My stepson and his wife were in the States last week. Katrin is a native Berliner. This was her first trip to the United States. They'd been in Ontario the week before to attend the wedding of her daughter, Svea. So by the time they reached Virginia Katrin, who hadn't taken a large vacation in years, was getting weary.
"I can't believe how much time Americans spend in their cars. They drive everywhere and it's always a long ride. Ten minutes to get here, fifteen minutes to get there."
When I told her my son had an hour and twenty minute commute to work every day, her chin dropped.
One must remember that public transportation in Berlin, and most European cities, is widely used. Berlin is alive with trolleys, metro systems, trains and taxis. The streets pulse with energy as throngs of people walk everywhere. Katrin was missing that. "I just want to walk down the main street of an American city and hear the noises of traffic, smell the aromas from neighborhood bakeries and eateries and hear music spilling out onto the streets from little shops." Sorry, hon, that ain't happenin' here. This is the land of mass produced food and shopping malls.
She had fallen in love with the Dollar Store; it appealed to her frugal German nature I suppose. She'd also made the important discovery of an American institution--the yard sale. "Look at this leather purse. I bought it for a dollar!"
Katrin had never heard cicadas, polluting the night's silence with their constant noise. "I kept hearing this noise in the background, all the time at night. I thought I was loosing my hearing or something."
They've gone back to Berlin now. We enjoyed having them here and especially enjoyed hearing her impressions of America. Different cultures have multi-colored, many-layered differences. Still, underneath the many differences, we are all humans. As JFK said, "We all breathe the same air. We all have the same hopes and dreams for our chldren."