When living abroad, it's impossible not to compare the new place with your experiences from the past. During the past eight years I've found many things I like about the USA, and many I just can't stand.
I love flavored coffee and flavored mashed potatoes. I love that gas is cheap.
I am disgusted by the healthcare system, weak animal rights laws, and people's unwillingness to care for the less fortunate. To me, it is self evident that the stronger must care for the weaker. Here, many people have an attitude of, "I don't care - I'm keeping my money." Or, "All the homeless people are just lazy. People on unemployment are lazy and watch TV. Immigrants just come here to get welfare."
I've even encountered people who have asked how I can be good at math when I'm a woman. Because, you know, the female brain would logically be smaller than the male, so women must be dumber.
On the other side of the coin, there are many fantastic, wonderful, dedicated people. So many people do so much good to outweigh the bad, out of no other reasons than wanting to help, that it can restore a person's faith in humanity. People work selflessly around the clock to feed the hungry, build houses for the homeless, and care for those in need.
You don't see that in Sweden, at least not to the same extent, because our society is so different.
One thing I don't like here, and I think it's the root to many problems, is that it's becoming a society built for idiots. I'm not saying the American people are idiots, at least not yet, but so much has been geared towards selling things through relieving people from the need to think.
Religion is an example. In the USA, I have met some truly devoted people who live like they learn and do incredible amounts of good.
There are also huge churches with extremely rich pastors - funded by the congregations - that have nothing to do with faith. Sure, the congregations slap stickers on their cars about, "Keep Christ in Christmas," or "What Would Jesus Do," but what really happened is that they've been spoon-fed tiny pieces of a book. Only pieces that fits their pastor and his or her agenda. They've turned off their brains and have no interest in thinking or learning. Actually, many have told me that learning is detrimental, because knowing things would cause them not to act on faith.
I have met many people who don't have an opinion of their own on anything - they have to ask their pastor what to think.
"What do you think about the price of gas?"
"I don't know. I have to ask my pastor." "
What do you think about the war in [wherever, there's always a war]"
"I don't know. I have to ask my pastor."
I even met one young woman who was falling for a young man in her bible class, but she wanted to ask her pastor if it would be okay for her to date him.
I guess if this makes them happy that's fine, but it is counterproductive for growth. If you have a society with a dictator, it's convenient to have a population who will obey without question. A democracy requires people to think and make independent decisions.
Up until now I still haven't cared all that much about the "system for idiots" because besides being annoying it hasn't affected me personally.
Now, I have to stage my house.
The goal is to get as much money as possible for my home. I get that, and I need money. Since the house is located in the USA, I have to adapt to the real estate market here. I get that too.
It's still stupid.
As a Swede, I consider a real estate transaction an affair that involves real estate. I sell or buy a piece of land that may have a building. If there is a building, I'm interested in the shape.
In the USA, you sell or buy a dream.
Turn on any home improvement channel and you'll see what I mean. People are herded from house to house, looking at furniture that has been rented for the sake of home staging, saying, "Oh look, I could sit here and read when I come home from work. And look at that table, what a perfect spot for morning coffee."
This is my favorite: someone stares at an antique urn or an expensive sculpture and says, "Look at the decor. This place is beautiful."
You could just as well lead them through a furniture store. I always wonder if they're surprised when they arrive to move in and the house is empty. Because, that's what they bought: a house.
If the house isn't fully staged, because an actual human still lives in it, the comments become even dumber. They look into a closet the size of my bedroom and say, "It looks a little cramped" - because the person living there has more clothes than an H&M store. The point when looking at a closet is, will your clothes fit there?
I suspect these comments and reactions are staged too, because it pre-programs people on what to see when buying, so they will spend more money without thinking about it.
As a Swede, my first instinct when wanting to sell my house is to fix things on it - not rearrange the furniture, rent new furniture, or hang a lamp. When my agent realized I really don't understand, he gave me a list of things to do. Today, I'm taking all my books to storage, and I'm building a fake bed out of air mattresses, so people will want to curl up and fall asleep in the back bedroom.
The inner viking says I shouldn't comply, because doing so is detrimental to the common good, but this time she'll have to sit down and be quiet, because I really need to sell my house. I'm broke, lol.
Consider this: if you never have to think, if you're constantly encouraged not to think and you have everything spoon-fed to you, will you know how to think when you need to?