One of the first things that Joseba noticed about America when we arrived and that still catches his eye is the massive size of everything comparing with Europe. When we deboarded the plane you don't notice it so much in the Sea-Tac airport, and going through Customs or Immigration either. But when we hit the road it became very apparent and for his first sight of the continental US, he was shocked.
It started with my mom's car - a big Chevy Astro van (I think). It has seating for 8 or you can fold down the seats and throw a mattress in it. She loves it because she can cart around the whole family, grandkids and all, but to Joseba it was bigger than he ever imagined a regular passenger vehicle to be. We had just been camping in the South of Spain in a van of similar size and here we had lived in it for a week! Motor-homes the size of our apartment just don't exist in Europe, so the camping van is about as big as they get there.
Once belted in, we whizzed down the freeway, passing massive billboards and store signs. Again, a practice that is quite uncommon where he is from, he said 'it's just like the movies' and I guess it is.
We stopped off for dinner and proceeded to order. Being very American, I went ahead and ordered a strawberry lemonade, something I hadn't had for years and felt I should try it out again. Joseba did the euro-thing and ordered water. When the glass came, it was quite big comparing to what we are used to. In Europe, if you order say a Coke or something, you get the amount that fits in the can or little bottle it is manufactured in. After we finished my lemonade, he was confused as to why the waiter just brought out another one - free refills. Essentially, I could drink as much as I wanted - 32oz, 64oz, even more! Is bigger better? I only managed to polish off the first drink with his help and sadly we left the entire second cup full when we left.
The bigness continued when we arrived at Grammy's where the first thing he noticed was how big the toilet paper was. I know, it seems like a funny thing to notice, but leave it to a foreigner to think of something that probably has never crossed your mind...your bum yes. With a plethora of toilet paper options - 2-ply, 1-ply, quilted, extra soft and more - Joseba was mostly confused as to why the sheets were so WIDE? This one still gives him a kick today.
While speaking about food we can segway into two more big things that affect each other - the portion sizes and the people sizes here. On our first day in Seattle we stopped of at a quick-serve Chinese restaurant to order some chow-mein and be on our touristy way. When we saw the portion size, we decided that splitting one was probably the best way to go and got full from 1 serving portion together. As many of you are well aware, the portion sizes in America are ever expanding, while in Europe it seems that they are staying close to the same. Save for big cities like London, Berlin and other capitals, it seems that if you order something for dinner, you won't get even close to half as much as if you were ordered in the States. This has a direct effect on the waist lines of our citizens. This obesity business with be a whole different blog someday, so I'll move on.
From semi-truck cabs (lorry) and pick-up trucks to stores and parking lots, Joseba has noticed that in America, everything seems to run size L. Partially that is influenced by the fact that we live in the West, a vast part of the country that when settled was not built in the likes of the East Coast's NYC, Boston or Philly. Here, our streets are wide and lined by old massive trees. With so much space we have been able to build stores that wouldn't even be thought about in The Basque Country - with 2 or three floors of selection. The list goes on and on. But we have to remember that our country is pretty much the same size as the entire continent of Europe (3.5 million square miles vs. 3.9). In the land where bigger is often considered better, Joseba is having a lot of laughs and suprised moments discovering the big differences.
More to come soon!