Saturday, November 23, 2013

Hi. How can I [not] help?

Just when I was about to write this post and rant about an average Customer Service experience, I found the image above, and it sums it up.

I'm sure you have been there at least one (or a dozen) times in your life. You desperatly need help with whatever issue you have, dialing a 1-800 number hoping to get a human on the other end of the cord, going into details, pouring your heart out, even addressing them by their name. And all you get is "I understand, I'm sorry, but I cannot help".

The options they give you are in a range of something a 5 year old could figure without having to call them or the answer that is listed on the FAQ page. Basically, not the one you were hoping to get. I don't know about the rest of people's reactions, but CS expeiences like that make me want to cry, ask them "Why don't you love me?" and yell out "Don't be a robot" all at the same time.

That is not to say that some Customer Service reps have been nice and/or helpful to me on a number of occasions, but once bad experience like that erases all the good memories of them from my brain.

Oh, and how much do you love the "Is there anything else I can do for you today?" standard, almost automatic, soul-less phrase at the end of the conversation?.. I find it at least insulting.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Political Correctness

politically correct
A way that we speak in America so we don't offend whining pussies.

The other day two hosts of a radio show mentioned how America has changed and the always present political correctness has become so dominating it's hard to communicate openly and honestly anymore. Now I myself have no idea the way America was 50 years ago, heck I'm not sure what it was like here before 2006, but it's clear to me that for the most part people DO filter their messages. Like, a lot.

One of the hardest adjustments I had to make was learning to watch my mouth and keep 1/3 of my thoughts to myself. In most cases, unless you're in your own kitchen and/or surrounded by your family, you should not say all the truth about how you feel. Just because. Being "politically correct" about anything and everything is the number one rule of successful communication.

Considering that the speaking manner in my native language is pretty direct and informal, trust me when I tell you it was quite the change for me. Just to give you a quick run-down of the cases where you have to extra careful choosing your words (if speak on the subject at all) are the ones that have to do anything with:


and some less known/recognized:

your management
your co-workers
someone else's children
anything to do with money
psychological conditions


[everything else that might displease anyone for any reason]

In short, watch your words, smile a lot and better pretend to agree than express your true and honest opinion, because most don't want to hear it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Do it for a Cause

heads up: no, I am not asking for money or donation in the post below

What does not shaving at all for a month, running for miles, walking barefoot on the streets of New York city and Bon Jovi singing have in common? All of them are done for causes. The good ones.

Expressions like "For a good cause", "Raise awareness" and "Donate to support" are heard and seen everywhere. As natural as it may seem and must feel for an average American citizen, the abundance of events "for a good cause" has had me feeling lost and "not getting it" for some time.

Allow me to pause here and note that I have absolutely nothing against any of the above mentioned. Selflessness is one of the most beautiful human traits, and caring is a what I sometimes I wish I had more of..

But back to my point, I find it curious how pretty much anything can be turned into the "I'll do it for a cause" act. I guess seeing how A can affect B and wondering if there could be doing too much and going too far when referring to charity is what I am having hard times with. I get how a concert or an album sales can impact the cause by donating of profits to it. But what I don't understand is how not shaving a face or armpits (a real charity, not kidding), not drinking water or not wearing shoes can benefit anyone or anything.

Can someone enlighten this ignorant immigrant here?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shop it Like you Mean it

The urge for shopping seems to run in people's blood here. Back in 2008 when the crisis gave a kick in America's economy butt, the only places where you couldn't notice it were the shopping malls - Friday through Sunday finding parking in a mall would still be a challenge.

Love for shopping, deals and spending money on a stuff that ends up not being used/touched/worn more than once molded the way businesses increase their profits and customers happily empty their pockets.

Is there a FREE movies showing in the park? Bet you there will be at least 3 food trucks making sure you stay hydrated and full. Going to the Dodgers game? Keep an eye for a super special deal at a gift store on your way in and out for baseball hats and sweatshirts at ridiculous prices that will make you feel like you're buying an expensive brand piece of clothing. 2 for 1 anyone? It's just like those stadium hot dogs, you just can't say "no" to them.

Good or bad, I am not here to judge. I am here to observe, report and avoid being manipulated as hard as I can. It doesn't always happen easily, because all those magnets, cards, keychains and bottle openers sure do look and wink at you. I mean, who can resist getting a $20+ cotton shirt with your favorite (or not so much) team, artist or event that you are never going to wear again? Even Olivia Wilde couldn't!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

You'll never get over them

They will follow you whenever you go. They will tell you what to do and what not to. They will not let your mailbox feel abandoned.You owe them. They own you.

They are your bills. They can be all kinds - medical, credit, insurance, mortgage, car, utility. But they all want one thing from you - to get them paid. 

I wish someone told me about them before I came here, I might have though twice about moving and settling down. That's a joke, obviously, but with all seriousness, it's insane how quickly the bills add up, and how the cycle seems never-ending. I don't know about the rest of you, but every time I hear an add for another service that "will make my life easier" and "I won't be able to live without" all I can actually think about "Just another bill I don't really need". 

As mad and not-accepting as I can be about them, there's little I can do to change. That is unless I am willing to change the lifestyle I lead and give up on the things I enjoy having around me. You know, like light in my apartment and those 4 shiny wheels to take me places. I owe them. They own me. C'est la vie {in the states at least}

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Red. White. Blue.

Oh American people! I cannot think of any other nation in the world that carry so much pride and respect for their flag and belonging to their nation.

American patriotism isn't something that only gets infused by a national holiday and Olympic games, it's an everyday occurrence, a state of mind. Ask a 7 year old whose parents came to the states from anywhere in the world of what he/she is and the response without hesitation will be "I am American!" Heck, even wearing stripes and stars on a t-shirt or summer DIY'd cut-offs is a pretty cool thing among anyone, old and young, American or not. That's tough to beat.

Unlike most other nations in the world, this melting pot of global cultures and heritages is oh so proud of being American. Makes me smile, admire and envy just a little every time I come across its expression. If only they taught "How to Love Your Country" in schools... I keep on dreaming, taking my hat off and getting ready to watch the fireworks.

Happy Birthday, America! Stay beautiful.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Honey, What's for Dinner?

I moved! Hence the missing posts (which I promised to myself I'd never do, but limited wi-fi access and "having to run around and take care of a dozen of things at the same time" situation have won) in the past two weeks. 
Everything went smoothly up until the point when I called to turn on gas and was told by a puzzled rep that there's no meter in my unit. That wouldn't be so strange if the building wasn't built in 60-s or so, and if there was no person occupying the apartment just 3 weeks before! 
I was told there was no available appointment time for installation for at least another week and this is when I found myself standing in the frozen meals isle. The virgin territory to me... I mean, yes, I'd buy frozen peas and carrots, and even frozen mangoes for my smoothies at times, but stuff like "Juicy Chicken with Creamy Alfredo" was never ever on my shopping list. 

Which leads me to this - food the way a lot of people in America see and eat it is not the same as I've know it for most of my life (before coming here that is). First, eating food from a cardboard box is totally fine and frequently practiced. Second, there's hardly an item you can find at the grocery store that will not include Microwave cooking instructions (and oh how I am grateful for it this week!). And third, no matter what the label tells you of how natural and home-cooked it tastes, food that comes to your plate directly from a box, a can, or a vacuumed package NEVER tastes as the one that comes from my mama's stove.

Feel free to prove me wrong.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cheers, I'll drink (and eat) to that!

made for each other via
I went to Dodgers Stadium once. Can't remember much of the game - got there late, looked for parking for 20 minutes, found the seats. Everyone around was drinking delicious looking crisp and cold beer and eating cheesy nachos. I couldn't resist. We went to get some. I drank and ate, and the game was over. I wouldn't even tell you who was playing or who won.

Where am I going with this? It's actually quite obvious - pretty much any activity in the states involves eating and drinking. Whether you go to Broadway, Staples center, Hollywood Bowl, a shopping mall or a movie theater - the next thing you see after you walk in is the food and beverage stands. Overpriced, of a lower quality and limited selection - usually cheap american beer, wine and hot dogs become the hottest items on the menu and make people stand patiently in lines sometimes for 20 minutes or more.

And no, noone is really THAT hungry or thirsty, it's just part of the experience of going to these kinds of events. I mean, who's going to argue that singing and dancing and cheering on a favorite team becomes times more fun with belly full of fast food and head feeling lighter after a glass of Coors Light?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Love You, Bye

Alright, I know, all we need is love, but talking about it and putting LOVE in every conversation is a definite overkill for me. I just find it a bit unfair that once can describe a fondness of spinach, shoes and feelings for a significant other with the same word "LOVE".

I see that the use of this sacred word has become so natural and trivial, that saying it out loud doesn't trigger sweaty palms and stammering anymore. Thinking of me growing up I do not remember my parents telling me "Love you" every day. And I am pretty sure it's not because they didn't, it's because words of love are not spoken that often. Good or bad, I am not here to argue either case, just sharing the experience.

I will admit that after my move to the states I began using the L word more frequently. I tell this to my family, my friends and to my bird. My sister only speaks it to me and our mom on holidays, on cards, in writing. I wonder if it's because of the way we were brought up or it's just my sister being weird like that.

But sometimes I think I'd rather get her "Love you sister" on holidays and know it's coming from her heart than see it in every text message from her and not paying much attention to it, as something I hear every day and get immune to... Go figure.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

You've got mail!

Many years ago, when I was 12 and barely tall enough to reach the mailbox, checking it on the way home from school was my sweet daily habit. Mail would usually come no more than 5 times a month - some bills, a newspaper and perhaps a card or a letter from whoever was still into that way of keeping in touch. Finding a piece of paper in that blue box was always exciting and something I used to look forward to.

Long gone are those days and how I do miss them! Mailboxes in the states are being spammed, junked, abused and disgraced in so many ways on a daily basis, excluding Sunday. Where do all those people, businesses and credit card agencies find my address and how do they know all the stuff about me? Making one purchase online and applying for a car loan was enough to find piles of letters in my mailbox just 3 weeks after I changed the address.

It can be nice sometimes, to come home and find an envelope with my name and address on it, to feel that I am not forgotten and no matter what there will always be some bank, store or just a local business thinking about me and sending me all the nice words and offers. This factor I can certainly appreciate!

The rest of the unwanted mail can still be pretty annoying and feel like a waste. I personally rarely even open those letter, let alone read them. Am I the only one?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Oh no, we're not dating, we're just seeing each other

Where do I begin with this one?..

Just so it makes more sense, allow me to explain that where I am coming from there are only 2 categories of a relationship: we're together or we're not. It's black and white like that.
Even if we went on just one movie date, I would be offended it you take another girl to watch the same or a different movie later this week. Heck, I'd be mad even if you take her out for a cup of coffee or tea!
I mean, it's not luck we're engaged and you belong to me, but at least have courage to pay me a respect of letting me know you're no longer interested or don't think it's going to work out. Don't just go hanging with other girls and tell me "I didn't promise you anything!"

This is how I see it. 99% of America, apparently, disagrees with me. Just the other week on the radio a host asked a question "How many people is it OK to date at once?" The majority of callers stated "Whatever number it takes to find the perfect one!"

I mean, are you for real? So that's not considered a promiscuous behavior to be giving a phone number, sharing a dinner, discuss personal and intimate details and being inches close from each with a few different people in just one week? If that's a norm, than feel free to call me a prude.

I am still in the process of understanding and putting as much sense as I can to each step of the "dating process" done the USA-way. And it ain't easy and clear (just like the bedding story), too many definitions of what people are to each other. If I attempt to break it down, it will look something like that, in case it all works out:

We meet -> We go out -> We see each other -> We are not exclusive -> We decide that we're dating -> We are exclusive -> We are still dating -> We are engaged -> We are married -> We are a family

The scenario above is just about perfect and doesn't happen too often, from what I see and hear. In those cases when it doesn't, there's a mess of other terms and categories that people place themselves under. Insert this whole list of "9 types of relationships before they become exclusive" right after "We're not exclusive" stage.

I am done with my rant for now. May Pure Love and Exclusiveness be Always on your Side!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

No Trespassing, Will Prosecute

Oh the Americans and their love for signs! The longer I live here the more used my eyes get to seeing them on every fence, door and wall, but some still have a special spot in my memory.

This particular sign has deserved my special attention simply because it was scary to me. First of, I never came across such word as "TRESPASSING" in my life, it's just not something I was taught at school. Second, being an exchange student first time in the states, we all were warned about how law-abiding American citizens are and how we should try and stay as far away from trouble as possible for fear of being arrested and kicked out of the country.

So in case you ever wondered if these signs work, they do and I am the living proof of it! Picture me seeing a sign with words as "will prosecute" or "do not enter" and sprinting in the opposite direction. Either because I am a chicken, or the "good girl" my parents raised me to be, to this day: I pay my taxes, and I don't trespass.

Take that, immigrant haters!

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Question: What is one place that seemed so cool and magical in a weird romantic way from the scenes of Hollywood movies? 
Ok, I'll give you a hint: it's not that cool or romantic in any way. And most people actually hate this chore more than doing dishes. 
If you're thinking LAUNDROMAT (!), congratulations, you've just got one inch closer to seeing USA from where I stand.

Yes, laundromats always seemed to be the places where couples have their "couple time", kids are running around and having fun while their parents are happily loading and unloading washers and dryers. How many scenes from a movie can you remember when something bad happens at a laundromat. Zero, right? And how many of those do you picture where people accidentally run into each other, fall in love, share a kiss and discover some kind of truth or secret? All of them, I know.

I am not going to say that my little naive laundromat-crush was "crushed" by the harsh reality. My view of them has changed certainly, but I still have this feeling of "Look at me, I am all grown up and fancy going to do my laundry in those beautifully shiny massive washing machines". And I am still not giving up on the idea of something magical happening to me while I am folding my sheets and drying my socks... Because that's what laundromats are for, right?

Ok, that is all I've got to express in this post, which can undoubtedly qualify as the weirdest subject I've written on so far, it's official.

p.s. I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Blog Nation.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Pill for Everything

I'll be straight about this one - it didn't take me long to realize folks in the states loooove all kinds of pills, drugs, medicines, remedies, herbs and such. There's hardly a comprehensive and all-inclusive directory of drugs that can be found and bought here.

Honestly, I feel like there a pill for everything, and the choices are limitless. Does your eye twitching or you hear a buzz in your left ear? Go see a doctor, I am sure he/she will think of something to prescribe you. Most likely there will be more than one even.

When I had a headache as a teen my mom would tell me to take a nap and have some warm milk. Ok, may be an aspirin, in case both of the methods didn't work. If I have a headache here, I am afraid to go to the drugstore - the decision making process over which one of two dozens painkillers I should choose only worsens it. For Realz.

The scariest of all to me is when I hear of youngsters being "on meds", like that's no big deal, and everybody does that. I grew up hating cough syrup, and these teenagers take all kinds of colorful stuff on a daily basis and don't think much of it. This sounds harsh, I know, but putting a kid on medication when they are going through puberty seems just as helpful to me as spanking a child that's already crying. That's just my {very} biased opinion anyways. Who am I to tell, after all? I am no MD.

Speaking of which, just from my observation and relatively limited experience dealing with doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, medical must be one of the most lucrative industries in the USA. Am I wrong?

Stay healthy, my friends, take naps and drink milk, it's good for you!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Party We Will Throw Now"

This post is inspired by an impending birthday of a certain girl who is turning 27 tomorrow (pointing at self)... I started thinking about the ways people arrange parties here in the states and back home, and these ways turned out to differ enough for me to share about it.

To make things more clear and easier to  picture, let's write out 2 scenarios of how the parties are arranged in the USA and how I would have done it where my friends and family are.

How to throw a party "American Way":
pick a place and make a reservation
come up with a more or less defined theme
make a list people and send or mail invitations
the invitations give all the details: when, where and what to wear
share a wishlist/registry if there's one
now the fun part: pick the decorations, utensils, napkins and about anything else that matches the theme and the mood of the party
most unexpected: the party favors! the beautiful of saying "thank you for coming" which has been perhaps the most surprising to me

How to throw a party my way:
call, send a text to those who I think I will invite a month in advance and tell them about my plan to have a party to celebrate XYZ
I don't know the details, but I'll get back to you later
a week before the party call or send a message to half of the people from the first time and tell them "So you're coming, right?"
be mad and annoyed with those that end up now showing up
figure out what I am going to wear and what my guests are going to eat and drink
dislike half the presents I get because I was too modest to actually say what I wanted/needed and was hoping the guess will somehow figure it out
oh, and when it comes to decorations, party favors etc, it's easy - who needs those?!

That is not to say that I don't miss the parties done "my way", but I rather keep them as my dear memories than the way to do.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Everything Comes with Instructions

via this hilarious tumblr blog by Liz
Ok, just because the image in the header of this post needs to be posted  in XL size to be seen and appreciated, I am making this little exception to my "layout rules" today.
Plus, tomorrow is officially Spring, my favorite season, so I feel like I can do it (although not sure how the two are connected).

Anywho, back to the subject of this post. Which is... you guessed it, the slight obsession people in America have with instructions.
Remember those tiny silica gel packets that are found everywhere from shows to handbags? Well, back when I was a kid and saw them for the first time, I applied all the knowledge of English I had to translate and educate my sister and my parents about its meaning. Let me just say, we were all puzzled. I was pretty confident that "Do Not Eat" means exactly that - don't put this stuff in your mouth. It still didn't quite make sense - why would someone tell me not to eat something that was CLEARLY non-edible?
See, unlike here, in my country we don't have instructions for everything :)

No doubt, instructions are helpful and sometimes absolutely necessary, but in some cases they seem to be just redundant. I got more used to finding the "how to's" in the unexpected and random places, but that doesn't mean I don't smile and comment on it, like in the following examples:

On the beach: "No sleeping on the beach"
On a Starbucks cup: "Caution: very hot!"
In a 3-foot deep hot tub: "No diving"
On a flower bouquet: "Remove from packaging, cut stems, place in water"
On a liquid soap: "Use like regular soap"
On a packet of nuts on the plane: "Open packet, eat nuts"

The list can actually go on for miles, just look around. For some more fun/ridiculous signs and directions, check this collection of 15 Most Unnecessary Instructions Ever on Huffington Post and this awesome list of Stupid Product Packaging <-- Caution: it's long! {pun intended}

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's a Yes Country

How often do you hear a word "no" on average in your lifetime? Whatever the number is, I am sure that a person that lives in the USA hears this word about half the times less often.
It's not a surprise at all why this country is world-known and referred to as a land or opportunities, a place where your dreams come true.
A child in America goes to Disneyland and sees live sharks and dolphins versus anywhere a kid growing up somewhere else and just dreaming about them. Teenagers in schools are taught to "Dream Big" and to believe that "You Can Do It".
You go to the store and spend an hour there not because you need so much to buy, but because the selection is so overwhelming that you end up being stuck in one row reading all the labels before you can make up your mind on which pack of spaghetti you want to get.
Online is a whole other world. Most people have long forgotten what it is to ask for directions and writing down business phone numbers. What do you need them for if you have Google?
You call a Customer Service number and they greet you with a "Sure, I'll be happy to assist you" phrase. You write on a company Facebook wall asking for a discount and they give it to you:

Getting a "YES" as an answer is pretty nice. It makes us believe that everything is possible and nothing is off-limits. It is also very addictive, I must warn you. Please use with caution and never take it for granted.

... Wait, what do you mean never? :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Not-Understandings Happen

I already shared the troubles I had to go through with understanding spoken English just when I came here. I mentioned that my best guess was to avoid direct eye contact and smile to look like I know what's going on. Today, after spending some time here I do just the opposite, which would definitely top the list of 10 Things Every Foreigner in USA Should Know (if I ever had one).

That advice is: if you don't understand something, say it. As much as embarrassing this may feel at first, it'll get easier with time and will certainly pay back. I know why I didn't do it at first: I didn't want to be viewed as a "dumb foreigner" who can't even speak English. Now that I've lived here for a while and feeling like my English is good enough as it is, I don't need to prove this point to anyone.

I think it's just normal not to know some words, not to recognize the well-known names and titles (because often they sound different from what they do in my native language) and not to get some jokes. In moderation, of course.

I've received various reactions to me admitting I didn't know a word or two:
disbelief  - my infamous "Taylor Swift minute of shame"
adoration - "Oh it's so cute that you don't know what XYZ is"
admiration - "No worries, your English is still waaaay better than my XXX language"

As to the reasons why I think if everyone who doesn't know, doesn't recognize or doesn't understand stuff they are told should pause and ask, here's why. You avoid possible embarrassment in the future, when the conversation continues to refer the object of your ignorance and you are asked to express your opinion about it. You learn something new. And hey, it makes you look cute :) jk

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Come to our Pharmacy, We've Got Drugs for You

Who's next in line for booze or to pick up a prescription?

Let me talk about CVS, RiteAid, Wallgreens. You know, the places I go to get Bacardi and Coke at 11 pm on a Friday night. Oh, wait, that's not what you normally go there for?

Imagine my surprise when I discovered:
a. Pharmacies are called Drugstores (I knew medicine and pills, I had no idea you can call them drugs as well) and
b. You can actually get drugs there, I mean, alcohol. And a nice selection too. Did I mention the deals here are much better than in your average corner liquor store?

Not that I am complaining about anything. These days I love CVS pharmacy precisely for the reasons mentioned above. But I would be lying if I say I didn't question the moral and ethical and logical standards at first when I walked in for painkillers and found myself walking around the shelves generously stacked with cheap wine.

I bet american folks have no idea that might seem strange to anyone. Good thing I'm here to share all about it.