Every time we come "home," things here seem just a little different. It's hard to tell if we're changing or if this American life we remember so fondly is changing... probably a little of both. This return, though, I thought I'd write out some of my first impressions of life in Boulder to glance back upon after we've been here a few weeks to see if they still stir even a small amount of culture shock.
- Exercise Mania! Every trail seems crowded with runners. Cyclists swarm every road, snow covered or not. Hikers, walkers, and rec centers seem to amass on every street corner, showing off not only their athletic prowess, but their triple digit (minimum) gear. It's strange to be back in an exercise culture, realizing just how different life seems in Russia. Exercise in Russia does not feel like a lifestyle, but rather something built into daily life or a luxury for a day off. Already, this moment from Back to the Future has popped into my head multiple times.
- Really, we're still wearing Crocs? Boulder fashion really exists in a world of its own. I caught myself staring at Boulderites in various places around town just trying to figure out what exactly people were wearing. Layers of hemp, wool, dreds, plastic, pajamas, and all kinds of other materials seem to envelop people here, seemingly in a way that other Boulderites can appreciate, but so foreign to the city standards of Moscow to which I've become accustomed. I never thought that I would frown on a style concept I used to embrace so fully. However, after a few years in a new culture with new norms, I can certainly see why Boulder was voted one of the 40 worst dressed cities in America.
- It's been only a few days, but we've already met the two friendliest people in America. Despite its quirks, Boulder continues to uphold the customer service standards consistent across the USA. People are so friendly, so accommodating, and so kind here - and just doing their jobs. Our cashier at Panera actually cheered when I ordered a coffee drink. Finally, I thought, somebody who gets it!
- Food. Americans don't seem to use the word "food" anymore. It's been replaced with "organic," "natural," "whole grain," "free range," "hyper-allergenic," "gluten free," "produce codes," "Greek yogurt," etc.. It's a bit intimidating, not to mention overwhelming, to step into this cultural focus when so few food alternatives are available where I live and provide meals for my family. It feels as though America's obsession with food has not changed, just the terminology used to describe it. I'm aware that Russia is not a "food culture," but I'm realizing what exactly a "food culture" looks like every time I come home here.