The Only Difference Is Everything

I’ve been back in the US for almost two months now. I’m not quite over my culture shock (or reverse culture shock), which I wrote about earlier.

I’m driving now, which is a bit strange after taking public transport for the past five years. I’ve spent part of today (more than I’d like, really) looking into the best and easiest way to get from my place into DC proper via public transport. Even though I’m only about 25 miles away from DC it’s going to take me about an hour and a half door-to-door. That feels ridiculous to me, and ridiculously inefficient. But it is what it is, so I have to cope.

One thing that I was really looking forward to upon moving back was donating plasma. For some reason the UK and NHS doesn’t accept plasma donations. They can do platelets and whole red blood, but not plasma. There are many places in the US where you can do it, though, and some even will even pay you for it. That’s a decent way to make some extra money, I suppose, though I would feel a bit strange doing that. Other places like the American Red Cross don’t pay you, nor do they accept plasma donations as often, but have more reach as a non-profit. The problem I have now, however, is that I cant’ donate. Not blood or plasma. Apparently having spent more than five years in Europe disqualifies me. Seemingly forever. I have to say, I’m more than a little upset about this. Blood is blood. My blood was good enough to use in the UK, it should be good enough to use here. What’s changed, other than my living situation? It’s bollocks, is what it is.

Another thing that’s bollocks is the amount of sugar in, well, everything. Why is there sugar in bread? Why is it so hard to find bread without sugar? Even when I can find it, sugarless bread is insanely expensive. I don’t understand why it’s such a problem. The incessant sugar, which has no health benefit whatsoever, could help explain why Americans have troubles with weight, diabetes and other health issues, though there are of course many other reasons). It shouldn’t really be surprising about a recent story concerning the sugar lobby, which years ago paid scientists to push health issues towards fat. One more example of money corrupting whatever it touches.


Another difference which I have found annoying is the inability to plug in a new sim card into my old British phone. In the UK I had an iPhone 5C. It’s a model that is made around the world, including the US. I had specifically unlocked my phone so that I could use it in the US. But US phone companies don’t use the same carrier networks or frequencies as those in the UK (or the rest of the world, actually). So even though my phone would work in literally any other country, it wouldn’t work in the US. For no other reason than American companies have to be different. Someone at one of the major carrier companies tried to explain why sim cards aren’t as prevalent here — something to do with potential theft and identity fraud — but that makes no sense. Smart phones are so ubiquitous that sims should be common. Not to mention that sims themselves don’t actually carry much, if any personal information which would make identity theft easy or common.

One more striking difference between the US and UK that I’ll be pointing out today is charity shops. Having moved into a new apartment and needing, well, pretty much everything you need to make a home, I’m a little disappointed with the lack of charity shops. Yes, the US has Goodwill. But those are few and far between. Alas. Back in the UK it seemed like there were charity shops on nearly every street corner. That could, perhaps, be a bit biased since there were, literally, four on one road just around the corner from me and a few more throughout town. But other places I visited had them as well. So they were all around. Since the shops were mostly, if not wholly, stocked with donations, the UK has definitely taken the approach that ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’. On the other hand, the UK had far fewer swap meets and garage sales. They have their own positives and negatives, then.

So I have struggled to adapt. The differences, which seem so minor, make reintegration hard. I’m used to having and doing things a certain way, and I just can’t get those anymore. Shame.

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