I have cried twice these past two weeks since I moved back to the US: the first time was when I found out that I would not be able to get a bank loan to buy a place to live because I do not have a job after the end of the year, and a second time when I found out I have to establish residency in Texas before I can get a Texas driver’s license and that it takes a year to become a resident of Texas. Other than that, my reintegration has been a breeze.
Having lived outside of the US for 26 years now, I seem to have forgotten how to live in the US. I am American, born in Dallas, Texas (doesn’t get more American than that…except perhaps if I had personally sailed in from England on the Mayflower in 1620). I like root beer and Twizzlers. I grew up watching My Three Sons and The Brady Bunch. I have a social security number, the equivalent of a European national identity number…all things that define “American”. But I don’t have a credit rating and, without, that, I might as well be from another planet, such as Europe.
I don’t know how to purchase real estate or how to buy a car here. I don’t know which laundry detergent is best or what to wear when it is 60 degrees outside (seems hot, but it isn’t). I forget that when an ironing board is priced at $17.97 I really have to pay $19.09 after the sales tax has been added. I forgot how annoying it is to have to figure out how much to tip a server in a restaurant because they are not paid a decent wage at the outset.
But I have also forgotten how nice people can be here. When turning the corner in a supermarket aisle, the person doing the same thing from the other side apologized profusely…for being there… for being in my way…for being. Compared to Norway, where people never excuse themselves for fear of intruding in another person’s space, or France where people get angry because you are in their space and it is their space and why are you in it in the first place?, I find this surprisingly pleasant.
I went to the Yeti flagship store in Austin to buy one of their famous tumblers and the guy at the checkout asked me “So, what did you do today?” and, when I answered, it actually turned into a conversation…and the conversation was interesting. I liked that.
I have been invited to lunch by a total stranger with whom I have had one email exchange. She is a realtor I had contacted about purchasing an apartment. When I told her that I could no longer consider buying since no one will lend me money to do so, she responded with a lunch invitation to a place outside of Austin…on a lake…
I do not know many people in Austin yet. I like eating at restaurants. This means that I eat alone at restaurants. The average restaurant in the US caters to families, couples, people eating alone, polar bears, aardvarks…in fact, they cater to just about anyone (at least since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that made segregation in public places such as restaurants and lunch counters illegal). It is easy to eat a very good meal for a very reasonable price, alone and comfortably. I can highly recommend the tamale cakes at The Shady Grove. Tamale cakes are an amazing combination of fried masa, pulled pork, queso, green chili sauce and pico de gallo (all staples of Tex-Mex cuisine). I’m sure the tamale cakes taste just fine when dining with others but I think they must be even even more delicious when dining alone…especially when washed down with a Houston-brewed Weisse Versa beer (how could I possibly resist ordering that?). The tamale cakes and the beer came to $17.00 (NOK 140)…plus tax…plus tip.