More than a year ago, in late 2014, I decided that it might be a good idea to go spend some time in another country. As a German majoring in English, I have, even before making that decision, consciously tried to focus my studies on American literature and language only, because the US have always appealed to me more than any other country in the world, be it because I prefer the varieties of American accents over the other varieties of English that there are (linguistics is my second subject), or because I am a movie maniac and the USA have undoubtedly given us some of the best movies and TV shows in the history of the medium of television.
Anyways, whatever the reason, I wanted to go to the US, and I wanted to stay for longer than a week, and somehow I got myself accepted for an internship AND a scholarship, and after asserting that I am neither a terrorist nor an ill-willed person trying to overstay their welcome, the American consulate granted me an exchange visitor visa for three months in Massachusetts.
I moved in with a family in Malden, which is a little far off, but it was super cheap, and as a poor student, that was the most important factor for me. The second most important factor was, however, to not live alone. This is really important for anyone considering a stay abroad. The prospect of living in a foreign country without any familiar people around you is daunting enough. So try imagining living without literally anyone, familiar or not. The people I moved in with were strangers I only knew via the internet, but I shared my living space with them and could turn to them with any and all questions I had, which is incredibly central when you’re in a country you have never been in. Now, of course the US and Germany aren’t that far apart culturally, but you don’t know the differences truly until you leave them. And for having support through my first couple days, I am extremely grateful, since I have been told that the first few days are supposedly the worst. If that is true, I have had a seriously good stay so far.
Eating in the USA
What’s there to say about the food? Burgers are awesome. Yeah, big deal, like we did not know that already. The coffee, surprisingly, is really weak. Not bad, but weak. I thought it was just me, but I have talked to other Germans living in the US and even a Brazilian guy I met at Faneuil Hall, and they all say the same thing: American coffee is weak. Not bad-tasting, but a lot thinner than what I am used to. How can New York be the City That Never Sleeps when their coffee is such a thin brew? Or maybe it’s just Massachusetts?!
The other thing that Europeans are surprised by is the portion size in the US. You know, I was extremely confused about why their pizzas were so expensive when I wanted to get dinner at Regina’s Pizza, so I bought two slices, and, yeah, uhm. I understood then. One slice of pizza in America is about the size of one small pizza in Germany. Considering that, their pizzas are cheap. I still ate both slices, though, because I was hungry and I paid for them.
The first thing I learned to love about the US was a thing we do have in Germany, as well, but which I had never taken notice of before, and that is bagels. Heavens, how could I live all my life without bagels up to this point? Bagels are the best thing that has happened to me on my stay so far. If there is a heaven, its streets must be paved with bagels.
Lastly, it’s no secret that there is a large Italian community in the US, and that Italian food is probably the best food on earth. Boston’s North End has a street that is not actually called “Little Italy”, but it might as well be, because the houses looked like a scene straight out of “The Godfather”, and one Italian restaurant sat right next to the other. All of them not fancy, but small, cozy places, packed to the brim with people. And the food I had there was wonderful, authentic Italian food in wonderfully European portions, and after that I learned about the existence of cannoli and that when you are a guy and a competitive athlete training every day, you might be able to eat three cannoli at once, but for a lazy girl like me, one of these things was like a second dinner. However, they are extremely unhealthy, and therefore of course extremely delicious.
Stay tuned for Part 2 on Wednesday…
You can find Miriam here: