[Paleopsych] Glimpse Abroad: Smelling the Roses

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Smelling the Roses
Glimpse Abroad, 2005

[These observations are not particularly profound, in and of themselves, but 
they do say something about life in the United States.]

First, the summary from the "Magazine and Journal Reader" feature of the 
daily bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.12.6

A glance at the winter issue of glimpse: Readjusting to the States

Catching up again to the fast-paced American lifestyle is one of
the hardest challenges for American students returning home from
study abroad, according to surveys conducted by the travel

Kerala Goodkin, the magazine's editor in chief, writes that
Americans obsess over productivity and efficiency, and that such
fixations have led to "on the go" eating mentalities, excessive
sugar consumption, a reliance on cars, and poor health. That
"hurried" lifestyle, she explains, is all the more difficult for
students to adjust to after living in countries with more-relaxed

"Life in the United States seemed so demanding and fast-paced that
I just wanted to say 'slow down!' when I got home," she quotes a
student who studied in Spain as saying.

A common observation in the survey was how devoted Americans are to
their work. In the United States, nearly 68 percent of the people
in the labor force work a 40-hour week -- a rate that is second
only to Japan, notes Ms. Goodkin.

Despite that work ethic, foreigners and students returning from
abroad consider Americans lazy for relying so heavily on cars. The
United States is second to none in the ratio of cars to people, she
points out, with 765 automobiles for every 1,000 Americans.

Ms. Goodkin considers whether the American lifestyle is worth the
costs. Being constantly on the move is unhealthy, she says, adding
that the stress of our daily routines can cause organ failure,
cancer, accidents, and suicide. She notes that the United States is
among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of the proportion
of its population that lives in ill health.

"When I returned home," she quotes another student as saying, "I
wanted to encourage others to love what they have and to smile at
traffic jams and long lines. They might just notice something or
someone new."

A copy of article, "Smelling the Roses," is available at

Information about the magazine is available at

--Jason M. Breslow



In a recent survey, Glimpse asked over 400
study abroad students about the central
cultural differences between their home
and host countries. One theme surfaced
again and again: the challenge of readjusting to
the comparatively hurried pace of U.S. life upon
returning home from abroad. Says Janna Stansell
of California State University, who studied
in Spain, "Life in the United States seemed so
demanding and fast-paced that I just wanted to
say 'slow down!' when I got home." Brian Dolan
of University of Colorado at Boulder echoes this
sentiment: "In Russia," he says, "everyone was
more relaxed and didn't stick to tight schedules as
in America. Many people just did things in their
own time."

We obsess over productivity and efficiency, but
are the benefits always worth the cost? This special
report examines key cultural trends in the
United States--for example, "on-the-go" eating
mentalities, excessive caffeine and sugar consumption,
reliance on cars, and poor mental and
physical health--and compares them to trends in
other countries, where residents take more time
to stop and smell the roses.


While the infamous Golden Arches continue
to crop up in countries around the world,
Americans still reign supreme when it comes to
our copious consumption of those greasy, ready-
made morsels we qualify as "food." Americans
who have lived abroad frequently comment that
other countries do not share our "on-the-go"
eating mentality and devote much more time to
leisurely, multi-course meals, shared in the company
of family and friends.

"When I returned to the United States I had
horrible reverse culture shock. People seemed
so rude and Americans' love of fast food
disgusted me."

Student, University of Cincinnati

Studied in United Arab Emirates through American

"After coming home from Florence, Italy, I
missed not having a market to walk to every
day and buy fresh food for my meals. I had become
used to the slow pace of Italy, so when I
came back to the States, everyone and everything
seemed so rushed! I knew that the States
is fast-paced, but I actually felt the difference
more than I thought I would."

Jenna Tonet, Stonehill College

Studied in Italy through API

"I think the biggest difference I felt coming
home was the pace of life. In London, things
moved a lot slower to some extent. It was overwhelming
to watch my family rush around all
day. I remember the first time I went out to
dinner, I was shocked by how quickly the waiter
pushed us out. In Europe, you can sit there all
night and no one cares."

Elizabeth Conner, University of Missouri at Columbia

Studied in England




U.S. Japan Canada UK Germany


Excerpted from "The Sweet Life"

by Nicole Graziano

There I was, in Santa Giustina, a speck-
of-a-city in the northern region of
Italy known as Veneto. My supple
nature welcomed this shift in setting, and
I took comfort in my days with my Italian
friend Elisa--waking to tea at the apartment
or cappuccinos at the bar a street
above. The town was grey, hushed and
sealed tightly in a late December chill that
hunched our backs and shrunk our necks as
we shuffled around open markets and humble
piazzas. My favorite part of the day,
however, was lunchtime. Each and every
afternoon, after Elisa and I had returned
from a light trek through town or had finished
up a movie, Salvatore, her boyfriend,
would return to the apartment from his job
at a nearby gas station for a nearly two-
hour lunch break.

Elisa routinely prepared a feast in preparation
for his arrival--minestrone one day,
pumpkin gnocchi another, complementing
the meals with bread, cheese, nuts
and wine. Contrary to the half-hour and
50-minute lunch breaks to which so many
Americans are accustomed, these afternoons
weren't hurried affairs. Salvatore's
mind actually seemed to escape the duties
of his workplace--he rarely regarded the
clock, relaxing for another 45 minutes or
so after eating until he finally lifted his
tall, lanky body up from the sofa, draped
himself in a black, button-up wool coat and
departed once again for work.

Outside the rambunctious pant and seduction
of Florence, I lived as a shadow of
my young Italian counterparts--cooking
spaghetti carbonara beside them, sharing
their anxieties about electricity and water
bills. I came to understand the sweet life,
la dolce vita, as I witnessed it through the
lives of its inhabitants.


All the rushing around we do can sure wear us out.
Should we combat our fatigue with a mid-afternoon
nap? A leisurely stroll in the park? Forget it. According
to Dunkin' Donuts, what we need is a "3 p.m. wake
up call"--a.k.a a gargantuan iced coffee that promises to
snap us out of our exhaustion with its sugary, caffeinated
goodness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United States lags
behind many Western European countries when it comes
to coffee consumption, but if it's not a cup o' Joe we're
chugging, it's probably coffee's carbonated cousin: soda.
In the realm of soda intake, the United States has everyone
else beat, hands down.

"I had traveled to Latin America before, so I
was already familiar with the slower pace of
life there, but it still affected me in Mexico. As
Americans, we always feel like we have to be doing
something productive, and when we aren't,
we get down on ourselves. Yet in Mexico it was
okay to sit for an hour after you had already finished
eating and talk, or to nap in the middle of
the day after lunch, or to go out with friends for
a beer on a Tuesday."

Christina Shaw, American University

Studied in Mexico through SIT

"French culture was big on observing things:
window shopping, browsing stores, walking
around town, eating at cafes on the streets
and watching the passersby. The leisurely atmosphere
made for a wonderful experience."

Molly Mullican, Rice University

Studied in France through API

"I found the Spanish schedule allowed for a
not-so-busy workday and accomodated the
relaxation and social needs that every good
Spaniard appreciates."

Phil Ramirez, Texas State University

Studied in Spain through API

Wuhu village, China: A man takes a nap in a
lotus garden and wilderness park on a quiet
summer afternoon. PHOTO by Kate Peterson.


In a country where we still abide by the "pull-
yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps" mentality,
where we like to believe that our economic success
is defined by how hard we work, we are fairly
gung-ho when it comes to putting in the hours.
Whereas France recently mandated a 35-hour
work week, in the United States, almost 68 percent
of our workforce puts in more than 40 hours
per week, trailing only Japan (76 percent).

"Before I left for France, I was enrolled in 18
credit hours a semester and working two jobs
15 to 25 hours a week. I re-evaluated the whole
way I was living when I got home and now take
more time to slow down and enjoy myself rather
than rushing around to stay busy all the time."

Anna Romanosky, University of South Carolina

Studied in France through API

"In Macedonia, much more time is spent drinking
coffee and talking than actually doing

Andrew C., University of Pittsburgh

Studied in Macedonia through IAESTE

"Upon returning home, I found that many
of my views about the United States had
changed. I noticed so many more 'negative'
things about our culture, like excessiveness,
wastefulness and laziness. Italians essentially
'work to live,' whereas here in the United
States we 'live to work.' There are still so many
things I compare between our culture and Italian

Laura Basil, Ohio University

Studied in Italy through API


Ironically, while many other countries acknowledge the
United States' strong work ethic, they simultaneously
view us as "lazy." Maybe that's because for all the hurrying
we do, we sure spend a lot of time sitting on our butts. Yes,
in the United States, the car reigns supreme; other ways of
getting from here to there--for example, walking, biking
or taking public transportation--are viewed as grossly inefficient.
We want to get there fast 
 why wait around at a
bus stop or rely on the meager power of our own two legs?
Unsurprisingly, the United States ranks the highest when it
comes to the ratio of motor vehicles to people.

"American culture is very much dependent on use of
cars. In Sevilla I walked everywhere. I miss taking a 30-
minute stroll to school."

Student, Agnes Scott College

Studied in Spain through API

"The United States does not slow down, and it was hard
to come back to rushing cars, people everywhere, and
the overall feeling that there was always something going
on. I hated not having a public transportation system
and wished we could have a train system in the United
States like Europe has."

Holly Murdoch, Texas A&M

Studied in Italy

"I had just spent five months without a car and without
the rushing of American life. Wherever I needed to
go in Spain, I could walk or take public transportation.
When I arrived back in Detroit, I became a bit disgusted
at how everything was so impending, everything was an
'emergency.' "

Lauren Zakalik, University of Michigan

Studied in Spain through API


Excerpted from "Yoda and the Skytrain"

by Molly Angstman

My route to work funnels me, along
with crowds of commuters, onto
the "sky train"--Bangkok's new
elevated transportation system. Every day,
without fail, the first 50 people off the escalator
in the station see a new train pull
up and start running, all the while smiling
ear-to-ear like they are doing something
really ridiculous. The little uniformed girls
with their pigtails and giant backpacks,
some barely taller than my waist, treat the
20-meter run as a hilarious adventure, holding
hands and giggling, arriving at the train
with flushed faces. As the doors quickly
close, swallowing their giggles, they leave
me to wait for the next train.

I think they smile because even the
youngest commuters know how inherently
silly it is for a Thai person to run for a train.
Although Bangkok is now home to big-
money transnationals, the pace of life is still
traditionally slower than other cities at a
similar level of development. Being in a hurry
is almost unseemly, but business is still
profitable and the trains run like clockwork.
Patience is the lauded quality, not promptness.
As Buddhists, they will get another go
at it anyway. Why rush?

If I'm not at work every morning with a
comfortable ten minutes to spare, I feel I
have failed in my responsibilities as an efficient
intern. This is why the second grader
with the Winnie the Pooh backpack will always
be wiser than me. She hurries because
it is funny and exciting, not because she
thinks being early makes life better. Despite
their glittering efficiency, these trains might
never be fast enough for me. So I am taking
cultural orientation classes from these mobile
philosophers. Lessons learned so far: 1)
Spend rush hour with friends, 2) Enjoy the
ride, and 3) Never hurry in paradise.


Excerpted from "Taking Your Time"

by Heather Magalski

Soon after arriving in Wollongong, Australia, my roommate and I decided to 
brave the train system to see the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in nearby 
Sydney. As American city-dwellers, used to following strict schedules and 
being constantly on-the- go, we made our way to the station about a 
half-hour before our train was due to arrive. We were in for a surprise.

When our train rumbled into the station 30 minutes
after its scheduled arrival, we learned that we would
have to transfer to a connection, which also ended up
being late. When our train came to a sudden halt midway
to Sydney, I went into a frenzy. I wanted to know
what went wrong, how long it would take to fix and
how late we would be.

I began to think of my own life in the United States
and how I try to cram so many things in at once. Before
I had come to Australia, I thought that having a
successful life meant being involved in several activities,
as I had been pressured to do in order to be accepted
at a college. Yet in the time it ended up taking
my roommate and I to get to Sydney, I became aware
that the true joy in life was taking my time, something
the Australian culture has successfully mastered.

Realizing this skill, I applied it to the rest of my
stay in Australia. I no longer became stressed when it
took hours to be served at a restaurant, miles to walk
to town for groceries, or several hours to again travel
to Sydney. No longer concerned with doing a specific
"something," I went on long walks by the beach and
sat and listened to many an Australian tell me his or
her life story. Instead of always actively participating
in something, I now understand that just sitting back
and taking in my surroundings has its time and place.


Maybe we Americans get a lot done, but is it worth
the cost? Our obsession with convenience and efficiency
leads to many unhealthy practices, including poor
nutritional habits and sedentary lifestyles. Being in constant
states of stimulation and frenzy isn't so great for us
either--in fact, stress is linked to a number of the leading
causes of death in the United States, including heart, liver
and lung disease; cancer; accidents; and suicide.

Despite our high standards of living and advanced
(though not universal) system of medical care, the United
States ranks 48th in a comparative study of countries' life
expectancies: 77.14 years. Furthermore, it ranks within the
top ten for the proportion of its male and female populations
who live in ill health.

"I had a hard time getting used to the speed of life again
in the United States. I liked feeling relaxed and laid back
and not worried about getting places on time. I also
missed the sense of community I felt in Ecuador. Back
in the United States, I noticed how separate and selfish
people can be at times."

Maret Kane-Panchana, University of Washington

Studied in Ecuador through Fundación CIMAS

"When I returned home, I had a hard time feeling compassion
for those who just rush through their days, who
go through the motions without understanding that
their connection to the work/people/food/sex/nightlife
they experience every day is worth more than a spot on a
day-planner. I wanted to encourage others to love what
they have and to smile at traffic jams and long lines.
They might just notice something or someone new."

Jordan Santoni, Appalachian State University

Studied in Spain through API


Excerpted from "GPS, Costa Rica Style"

by Patricia Jempty

When I moved to Costa Rica with my
family (chastened by the fact that
after endless years of study, I had
perfected French, not Spanish), I was in for
quite a shock. Costa Rica is fairly well developed
as far as "Third World" countries go:
you can dine at any number of North American
chain restaurants and stay only in U.S.
chain hotels. (Why you'd want to do this is
another question!) The veneer of familiarity
may fool you into thinking that, except for
language, Costa Rica is just like home. I can
assure you, it's not.

Let's talk physical. Costa Rica has a rainy
season and a dry season. When it rains, the
landscape is obliterated and the roads become
rivers of mud. When it's dry, the dust
permeates your pores and the wind plays
catch with any object not nailed down. We're
talking extremes here, and they happen every

But physical aspects aside, it's the country's
culture that can truly blind-side you, if
you're paying attention. Patience is not just
a lofty virtue, it's a necessity if you live in
Costa Rica. The locals have it in their blood,
or at least in their upbringing. Visitors must
learn to adapt. The power grid fails. The water
stops running. You can't travel quickly
anywhere because most of the roads are notoriously
potholed and must be shared with
four-legged creatures of all sizes. You'll get
there when you get there, which can be a
hard lesson for a gringo.

Over the years, my way of thinking has
slowly adapted and shaped itself to the local
manner of doing things. I've grown calmer,
less demanding. I've learned to take life as
it is offered to me; and in the process, my
frustrations with the sometimes maddening
aspects of Costa Rica have taken wing like so
many butterflies.

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