Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cognitive dissonance from living in another country

Dear Readers,

It has been a couple of weeks since I lasted posted.  I did not want all my posts to sound like Debbie Downer, focusing only on the hurdles to be overcome. 

Since my last post, our life has settled into some semblance of normalcy.  We have found an apartment in a quieter, cleaner area of the city nestled in the hillsides surrounding Vienna.  After three visits to the local magistrate, we obtained the necessary "Best√§tigung" document required in order to open a bank account.  In addition, we visited the Immigration office, M35, three times in order to obtain our Residence Permit IDs which look very similar to a US driving license.  So it seems things are accomplished in threes.  A new rule could be thus:  if you're living in another country, expect any official bureaucratic business to require at the least three trips to said office.

Now that we are officially registered and allowed to live and work here, life is settling into a routine.  Rachel started going to her job last week.  I have a job interview tomorrow for an English teaching position at Alpha SprachInstitute.

Our newfound calm has allowed me the luxury of contemplating some obvious differences and cultural clashes.  One is Air Conditioning (A/C).  Since moving over here in late July, we have not had A/C, as it is perceived as a luxury over here.  Actually, it is seen as more of a health risk and environment destroyer. During the pause in one of my German classes, I broached the subject of A/C from a typically American perspective.  What's the deal, why don't you have A/C over here? 

The response was interesting.  I had previously heard the argument that breathing recycled air is not healthy as I have a cousin in Hungary who despises A/C.  She says it is much healthier to breathe the hot, humid stifling air than to use A/C.   Obviously, I respond to this argument with the observation that many people who suffer from severe allergies benefit from inhaling filtered air.

Another argument against A/C is that it is bad for the environment.  Offered as anecdotal evidence supporting this point was my teacher's observation that when she walked by McDonald's (all McDonald's here have A/C), there was a gust of hot humid air which blew up at her from the vents.  I think she was saying that McDonald's A/C was expelling this searing hot air.  When so much hot air is released in an already hot city, it creates especially uncomfortable conditions.

When I proffered this argument to Rachel, her response was that creating cities is not good for the environment, meaning replacement green places with pavement create veritable ovens where people can virtually bake.

As usual, I can accept some of each side of the argument.  I thought the best argument for A/C was when, back in 2006, Europe suffered an extreme heatwave which caused, due to the lack of A/C, deaths among the elderly and the young.  But perhaps Europeans have a strong Darwinian streak and they just see this as survival of the fittest. 

So, the A/C cognitive dissonance remains although we are quite comfortable in our new, A/C-less apartment as temperatures have cooled since August highs.  In addition, our apartment looks out onto a street on one side and a courtyard on the other, allowing us to open opposite windows inviting a refreshingly cool draft. 

The rest of this brief entry shall examine another cognitive dissonance between technologies accepted in the US and seemingly unknown here--- the joint deoderant/ anti-perspirant stick. 

Unlike A/C, you might argue this is not life-threatening... but just perplexing.  Why does the US have the technology to create a Deoderant Stick that also has an Anti-Perspirant while Europe does not? 

This is particularly alarming as I am about to run out of my preferred Degree stick which is not sold here.  Upon examining the options in the Supermarkt yesterday, I found almost no white stick type options.  It seems everything is liquid or spray over here.  The spray comes in the form of the typical Axe container.  The liquid comes in these bottles shaped similar to our sticks but with a fuzzy applicator which absorbs the liquid and then transfers it to your armpits. 

My previous experience with this type of applicator came when my luggage went missing for several days.  The airport was kind enough to provide me with some necessary toiletries, one of which was a liquid deoderant... or was it an anti-perspirant.  I don't remember, all I remember was feeling stinky by the end of the day.  That's when Rachel first pointed out that you cannot get both features in one stick here, the choice is yours---- do you want to be stinky but dry, or sweet-smellingly sweaty? 

But, gosh darnit, I am American!  I do not want to choose!  I will be dry and lightly scented, that is the liberty I am accustomed to!

In all seriousness, if anyone knows of a brand that offers both deoderant and anti-perspirant protection, please inform me.  It seems my only option via Amazon would be to order my Degree stick at a whopping cost of 10 Euros per stick ($17).  Perhaps some European living in the US has realized Americans dependence on dry, nicely scented deoderant/anti-perspirant sticks.  I imagine when I place that order on, somewhere in America a European throws on his shoes and walks to CVS or Rite Aid to fulfill my order.  After paying shippping and handling, they'll still pocket a sweet profit.  Maybe being stinky isn't such a hardship after all...

A newly-settled Wiener,  A. Lantos


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  2. Nice post Mr. A. The hardships of not having luxury (aka Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems ).

    I'll have to look into that antiperspirant thing too as well, so I'll let you know what I find.

  3. most importantly....HOW IS SIMON?!?!?!