I recently mentioned certain Big Faceless American Companies (BFAC) I will be visiting this summer (i.e. Starbucks) vs. BFAC I won’t (McDonalds—I don’t like plastic food). Ok so I’m a bit of a snob—in the nicest possible way of course. I also realize that Starbucks is just as much a BFAC as McDonald’s, but at least I like their basic product, and I miss it.
This got me thinking about upcoming Reverse Culture Shock. I remember last time I went home—there were so many things I’d forgotten about:
Dishwashers—I’d been at my in-laws 3 days doing dishes by hand when my MIL asked me why I didn’t use the dishwasher. I’d forgotten they exist!
Free refills—a uniquely American idea.
Customer service—that was I was really happy to re-encounter. “Is everything all right folks? Can I get you anything else?” You just don’t hear that at restaurants here.
Enormous stores, their fluorescent lighted distances softly beckoning, their ACs humming no matter the actual weather outside, their nondescript floors muffling your footsteps. I remember going into Culture Shock right in Safeway, in the cereal aisle. There was just too much choice! I was paralyzed into inaction, and eventually broke down, clutched a box of Corn Flakes, and departed, softly weeping. Ok it wasn’t quite that bad, but I was a bit overwhelmed–especially at the mall. I think the fluorescent lights make it worse, somehow. I don’t know why. Here in Mauritania, we have our own special version of various stores. For example, we have Macy’s:
And of course many modern restaurants—we’re cutting-edge here, we are:
We have “Pizza Hot”:
And, my personal favorite, Nouakchott’s famous Golden Arches themselves:
This year we have also gotten a Home Depot (painted orange, appropriately enough) and a 7-11, minus the Slurpee of course. I wish our camera was working so I could show you—they have copied the logos exactly. Inside, you’ll find exactly what you find in every other store in the country—tinned tomatoes, Wheatabix and Corn Flakes, packages of dry macaroni, little cockroaches scurrying out of sight, chocolate biscuits melted together, shampoo, palm oil, potatoes, onions, batteries and long-life milk—an odd mix of everyday items.
We even have the Michelin man:
I couldn’t get the picture of the University entrance to upload so you will have to wait.
PS No I don’t know why the Michelin picture is bigger than the others. They are the same size on my computer. The thumbnails can be viewed full size if you just click on them.