Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dear USA, I wish you would quit these 5 things

Dear United States of America,

You and I have been in a relationship for a while now, and I feel like we have arrived to a point where we need to talk about some minor issues. I still like you (don't worry, I won't say the other L word, I know we are not ready for that kind of commitment yet), but I feel like I need to express my feelings and voice my concerns, to keep this relationship healthy. To make this painless and time-efficient, I made a list of the top 5 things I would like to see changed in the near future:

Right on red
I understand that everyone is very important and everyone needs to be somewhere RIGHT NOW, but this "right on red" concept makes me feel insecure. As a pedestrian by European birthright, having to jump in between cars turning from two or three different directions while the light indicates it is my turn to walk makes me feel undervalued and kind of invisible. I mean, I might as well jump into traffic at any given point and pray. I understand prayer is important to you, but this behavior is no way to encourage it.

Toilet doors
Honey, I hate to break it to you, but I have noticed an ever widening disconnect between toilet doors and door frames around here. I am a firm believer in the universal sisterhood of women, but that does not mean that I need to establish eye contact with each and every one of them while I am changing tampons. You might not have this experience, so I am just letting you know.

I appreciate openness and communal sentiment, but frankly, I don't think we should air dirty laundry in front of strangers. It definitely hurts our relationship. Making the presence of a washing machine in an apartment the sign of some kind of adult commitment is juvenile, and I feel like I need to put my foot down about my basic needs. I understand that it is the tradition of your people to parade dirty panties down the street and into the laundromat where they can tumble cheerfully around on full display in the company of their playmates, but we need to find some kind of a cross-cultural common ground.

I need more warmth in this relationship, especially when it comes to drinks (and by the way, soda, pop, coke, please make up your mind). There is a range between "European warm soda" and "shattered upper incisors." I know it is hard to believe, but it is a wonderful mystical land and I have been there.

Shop decorations
I understand that you are enthusiastic about holidays, and I truly like that about you. It's cute. However, sometimes you need to give me a little time to breath and regroup. I simply don't have the energy to wake up from the food coma of fervent Christmas celebrations, and lunge straight into some carefree Valentine's Day shopping spree. I simply can't. Sometimes I just need some animalistic, mindless workdays devoid of emotional attachments. And, honestly, if someone gives me a box of chocolates they bought eight weeks ago, heart-shaped box or not, I will take it as a symbol of contempt, not love.

That is all, I guess. I know it sounds like a lot, but these are all small changes that could be implemented over time with minimal effort, for both of our sakes. Please promise me you'll think about it.

Like you,

(Obviously, this is not a Hungarian themed post per se, but I am Hungarian and these are the cultural differences no one warned be about, so there you go. What were your most stunning sources of culture shock?)


  1. The right on red really confused me, even as a driver.

  2. In Japan:

    1) Old women launching themselves blindly into oncoming traffic as if advanced age makes them Superman. This applies to roads and sidewalks alike. Old women will leap out of shops onto narrow sidewalks, step out into the middle of roads and completely disregard traffic signals in their tunnel vision objective to get wherever it is they are going. This has the unfortunate side effect of making all vehicle traffic exceptionally cautious. If I'm still three meters from the crosswalk, cars still stop and wait for me.

    2) The inability to do anything outside the book. It's not going to cause the entire corporation to collapse if you put an extra slice of tomato on my Subway sandwich. In every other country the definition of a Subway sandwich is making it to the customer's specific order. Why service workers in Japan can't make a sandwich with a few extra ingredients, or pay a bill at the bank without me having to go to the ATM to withdraw the cash, despite me having an account with that very bank, is beyond me.

    3) Squat-toilets. Literally the only thing hygienic about squatting over a bowl in the ground while your pant legs soak up the combined piss of all the other patrons before you who apparently expel liquids like a perforated water balloon is that those who break out in hives at the thought of putting their bum on a public toilet seat won't ruin the sitting experience for others by leaving their wet, yellow calling cards as evidence of their hover-peeing abilities.