Given that the holidays are upon us, I am constantly thinking of all of the things that I miss in the US, and how much easier life is when you know where you can go, at what time, to get what you need. So here are a few things that I miss from back home:
English - Yes, I'm trying to learn the language here (and doing well enough to at least get by), and yes, there are other Americans here that I can talk to (though I don't get to base all that often). But sometimes it would just be nice to be able to go out and get something at the store, put gas in your car, or go out to eat without having to think about what you're saying and just say it, knowing that the other person will understand you. I do realize how lazy this makes me sound, but it's actually very hard work, and very taxing, to think in a non-native language all day.
Rules and regulations - They don't exist here. Seriously, I often wonder if they do. I know there are signs and speed limits and cops, but nobody seems to take notice of any of them. And when you almost get side-swiped by the Italian in the Fiat Punto, you realize just how easy it would be to stay at home 95% of the time, not taking the risk of driving on Italian roads, and not getting in wrecks and having to, once again, explain to the Carabinieri that you were in the right, even if you are an American.
WalMart - Ack! Yes, I said it. I miss WalMart! Evil as though the darn retail giant may be, I miss being able to drive to Wally World at any time of day or night for that one item that I need and just can't do without until next time. Given that Italians have never heard of a 24-hour anything, such a premise is beyond ridiculous here...which makes me wonder...do I really need that one item that I can't wait until next time for, if I'm forced to wait for it here in Italy, and I survive just fine? Hmm...
Customer Service - When you walk into a store and get ignored because the girl behind the counter is snuggling with her boyfriend, who has his hands all over her butt, and three-quarters of his tongue down her throat, you know you're in Italy. What's even better is that this is an accepted practice here. If you need help, you are expected to ask for it (if you don't mind the dirty looks for interrupting the sales-girl's makeout session). It is extremely common here for you to not speak one word to anyone who works in the store during the course of your visit, including while they ring your purchase. And heaven forbid you don't have the correct change!
Clover-leaf interstate ramps - I know that's kind of a random one, but that whole "you can't get there from here" thing, we found out really does apply in Italy. You can easily get off on an exit, thinking you can just make a U-turn and hop right back on, only to find out that you're either on another interstate headed in a completely different direction, there's only an exit ramp and not an entrance ramp there, or you're five kilometers and about 30 turns away from the entrance ramp. Seriously, just ask Neal's college buddy Chris. I took him and another buddy of his to visit the remains of the Pompeii site when they came to visit, and when I missed my initial exit on the interstate, thus began one heck of a learning experience. I ended up driving all the way around Mount Vesuvius and still came in the opposite direction from which I intended!
110 power - I still have appliances that we were given from our wedding that I've not used. We were given a transformer when we moved into this house, which is currently set up beside the TV, with about five plugs in it (TV, VCR/DVD player, PlayStation, toaster oven, toothbrush recharger, etc.). We were given another from a sailor who married an Italian (thus, no need for his), and it powers the computer. For anything else I need, we've had to do without, but the Italian version, or go ghetto-style like with the toaster and toothbrush recharger in the living room beside the TV. I have two hair driers (unfortunately, that IS a necessity), and I can't even use my sewing machine because even using it with the transformer will burn up its motor. This has become a very expensive issue.
Radio - Actually, they have radio here, but there are only about three radio stations, and one of them is Virgin Radio, which is actually British (think Virgin Airlines). The biggest thing is that, once again, everything is in Italian at least 75% of the time. I really miss being able to channel surf on the radio, knowing each station has their own style and how to easily find country, christian, jazz, etc. instead of just listening to one of three pop radio choices.
There are plenty of things that I miss, but these are what I immediately thought of. Trust me, I could write a 35-page dissertation on what I miss about the US, but I'll leave that for another day.