There are a few things that are just going to be difficult to live without when we return to the USA.
Over the counter contact lenses
You guys, I can walk into a pharmacy here and buy the same blind-as-a-bat prescription contact lenses that I used to buy from 1-800 Contacts, over the counter, for a fraction of the cost. Same brand, same number in a box, same everything. And I don’t need to provide a doctor’s prescription or, prove a damn thing. It’s great. I’m sure an ophthalmologist read this and just passed out. I’ve had the same prescription for yearssssss. I promise I’ll come in for a checkup when I notice a change, or have a concern. I love buying my cheaper Acuvue Oasys lenses here in Poland. No prescription required.
Stop lights in Poland are the stop lights of the future. They’re full of a lot more information than simply, “go” “stop” and “slow down”. They change from green, to yellow, to red like your average stop light. But then it gets interesting. Instead of simply changing stop to go, a red light goes back to yellow to let you know that it’s time to start moving your foot from the brake to the gas. Not only do they tell you when it’s about to turn green, but to make sure you’re never in the dark, there are countdowns. There’s a green light countdown, so you know how many seconds until it goes red (how much you need to nudge the gas, am I right). Even better, there’s also red light countdown, so you know how many seconds until it’s go time. The longest red I’ve seen is an eternal 107 seconds.
I don’t want to sound like a princess, but I don’t know how I’m going to go back to an American standard tub. America, raise your standards. The soaking tubs in European bathrooms mean business. We have two bathtubs in our home that could double as swimming pools. There’s room to stretch your legs all the way out. You can fill it up to your neck. I could teach swimming lessons in it if I wanted to. We’ve actually floated inflatable pool toys in the tub. They’re usually built into a shelf or ledge so there’s room to place your book, tablet, glass of wine, candles, house plants, and mini fridge because you’re gonna be in there for a while. I’ll probably try to talk the movers into packing our bathtubs when we leave.
Sundays are made for rest and reset before the next week commences. Most businesses in Europe are closed on Sundays (and holidays) and Poland is no exception. You’ll find museums, restaurants and Zabka (the Polish 7-11) open on Sundays, but all retail stores will be closed, unless a small business owner wants to open and work their own shop. There are a handful of designated “shopping Sundays” scattered throughout the year, during which stores may open. I’m sure not all would agree, but I love the no-pressure Sundays here. All errands are finished by end of business on Saturday and Sundays are totally reserved for fun and relaxation. I’m going to try and keep this tradition alive.
Gated yards and driveways
The entire property of our home is surrounded by a low fence, with gated driveways. This is typical of most homes here. I hear it’s to keep out the destructive, and potentially aggressive wild pigs that roam about. But I also have a feeling it’s just a cultural thing. As a mom of two young kiddos, I love being able to let them head out to play in the yard without worrying about anyone wandering into the street. I just kind of enjoy the extra layer of security and privacy. Americans are known for being open, friendly people and it would seem the wide open yards surrounding our homes in the United States would reflect that welcoming attitude. Poles are some of the warmest, friendly souls I’ve ever met. But you have to break through their unsmiling outer façade first. Like their fenced-in houses, once they’ve opened the gates and let you in, their hearts are warm and hospitable.
On the other hand, some things are not-so-great.
The amount of time it takes to do life.
I think America runs on Dunkin and a sense of urgency. Europe does neither and to someone who is used to operating at a certain warp speed, hitting the brakes can be an extreme test of patience. And I’m not even “fast”. I joke to my husband that we move at different paces in life and that helps us balance each other. He is always moving at top speed and I am notoriously pokey. But, even as a pokey person, the pace of life here often tests me. Polish pace is slower, but part of the problem is also that we’re Americans in Poland and everything requires translation and figuring out how to trick a website into shipping an order to your Polish home address, with a US billing address, etc. etc. It adds up to a lot of extra time and patience while it all, eventually, gets done.
Spiders in broccoli.
I’ve gotten used to finding various reminders of the natural origins of my food, in my groceries. It doesn’t bother me anymore to discover a slug in strawberries, aphids on lettuce, a feather stuck to an egg, and just a little more grit than I grew up with on my vegetables. But I was surprised by a spider in my shrink-wrapped head of broccoli last week, and I draw the line at spiders in broccoli!