and environmentally friendly, is horrendous!!! Traffic lights are timed so you will stop at literally every. single. one. This can make even the shortest car trip last forever. So far, this has made me late to everything I’ve driven to, no matter how much time I allow for the trip. I understand the concept, but when you have to take the car, you have to take your car… no two ways about it

3. Theatre opportunities This is not to say that there aren’t any. There are certainly not as many as one would think would exist in a city as big as this. Most theatre (unfortunately for me at the moment) is in Dutch. From what I’ve seen so far, theatre done in English is reserved for the professional theatres. I don’t know what Dutch schools are like, but even in the international schools, there is very little in the way of music and theatre. And being an American concept, musical theatre is not done here very often. The Dutch tend to have a hard time with the idea of being so into something that you just have to sing about it. So far, I’ve been approached by an international school and a parent who’s child attends a different international school to start an afterschool or weekend theatre/musical theatre program so that there’s at least some way to be involved (esp. in English)

4. Diet Coke There is Cola Light, so it’s not as though moving to another country has me doomed to drink high-calorie colas. But it doesn’t taste the same. The best I can describe it is: there’s coke, coke zero, and cola light. and then on a totally different spectrum is Diet Coke. And I can’t wait to get back to the States and have a big, fat Diet Coke. God, I miss that stuff!!!!

5. Costco  I go to the grocery store at least every other day. It takes me about 2 minutes to walk there, but seriously…. almost every day?? God only knows what they put in the stuff to make the shelf lives so long, but there is a lovely convenience to buying in bulk

6. Obama presidency Although every newspaper on every newsstand had Obama smeared all over the front page the day after he won the Democratic nomination, after he won the presidency, and the day after the inauguration; although his name and image litters the television, radio, and newspaper; although the bookstores are full of his biographies and autobiographies (in Dutch, not English, I might add); although there are shows and songs dedicated to him; although the majority of the Dutch population watched the debates and the election and the inauguration…. I still feel like I’m missing out. Yeah, I really wanted Hillary, but I’m psyched as you-know-what about Obama and kinds wanted to witness firsthand his cleaning up after Bush

7. Family I think the hardest part about this and number 8 is the time difference. The Netherlands is 6 hours ahead. So by the time everyone’s home from work in the US, it’s midnight here. Add to that calling costs and the 7-8 hour plane ride to visit, and it’s not easy. On the flip side, Turner, Hubs and I are forming our own family, which is a wonderful thing! But I do miss seeing my family as often as I used to.

8. Friends Much the same as the above. I am making new friends: Dutch, British, Australian, American, Canadian. I love the the people I’ve met here so far. But I miss my friends back home too. Especially those who, in a very short amount of time, proved themselves to be amazing friends. I didn’t really have the chance to develop friendships the way I wanted. But they’ve proven themselves regardless of the distance and I find that we’ve gotten closer even so. I also regret the friendships I had just begun to rekindle before I left. I wish I had paid attention to them earlier. But thank goodness for the internet!!

9. Roadways so large with signs so obvious that even a blind man could drive safely Sometimes you can’t see what the name of a road is until you’ve driven past it. The line to stop at for stop lights here is almost literally on top of the stop sign. It’s next to you as opposed to in front of you and you have to really crane your neck to see the light change. And the road markings are a lot more obscure. Sometimes I’m turning onto roads that look more like sidewalks or shoulders than roads. Markings that in the States would mean two lanes doesn’t mean that here. You just have to sort of know if it’s a two lane going one way or one lane in each direction. There’s also no merge area when you exit onto the highway. And I’m pretty sure that one lane in the US is the equivalent of 2 lanes here. That’s what it feels like sometimes anway. And the amount of cars and bikes (both moving and parked) they fit onto one little road is amazing.

10. Broadway and NYC In all the cities of all the countries I’ve been to, not one compares to NYC. The sights, the atmosphere, the mood. It’s better than it’s ever been depicted in any movie. I have yet to attend a show at the Amsterdam or Utrecht versions of Broadway. Although I’ve seen signs for Tarzan and Dirty Dancing and the like. But the Broadway craze doesn’t exist here. NYC and a Broadway show are the 2 things I most want to hit up when I go back to the US!

11. Being updated on new movies Movies come out here a couple weeks after they’ve come out in the US. And the movie advertising industry isn’t quite the same. In the States, you can’t turn on the TV or radio, open the newspaper, or drive anywhere without hearing about the latest releases. There are also a lot more art films and international films here. And from what I’ve noticed, the selection seems to be smaller. But, the theatres are roughly one quarter in size of what the ones in the US are, so I imagine that has more to do with space and number of theatres than anything else.

12. Starbucks They do exist here. Don’t get me wrong. But there isn’t one every 20 paces like in the US. I haven’t had Starbucks since I left the US back in December.

13. Being able to just let Turner out in the backyard I do enjoy walking him, but when it’s ridiculously cold or I’m ridiculously tired or not feeling well, it is a P.I.A. Being able to just open the door and let him out and then open the door and let him back in when he’s finished was so nice. I’m sure he liked it better that way too.

14. Work Let me just re-iterate the fact that this is not a third-world country. The economy (though not so great) is better here than it is in the US. So there are jobs and there is work. But not when you don’t have a work permit. And although sleeping in, doing whatever I wanted and relaxing out or at home was lovely for the first few weeks, it’s getting old. I need to have something to do that makes me feel worthwhile… aka a job. I do, however, fully realize that when I have a job, I’ll be wanting back the times I didn’t have anything to do…

15. Bath and Body Works To be honest, I never used the products after the B&B Works craze in middle school. Not until I started to work there last year and started getting free samples and then got hooked and started buying the products in copious amounts. But now that I’m addicted, I miss not having it. I don’t know why since I brought enough products with me to start my own store here in the Netherlands and I have loads more still waiting for me at my parents’ house. They do have a Body Shop, but totally not the same thing. I have come to the realization that I will just have to re-stock everytime I go back to the US.

16. Miss America I totally missed it this year. For the first time since as long as I can remember. The BBC will broadcast the US presidential innaugeration, but not the Miss America pageant. I know nothing about the winner or the runners up and I feel so out of the loop. I don’t even know of anyone who taped it so I could at least see it… bummer

17. Sun and blue skies These things do not occur often here. It does make you learn to appreciate it on the rare occasions it decides to show it’s head. But more often than not, the weather here is very gloomy. Much like London.

18. Cheaper prices Yes, some of this has to do with the dollar to euro rate. But things in general are much cheaper in the States. Most of all, this applies to clothes and shoes. Boots are easily 100 Euro at their cheapest (this is ANY pair of boots) and the cheapest pair of jeans I’ve seen so far have been 50 Euro. I can’t think of the dollar anymore. I just end up converting the price into dollars and it’s always a very frightening outcome.

19. Shopping Malls Again, something we do have here, but they are very few and far between. Most of the shopping you do here is outdoors. Which sucks when it’s really cold or raining. Malls so nicely put restaurants, department stores, pharmacies, specialty stores, and more in a warm-in-the-winter, air-conditioned-in-the-summer, dry environment. The idea of one-stop shopping.

20. Sheetz Open 24-hours. You can get almost anything: magazines, gas, food, drink, toilets, porn. Close, quick, convenient. They just don’t have that here. But nor do they have them everywhere in the US.

21. Sugar that passes itself off as cereal Especially Fruity Pebbles. Not that I’ve had them in years, but I seem to be craving them more and more since I’ve been here. The cereals here are so freakin healthy! The only way to get Wheaties, Fruity Pebbles, Fruit Loops, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and the like is to pay 10 Euro for it at the American store…

22. Baking soda Seriously, how can you not have baking soda?? It cooks, it cleans… what more could you want???

Stay tuned for THINGS I MISS ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS. Coming mid-late February 2008!

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20 Replies to “Things I Miss About The U.S.”

  1. 4. When living their longer-term (meaning, you don’t have any immediate plans to return to the states (it does get expensive, of course)), consider planning a trip across the channel to the UK for diet coke if things get desperate – stock up on some bottles from a market. 🙂

    10. Similarly, coordinate that with seeing a show on the West End in London.

    12. Look for the smaller coffee shops; they’re probably better than Starbucks anyways. 😉 The Dutch invented the importation of coffee to the North of Europe (and to the Colonies on our side of the pond), so there’s got to be some of that heritage left. I realize, though, it won’t be like Italy where EVERYBODY has an espresso machine handy…

    19. Half the malls are empty thanks to the recession. You’ll miss them here when you return, too. 🙂

    21. Again, you can find that in London if you visit.

    22. Ok, THAT is surprising…

    The trains for London-Amsterdam (thanks to the chunnel) can get you there in 5 1/2 hours. THAT is a change from a decade ago, that’s for sure.

    1. now, I know there’s an American store in Utrecht, but I haven’t been in there because of the nightmarish stories I’ve hard regarding the prices. the people I’ve spoken to said there’s no baking soda, but there are cereals. A friend of mine has her husband buy her a box of Wheaties every year on her birthday so she can still eat them, but a box costs 10€. The people I know from the UK don’t even know what Fruity Pebbles are (how un-american!!!), so no luck there. But, if I remember correctly, they do have Fruit Loops and such. But they too tend to be more into the whole grain cereals. To be perfectly honest, for all that I lived in London for 3 months, I can’t remember if they serve Cola Light or Diet Coke. My friend from Australia said it’s Cola Light over there. I’ll have to ask around to some of my Brit friends and see… cause that’s definitely an option. That would make them the only country on the continent that has Diet Coke! Don’t get me wrong about the Starbucks thing… the coffee here is BRILLIANT!! But after 2 months, it’d be nice to have a caramel machiato or a vanilla latte. To be honest, I think Starbucks is more a dessert than a coffee. I’ve gotten this way about fast food… once a month is enough for me, but I sill need it once a month… just because I’m American and that’s what we do.

      On a completely different note… just for the sake of cultural education…. In the Netherlands, if you want coffee, you don’t go to a coffee shop. You can get coffee there, but that’s not what coffee shops are known for. If you catch my drift.

      1. ah, that vocabulary change…like how knickers (pants that only go to just below the knees, 19th and early 20th century) aren’t “knickers” in the UK (which are very much women’s underwear).

        bad enough we’re 2 cultures divided by a common language – you’ve effectively got to deal with 3!

        I’ve only done regular coffee’s at Starbucks. never liked the other stuff.

      1. I’ll have to ask Hubs’ brother about Belgium and maybe Paris is different from the rest of France, but I know for a fact that France is a Cola Light country. Even in Paris I remember they had Cola Light the last time I was there… but that was in high school, so there’s been plenty of time for things to change. Trust me though, I’m doing my research lol!

  2. as for 6, you can always troll the news websites for that. and people’s LJs. hehe.

    and 22… how do they bake anything without baking soda?!?! what do they call for in their cookie recipes?? this is like saying there is no Starbucks! (oh wait…)

    1. So far I’ve been able to find cookie recipes via the internet using just baking powder, which they do have. But a lot of the bread recipes I have call for baking soda. they have zouvering zout which is what came up on the online Dutch/English dictionary, which literally means cleaning salt. But oddly enough, I haven’t been able to find that in stores either. Not that I’m even entirely sure it does the same thing…

  3. #22… I could swear that there is baking soda there… just under another name (at least, I’m nearly certain in France and England, so…)

    Quick search… turns up… look for “natrium carbonate” natrium is apparently the word for sodium. (baking soda being Sodium bicarbonate… aka bicarbonate of soda)

    hmmmm… check out

    (and if you’re still looking, I found that first bit of info as well as that page there by doing a google search for – baking soda netherlands)

      1. I think one of those entried might have mentioned something like Mediterranean shop. (heck, I know I can find just about *everything* I’ve ever needed, even for the SCA and faire cooking at those things here)

        Meanwhile, chances are that you can get away with the self-rising flour for anything that requires both flour and baking soda or baking powder. Not *quite* the same, or adjustable, but…

        *g* Now you know what to send friends as a care package from the US.. if it’s possible.

        1. They DO have baking powder and self-rising flour! Unfortunately, those weren’t enough to save my attempt at banana bread… turned out as banana mush. Not even Turner would eat it! Oh well, thank goodness for parents who make frequent visits!!!

  4. What?! No Coffee, sweets and walking excessively every day? You must be the hottest girl walking the streets over there, and you were more than halfway there before you left! It’s like the best unplanned diet ever.

    Also, baking bread? Who are you? What have you done with Tiffany? I’m calling for an international search…

    When you come home on the 19th, how long will you be able to stay before going back? Does it look like it won’t take very long after all to get the paperwork filed?

    1. ok ok… don’t get your panties in a bunch… I said “no Starbucks,” not “no coffee”. The coffee here is fabulous! Just not the sugared up stuff you get at starbucks. Here it’s 100% damn fine coffee. But after 2 months, I’d like the sugary imitation. The Americanized version, if you will, lol!

      And no sweets? I wish! I have dessert after dinner every night, snacks (usually M&Ms since the hubby’s involved) while we watch our evening movie, and I have been using pure sugar to sweeten everything. So I’ve gained about 1 kilo. But, you’re right, with the cycling and walking it should come off now that I’ve promised myself I’d be more careful. And join a gym once I get back from the States. Thanks for the ego boost though!

      I’ve actually done baking… brought some to festival 3 or 4 years in a row. Mostly cookies though. And remember, I’m jobless at the moment, so I don’t have much else to do. You should see the list of museums and tourist attractions I’ve seen so far, for example. And the amount of housekeeping I’ve done, and the copious amounts of time I’ve spent online and the caplet I knitted and the number of days I’ve slept in and how many International Womens’ Club events I’ve been to (I even went to a sewing circle!!!). Sad really. I don’t know how housewives and stay-at-home moms do it… I’m about ready to gauge my eyes out on days I don’t have plans.

      I’ll be home for 2-3 weeks looks like. I’ll be changing my name on important things like passport, social security card, voter registration; working on my residence permit application; stocking up on some of the stuff mentioned in the blog above; meeting up with people; continuing to pack stuff from the US to bring back here (aka still moving); maybe doing some substitute teaching; seeing what (if any) official documents I need for my residence permit application. Basically it’s all just waiting for them to legalize our marriage. I just can’t be here because of what I explained in the 2 entries before this… total pain in the you-know-what!

  5. Now about that list…

    1. 24-hour establishments: you’re right, it really is nothing like the US. But you should be able to get the basics. Snacks and drinks? Go to the 24h gas stations. Beer? The Amsterdamsestraatweg has loads of shoarma shops. Medicine? I don’t know about Utrecht, but over here in Nijmegen there is at least one 24h pharmacy at the hospital.

    4. This is an interesting debate. Did you try the caffeine-free Coke Light variety yet? It definitely tastes different than Coke Light and Coke Zero. (Too bad all no-sugar Cokes taste bad.) That’s the stuff I drink when my conscience gets to me.

    17. Gloomy weather? Last year we had wonderful weather in February. There even was a heat wave in April. Patience.

    20. See 1. Surely there must be a gas station somewhere nearby?

    22. I’m totally intrigued by the baking soda thing. We do have Soda. We use it to clean pans and relieve hurt feet, so it’s the zuiveringszout stuff. You can find it in the supermarkets somewhere in the lower regions of the cleaning products section. It’s in plastic bags and usually it’s brand is Driehoek (“Triangle”). Maybe these bags indicate that this is indeed Sodium bicarbonate, i.e. Baking Soda? I’m inclined to think it’s Sodium carbonate. See: If I got it right, you’re looking for a leavening agent (“rijsmiddel”). In the past we used yeast (“gist”), but these days we use “bakpoeder” wich is… baking powder! So you’re looking for bakpoeder. I have never seen it as such. What we use is something called “zelfrijzend bakmeel” which is a combination of flour and baking powder. So all in all I have the feeling that if you would start importing baking soda (tagline: “The magical leavening agent that also cleans your pans!!!”) you will become a very rich girl indeed.

    Greetings, Han

    1. Re: Now about that list…

      Thanks for the advice! I don’t know if you read any of the other comments. Overall I really like it here so far, but there are some differences that I miss. But, as you can see, they’re all little things that will just take some getting used to and getting my fill of them when I visit the US. I’ve gone backwards through the list this time.

      22. I know about bakpoeder, have it, and use it, but some of the receipes I have for baking call or baking powder and baking soda. I’ve looked up zuiveringzout, so I know about that, but it seems to be used for the things you listed and not really for baking. There are some recipes I have from the US that call for both baking powder and baking soda and won’t work without both. But, yes, I’ve known for several weeks now that there is soda.

      20. Yes, you can get gas at Sheetz, but it’s more like a gas station, convenience store, fast food place…. etc. It’s really an experience. You’ll have to go into one the next time you’re in the US. But they’re mostly on the East Coast.

      17. Compared to where I’m from, the weather is very very very gloomy. Although I have seen some beautiful days even since I’ve been here (Bram keeps telling me this was the worst time of year for me to come). I will say though, that you do learn to appreciate it more when it happens less frequently. The weather in London is very similar to here.

      4. I’ve been doing a lot of research on this one. It seems like it’s the sweetener or the water or a combination of the two that changes the taste. Seems like the taste of whatever they call it — Cola Light or Diet Coke — is different no matter where you go. So it looks like the only way to get the Diet Coke I’m used to is when I visit the US. It is a very interesting debate.

      1. I agree, it’s just finding the places and areas that do have those things and knowing where to go when you need something

      Happy birthday, by the way!

  6. baking soda

    Random thought earlier today….

    Have you looked at the druggist/pharmacist? (and/or asked one)

    For some reason my son was coming up with “ways baking soda is used” and mentioned toothbrushing, deodorant, de-smelling shoes, and to help the stomach. Which would make a pharmacy a good place to look.

    1. Re: baking soda

      I’ve not been to an apotheek yet (apothocary), wich is where you get prescriptions and other drugs not sold at the Etos (think CVS with a MUCH smaller collection). I have no idea how it is decided which kind of drugs go where, but I’ll find out soon as I desperately need to get some zyrtec. I’ll definitely check. I don’t know if you read the comment that Han (a Dutchman) left, but he said they do have baking soda for all the things you mentioned above, but they don’t use it to cook. I see some experimentation in my future!

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