When we first moved to the US in July 2011, I had this idea to collect small observations about my new life here. Trivial things to anyone who has lived here for any amount of time, but things someone who newly arrives in this country could find useful. It is now too late, I can no longer apply the beginner’s mind that is required to even notice these things.

Or can I?

One of the things that stuck with me from my recently completed MBSR course is that concept of the Beginner’s Mind, and how it is always available to you. I find that a very powerful and useful thing. We make so many assumptions about everything and everyone around us. What if you could step back and observe a situation for just what it is, without any experiences or suppositions normally attached to it in your mind? It is a great tool to have, and something that can also be applied to trivial things. So I started to ‘re-notice’ these trivial observations about U.S. life and culture. Here are some from yesterday:

  • There are $1 coins but hardly anyone uses them
  • Unless you use your own bank’s ATM to get cash, you pay $2-4 in fees
  • People don’t drink buttermilk, it’s only used for baking
  • There is no merge lane when you enter a freeway
  • Cities are inside out, the majority of living / shopping / restaurants happens on the fringes, downtown is mainly for working
  • Your driver’s license is your main form of official ID
  • Retail prices generally do not include sales tax
  • Diesel is more expensive than gasoline and not very popular
  • You can put a letter / postcard in your own mailbox to mail it
  • You can turn right without waiting for the light to turn
  • Laws, rules, taxes vary a lot between states
  • American Mozzarella, Brie, Gruyere or Feta are not what you think they are

It’s fun to re-notice these things, and there is perhaps a book idea there, along the lines of The Undutchables.