Sunday, June 20, 2010

It's Not So Foreign Here

I had the opportunity to watch the Holland/Japan game with our Dutch neighbors yesterday. They claimed to be novice soccer fans so I felt I might fit in; however, once the game started they seemed to know all the players by names and the sordid private details of their strikers' lives (apparently the strikers appear more in the tabloids than those playing defense). It was a good game, though Japan's style of play effectively killed the viewing enjoyment in the first half. Other than that, I must admit it was a little odd to see my cook playing with their baby in the background throughout the game (we found our cook because she's their nanny so it really shouldn't have seemed strange).

After the game, we had a long, casual dinner with varied topics. The thing that got me to think the most (other than the fact I learned Samoa recently changed from driving on the right side of the road to the left side of the road to better coordinate with Australia and New Zealand) was that I now believe it's relatively easier to be an American expat than an expat from another country.

The reason for this is not deep at all; in fact, it's fairly basic. All around me, whether driving on the streets or shopping in stores, there are signs of America: McDonald's, Tommy Hilfiger, Budwesier, Pizza Hut, even TGI Friday's. While it can easily be argued that those images have varying degrees of importance in American society, they are still familiar symbols that one can easily identify with. The same holds true in the grocery store, where many of the imported products are imported from the U.S. If I want Skippy peanut butter, I can get it in three or four varieties (sadly, Jif isn't available). You pay a price, but it's here.

For the Dutch? EVERYTHING is foreign here (except Heineken). At least when I'm paying INR 250 for a small jar of peanut butter, I know what I'm getting and paying a premium for a small piece of home. For them? It's just an expensive jar of foreign peanut butter.


Other random things I learned yesterday:
  • The announcers of the Holland/Japan game mentioned a connection between Holland and South Africa with this paraphrased quote, "The Dutch have some history in this country; 300 years ago Holland conquered South Africa."
  • The country of Holland fields a world-class soccer team from a population base that is equivalent to the states of Illinois and Iowa.
  • Children's clothing is outrageously expensive in India; unwittingly confirmed by Lindsay after her day of shopping and a birthday purchase for our niece.
  • When Lindsay doesn't want me to know how much money she spends shopping, she switches between currencies when listing how much she spent on various items to throw me off her trail. It doesn't work.
  • Samoa's decision to switch which side they drive on the road was the first such switch since the 1970's. Sweden was the last such country. Not the country I would have guessed.
  • The Prime Minister of Samoa likes to wear flip-flops.

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