Thursday, March 24, 2011

A year in La La Land

It's been a year since we stumbled bleary-eyed through the gates at LAX and arrived here. In the spirit of this milestone, I thought I'd list some of the good and bad about life in La La Land so far. Not in any particular ranking...

Things that amuse me

1. The advertising for prescription medicine
I'm guessing there are federal guidelines which state that medication can't be advertised on TV, radio, or in print media unless the risks and side effects are clearly stated. All the commercials I've seen for various anti-depressants, contraceptive pills and so on have a large portion where the negative risks are mentioned. Call me crazy, but when I've just listened to 30 seconds where possible nausea, blurred vision, diarrhea, incontinence and worse are mentioned as possible side effects... I'm not really tempted to buy or ask for this product. Also, given that prescription medicines aren't advertised in Australia or the UK, the fact that they are even advertised here has always struck me as odd: Doctor, I don't want that brand of anti-depressant, I want this one that I saw on TV. I may not have a medical degree but I'm sure I know better than you because I saw the ad for it...

2. Commonly used euphemisms
Bath tissue = toilet paper, nursing = breastfeeding, restroom = public toilet
Toilet is an embarrassing word to use? Or maybe it's considered distasteful - I haven't figured it out. And breastfeeding? Really? This makes me laugh because there's a stereotype of Brits as being prudish, yet they have no problem using these words - and Australians definitely don't have a problem with them. But then, we can be a crude bunch.

3. Drive-through ATMS
Enough said.

4. Squirrels
I stalked them obsessively in London parks when we lived there - feeding them by hand - and I stalk them here when I see them, too. Which is often.

5. Nickels and dimes
I can never remember which ones are 5c or 10c coins, so I'm always thrown when someone refers to a nickel or dime during cash transactions (it doesn't help that the 10c coins are significantly smaller than the 5c coins). I know I'm not stupid, so I'm going to use the old - and convenient - 'baby brain' excuse. Let's overlook that fact that Miss Pie is now a toddler.

Things that will make me grumble

1. The health care system
I don't have the space here to rant about it, but simply put? It's woefully inadequate. The paperwork involved, and the time spent finding the appropriate doctor who actually accepts the health plan you're on is frustrating at the very least. I wouldn't want to be a person on a low income in the US. Free basic health care should be a given. For everyone.

2. High fructose corn syrup
Sure, food is really cheap here, and there's a reason for that - high fructose corn syrup. It's BAD for you, and in most of the food - unless you take the time to seek out the food that hasn't got it. Annoying.

3. Los Angeleno drivers
They seem oblivious to what an indicator is, they really do.

4. The coffee
Thick, tasteless foam in lattes and cappuccinos - yuck. I prefer my lattes creamy in texture - and with actual flavour - but my standards are gradually slipping and I'm becoming more accepting of how it is here.

5. American date format
Month/day/year? Sequentially, so illogical. After a year, I still have trouble writing it this way, and on more than one occasion I've had to tear up cheques I've written because of this.

Things that I love

We had access to Amazon in the UK as well, and I missed it when we went back to Australia. In those days, it was mostly books and music that were sold; these days, it's everything. Good prices and fast, cheap - if not free - shipping. What's not to love?

2. Trader Joe's
This grocery store is right up there with Whole Foods in my book, and their staff are so much friendlier. Their service is genuinely cheerful, and their food presented so appealingly. An early morning weekend visit there is always a happy start to the day.

3. Inn-N-Out Burgers
The tastiest fast food. EVER. All made from scratch on the premises, too.

4. America's love affair with peanut butter
A year ago, I'd have said that there's peanut butter found in places it has no business being in, but I've now embraced this. Peanut butter cookies, peanut butter ice cream with peanut butter cups, peanut butter-filled pretzels... I am a convert. My most recent discovery is the Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties (Girl Scout Cookies). To die for.

5. No more freaky creepy crawlies 
I saw my first American cockroach only last week, and it was tiny. It may just be that our apartment building is fairly new - so the pests have yet to move in - however, going a year without seeing a cockroach in Sydney would be unheard of. In the old terraced houses that we'd rented there, cockroaches were a fact of life. As were hideously fat stripy slugs, and an assortment of nasty spiders. Just the memory of brown huntsman spiders that gallop is enough to make me shudder. I'm not saying that Los Angeles hasn't got its own nasties; I just haven't encountered any yet. Here's hoping I don't!


  1. A whole year? Can't possibly be, can it?

    I love your take on La La Land. Excellent observations on all the salient issues. :)

    Bath tissue? I don't love it but then I'm not a huge fan of bog roll either. Toilet paper. Happy medium, surely?

    Peanut butter - I can't understand why you weren't just instantly on board. Peanut butter goes with EVERYTHING. But you know that now.

    As to the date format - yes! Stoopid. I couldn't get used to writing it that way. Seriously confusing.

    You live in LA! That's still such a trip.

  2. What about clam chowder and saltwater taffy? Oh, that's right ... those are my obsessions.

    Oh so many of the things I love about the US in there. One of the first things I always go for at USA Foods is peanut butter cups.

    And yes, I also find the "nursing" thing strange. There is this odd dichotomy in the US with a culture obsessed with boobs but unable to call the natural feeding process for a baby "breastfeeding".

    Not that Aussies aren't obsessed with boobs but they are a bit more laid back about sexual things in general and will drop swear words liberally. As you rightly pointed out, we share a lot of characteristics with the UK in that sense.

    I think a lot of it gets down to having the same sense of humour. In America, irony can be problematic in that some don't understand you can say something and not mean it. There is such a lot of positive "look on the bright side" of things (must be drilled into them from birth) so the self-deprecating type of stuff doesn't wash as well.

    J is still freaked out at even the tiniest of spiders so it did make me wonder about the insect issue. I don't shriek and dance around like a girl unless it's a huntsman.

  3. Angie -
    Ha! Does anyone really say bog roll? I know people who say bog, though (I'm married to one of them) but it gives such an icky visual, doesn't it? On my shopping list, it's always loo paper. Nice and simple.

    I've always loved peanut butter; I just initially thought it was overkill here. I've backtracked, big time. I'm so glad that peanut butter is good here, too. It's SHITE in the UK. I couldn't find any decent brands. It was like the old Kraft ad - they were either too dry, too oily, or too salty. I used to have to stock up on it whenever visiting countries that sold Kraft peanut butter because I knew at least that brand would be good. If any friends visited from Australia, they knew to bring me a jar of peanut butter. Now, it's Vegemite...

    Melbo -
    Clam chowder and saltwater taffy? Sounds... interesting...
    Yeah, the whole obsession here with boobs as sexual objects, but considered icky to get out in public to feed a baby - don't get me started! It makes me really angry, truth be told. Miss Pie was so young when we moved here, and I had a really hard time finding comfortable places to breastfeed her when out and about (I fed her regardless, but it sometimes involved resorting to sitting on the display furniture in Target etc for lack of somewhere other than a toilet to sit on). I can count on one hand the number of women I've seen publicly breastfeeding here, but maybe it's an LA thing. I've heard it's better in other, more liberal states like Oregon.
    Oh, and I'm pathetic with ALL spiders. I run and let J deal with it (I'd prefer him to squash or spray them, but he's rather Buddhist about it and releases them outside). I don't miss them!

  4. Sadly, yes, people really say bog roll. It's a bogan reality. J says bog? Hate that word. Dump is also hideous. But then, is there a pretty word to describe this particular event? I don't even like the word 'loo' - if I think about it, the sanitised American version 'bathroom' suits me. Or 'Ladies'.

    B does the catch and release, too. Death to all insects, that's my motto.

  5. various things noted by an American who lived in Britain, and is now back.

    The midwives and nurses and sometimes nastily, corrected me when I said 'nursing' instead of 'breastfeeding'. I'm sorry, I've heard nursing for 42 years, and now I'm less than a month post-partum and exhausted from lack of sleep and near constantly feeding the baby, I'm not up for vocabulary changes and it's not like your mistaking my meaning, is it?

    Peanut Butter in the UK: should you ever need to know, go to Aldi's and get theirs which says made in Georgia on it. Aldi and Trader Joe are owned by the same company--that's why TJ's has such nifty imports at the holidays, and why Aldi alone has decent peanut butter. Sadly, I discovered this only a few months before returning.

    Nickels, the 5 cent piece, are bigger because they were made of nickel which is a very cheap metal. Dimes used to be solid silver, so it took less to make 10 cents worth. Does that help?

  6. Thank you. I'll get the hang of the coins one of these days.

    As for those British midwives? That was nasty and unnecessary of them. Definitely not the time for a vocabulary lesson.

    I had no idea Aldi's (which also exists in Australia) and Trader Joe's were owned by the same company - that would explain the chocolate oranges I found there not that long ago. Mmm... chocolate oranges...