If you haven’t read my Randomly Informative About Page, I’ve lived overseas for quite a few years of my adult life. On 3 separate continents in 4 separate countries (England, Scotland, Australia, and Italy). Though each country was different and there were aspects I loved about each of them, there were certain common themes I found myself missing about the States.
I loved all my experiences overseas, so I hope you won’t take this as a criticism of other cultures (I love them!), but just a girl who missed her Patria when she was away. This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Manwich. All opinions are 100% mine.
1. My Favorite “American” meals
Though I cook the same wherever I live – vegetables and fruits and pastas, rice and tortillas are more or less everywhere – there were some foods I grew up with that I missed. It wasn’t as though I didn’t like local food, far far from it. But there were days we woke up and paid the outrageous prices at the Hard Rock Cafe just to get some American food and free refills. What are the foods I missed most? Manwich (for sloppy joes) was one of these. Canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie was another and crescent rolls was the third.
I made homemade versions of Manwich and they did not have what I like to call Memory Taste. One Thanksgiving I made pumpkin pie from an actual whole pumpkin. Two other couples were there, one husband who was American, and we both agreed. Some foods have better Memory Taste from the can.
Anyway, I am happy to make sloppy joes for my kids because a) I love them, 2) they love them and d) I love eating the “American food” that I really missed during my time away. Manwich actually tastes great with meatballs as well. But with sloppy joes, one of the most important parts for me is the bun. The buns should be buttered, sprinkled with garlic salt, then broiled until a bit crispy. This makes it taste just that much better.
2. The Convenience of… Everything
I lived in Italy 12 years ago. Whew, I am old. Even then people joked that Italy was 10 years behind the rest of the world in technology. Far ahead in fashion, food, and history. But in matters of business or “getting things done” I tell you… every time I had to run an errand my blood boiled. I might sit in a bank for 30 minutes waiting (behind no one) because the teller was discussing their dinner menu. Or wait in the post office to pay a utility bill that had to be paid in exact change and couldn’t be dropped in a dropbox.
Of course, life is not about convenience, nor should it be, but when you spend 20 years used to things happening quickly, it was a seriously hard adjustment. I joke that it might take me a week to run 5 errands. I joke because I had to laugh so I didn’t cry. In England, Scotland, and Australia, things were more or less as convenient as I remembered in America. I will say, there seemed to pervade more of an idea that quality of life was more important than convenience. That was good for me.
3. Customer Service
In America we like to say the “customer is always right.” Of course customers are not always right. However, you get used to those in the service industry paying deference to the customer, being attentive in a restaurant setting, or working hard to fix any support or customer service issues that may arise with a product or service. After having lived elsewhere, I can say this is truly an America perspective.
In Italy, we could’ve died of thirst before the waitress came back. That’s why the Italians ordered so much wine in one shot. Ha! In England and Scotland, they were kind but reserved. I actually had an English friend tell me British people would rather eat a dish they did not like and hadn’t ordered than send it back and get the right one. As we know, there is no right or wrong culture, just different.
But I realized early on that if I came across as “pushy” or “America” then they thought I was rude and I got pushback. Even if they had made a mistake and I was just asking for what I paid for. Instead of being forthright and blunt (thought not rude) as I usually am, I learned to beat around the bush a bit. It was hard for my Confident + Take Charge personality, but I did it.
4. Casually Talking to Strangers
I suppose this depends on which part of America you are from, but here in the South we talk to strangers. In fact, we talk to everyone. We comment on the rain, the traffic, how long the line is taking, and anything else that comes to mind. In the UK and Australia, there was some occasional stranger talking, but I usually felt a bit silly. My Scottish friend says it this way, “If you talk to someone on a street corner in Aberdeen they’ll think you want something.”
Now, in Italy, there was a lot of stranger talking. I mean a lot. But it was not the “nice day” type of talk. It was more along the lines of “you are beautiful” and “the most beautiful girl in the world” talk. Even when you know that is a complete and utter lie, it was nice. But again, you didn’t really answer these comments back because who knows where that would lead. A quick smile and you kept walking. That said, people did like to practice their English on us so we did have a lot of interesting conversations.
5. Understanding Cultural References
I took for granted knowing who the people on magazine covers were. Who the TV presenters were and the names of favorite TV shows, bands, and movies. When you are in another country you know nothing. It would be like not knowing who Tom Cruise or Arnold Schwarzenegger are. You just have no clue. When you are speaking in another language (which is hard enough) this makes it more difficult to know what’s going on.
Of course, with time you pick some of these things up. Some you never will. Like commercials from the third grade everyone remembers. This isn’t life or death and doesn’t matter much, but it did seem to highlight itself during times of homesickness. It was just a little reminder I was trying to feel at home somewhere I wasn’t really at home.
“Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.” Jodi Picoult
I hope this post didn’t come across as American superiority or whiney. I have been blessed to have lived in other exciting places. They have shaped me and made me who I am today! But living far from home (even in another country) is tough. I know it’s tough because I’ve one it and because I read your precious emails, many of you who are far from family and in the most interesting and exotic of places.
Since returning home, I’ve tried to settle the kids in. Start traditions. Movie nights and other things they will remember with fondness. In my opinion, it is the little things that mean the most. I appreciate the hard and the good of being far from family and near it. And at the end of the day I suppose the best option is this.
To bloom where you are planted.
I was so excited to partner with Manwich for this post as I grew up with Billy Madison (yes, don’t pretend you don’t know) and sloppy joes. Manwich has no meat (for those who avoid that), and can be used in meatloaf (another super American meal), dips and appetizers, and even as a taco sauce. There are a lot more recipes here, on Manwich Monday Recipes. If you’d like to institute a Manwich Monday in your home, check out the ConAgra Foods Site to find out where Manwich is sold near you.
There are three different Manwich flavors, Manwich Original (our favorite because of Memory Taste), Manwich Bold, and Manwich Thick & Chunky. They’re known for their sweet and tangy taste, and you can read more about their products here. If you are a tweeter, you can also Follow Manwich on Twitter. Or if you prefer email updates, Sign-up for ReadySetEat eNewsletter.
Manwich is going to give away a prize package. All you have to do to enter is visit this recipe site then tell me your favorite recipe! It includes:
- 3 different varieties of Manwich (the three mentioned above)
- a $50 gift card to buy everything you need for your recipe
- stainless steel sauce pan
- a branded spoon and tote