1. Big lawns and kind-hearted eccentrics. Lawns, lawns, soft, runaround-in-bare-feet lawns. Lawns only made better by the addition of purple-bearded “Bubble Man,” an enigmatic staple of Seattle’s Carkeek Park.
2. “How are you doing?” My daughter leaned in during an elevator ride on arrival in America and asked: Why is grandma always saying “how are you doing?” to people we don’t know? A TCK six-year-old, even heavily jet-lagged, quickly observes the informally chatty American nature.
3. Big dairy. Two-gallon buckets of ice cream and one-gallon containers of milk (7.6 and 3.8 liters respectively) thrive in a land of big refrigerators and big freezers.
4. Friendly, well-rounded encounters with kids. Within a minute of meeting a twelve-year-old family friend in Utah (true middle America) he politely said “nice to meet you,” asked about China and Hong Kong, asked if I studied Mandarin, and asked about the difference between Chinese food in America and Chinese food in China.
The next day I saw two of my young cousins. They played violin duets for me and my grandparents and then went outside and started a big, boisterous water fight with my kids and all of the other children within ear-shot-radius.
5. Big beverage containers. These monstrosities are on sale in America, but I can also envision Chinese taxi drivers adapting them for tea.
6. A surprising juxtaposition. Walking out of a breakfast joint in Seattle, I ran straight into “The China Daily.” For a moment I forgot where I was, but then I remembered the three-egg omelet, stack of bacon, mountain of potatoes, and three coffee refills that I had just consumed.
The People’s Republic of China has launched a low-key, ‘free newspaper campaign’ to capture the hearts and minds of Americans? Akin to a low-tech “Voice of America”?
7. Big trucks. A spike of hybrids and tiny Fiats have hit the roads, but gas guzzlers remain dominate. Maybe when gas costs as much as Coca-Cola (on a volume basis) transportation decisions will shift even more dramatically?
8. Retail daze. I wandered in a peaceful, dreamy mood all around Target (a big box store that markets itself as up-market to Wal-Mart). I lost track of all time gaping at aisle upon aisle of art and craft supplies, children’s toys, and foreign and familiar household items. I purchased so many children’s books that the cashier asked if I was a teacher. I bought a bulk-size box of diapers twice the size of the child who wears the diapers. Suitcase constraints kept me otherwise sane.