Two Years After I Moved To Europe, Here Are The 15 Things About America I'm Most Homesick For
"The idea of it is so all-American — and I haven't been able to find the equivalent of it since moving."
Hi there, I'm Michelle. Almost two years ago,
I made the move from the US to Germany, and while I love this part of the world, I've been feeling homesick lately for all the little things I can only do in the States.
Michelle No / BuzzFeed
A lot of things on this list could be improved if I just spoke the language here, but many others are simply things that no other country can replicate in any way.
Without further ado, here are all the things I'd do if I could live in the US again:
Travel through the vast Midwest.
Matt Anderson Photography / Getty Images
I've spent most of my life living in either Los Angeles or New York, and I admit I never took the time to properly explore the Midwest. I long to cruise through deserted, wide open highways flanked by rolling hills, go to a Hoosier football game, or enjoy the hospitality of a Kansas City BBQ joint (lol, this is my understanding of Midwestern things — please comment below to correct me). The abundance of space, the niceness, the
food — it's a completely new world that I've overlooked for too long.
Appreciate small talk with strangers.
Kali9 / Getty Images
Some people hate small talk. As for me, it's what makes me feel connected to a community, and one of the little ways I express my personality. Living somewhere I don't speak the language has been hard in that it's taken away this tiny form of expression, and I can't wait to get to a point with my German where I can casually tell my favorite bread guy how much I love the grain rolls.
Explore various desert landscapes.
Francesco Riccardo Iacomino / Getty Images
Though I spent most of my teenage years in desert-like conditions in Southern California, I never appreciated it. Now that I'm surrounded by damp forests and the Alps, I crave the poetic stillness of the desert landscape.
Grocery shop at a Trader Joe's.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Trader Joe's is a national treasure, and everyone in its vicinity should include it in their gratitude list every day. Just to name a few of the items I would pay lots of money to have in my local grocery store: Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, Speculoos Cookie Butter, cauliflower gnocchi, peanut butter–filled pretzels, and ALL of the chopped, sliced, and bagged vegetables. (Hauling a gigantic cabbage home and chopping it up takes about half a day, I've learned.)
Go to any one of 400+ national parks across the country.
Franckreporter / Getty Images
Did you know the US is home to
423 national parks? I remember visiting Sequoia National Park for the first time when I was a kid, and feeling like I had entered an entirely new country. It was so big and incalculably grand. I never appreciated just what a luxury it was to have access to so many vast, spacious, breathtaking natural spaces until, well, I didn't.
Appreciate the fact that I can do cumbersome bureaucratic tasks by myself.
Morsa Images / Getty Images, Michelle No
Independence is a privilege I didn't realize I had until I moved to Germany. To interpret any letter I get about my taxes, visa, flat, or health insurance, I need the help of both my Google Translate app and, if the letter requires a reply, a German-speaking person who can more precisely tell me what's required of me. It adds loads of unnecessary stress and planning in my life, and I reminisce about the days when I could change my wi-fi provider all by myself.
Have a sustained conversation about race politics.
My biggest culture shock when I moved abroad was realizing just
how hard it is to broach the subject of race in casual conversation. Sure, it's not a walk in the park in the States either, but at least I can be confident that people won't look at me as if I've started a fire.
Be surrounded by locals who look like me.
Along the same lines, I long to have an extensive community of Asians who understand exactly what I'm going through — people who understand the specific-to-Asians hurdles of being an immigrant in a country, whether it's the US or Germany. I was lucky enough to have that when I lived in both LA and NYC, but Germany's small minority of Asian locals has made creating that same community harder.
Visit Disneyland. 😍
Aaronp / GC Images
I've never been a big Disneyland fanatic. Is it weird that ever since moving to Berlin, I've fantasized regularly about visiting Disneyland? I daydream about immersing myself in a colorful, cartoonish ecosphere where every single visual element is designed for pure entertainment. I dream of powdery funnel cakes that coat my mouth with sugar. I burn with the need to spend $100 on Disney-themed souvenirs I will wear unironically. One thing's for sure: The first thing I'm planning when I go back to the States is a trip to Disneyland.
Buy and eat all the American snacks available.
Chicago Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty Images
There are the classics, like Hot Cheetos, Ruffles, and Cool Ranch Doritos, but also the Papa's Pops skinless popcorn, Terra chips, and ALL of the Girl Scout cookies. There's literally no equivalent here to any of the above, and I am convinced that snack-making is an American-bred skill.
Visit my alma mater, Scripps College.
Lure Photography / Via
It's the same refrain: As soon as I moved abroad, I started missing the most unexpected things. My alma mater, Scripps College, was one of them. I didn't love college with much intensity, so it's weird just how deeply I long to be back at my old campus. I hit my thirties for the first time last year, so my nostalgia might be tied to some youthful reminiscing. But it's also the fact that the idea of a "college campus" is so all-American, and a concept whose equal I haven't found in Germany.
Go to a drug store and stock up on meds.
There's a reason why many Americans living in Germany make it a point to stock up on meds like ibuprofen, melatonin, and acetaminophen when they're back home. Anything more potent than a simple vitamin isn't sold at your local grocery store here and is a pain to shop for. I miss the days when I could pop into a CVS and grab a Twix, an industrial-size bottle of Tylenol, Neosporin, and an iPhone charger all in one go. The convenience of American living is unparalleled.
Appreciate the wonders of air-conditioned rooms.
As someone who's sitting in her 88-degree apartment with her blinds drawn and her fan running on high, I dream of a day when I can be back in an office so cold I need to put a sweater on. (I can't believe I ever complained about that.)
Make more friends.
There's no one friendlier than an American stranger, and that's a fact. I yearn to be back in the States, where I can walk into any bar, networking event, or bouldering gym, and leave with plans to see at least one new friend for brunch the next week.
And above all, if I were still in the US, I'd appreciate my friends and family more.
As someone who lives far from the people who know her the best and who can make my anxiety go away with a single word of support, I will never take the ability to see my family and close friends for granted. Now that my time in the US is limited, I truly
do strive to live more in the present when I'm with them, because I know it'll be a long time until I see them again.
Have you ever moved from one country to another — and missed a lot about home? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
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