Living in first-world Europe is a bit different than living in more exotic locales. Duh, you say. Now, wait a sec, let me explain.
In most countries, it is always obvious that you are in another culture. I am sure that in India, for example, the “differentness” of everything hits you full-on every time you step outside your Drexel-bedecked bubble. Africa was like that for me–in a mostly depressing sort of way. Every time I went outside I said to myself, “oh crap, I’m still here.”
Even Latin America, which I love, looks, sounds and smells very different from home. And Prague still had enough of that post-communist vibe going on at the time we lived there to never let us forget we were in a different world. A world which was not, strictly speaking, the first world.
Western Europe, on the other hand, can be deceptive. You might say there are a lot of cognates. Things look or work more or less like you would expect them to look. Except for when they don’t. And that catches your attention in a way that it would not in a more exotic place.
Every now and then, here in Vienna, I see something that strikes me as odd. Because I apparently have a juvenile sense of humor, I snap a pic with my camera phone when I do. They’ve been piling up for a while. Here’s a few that turned out. Some were too blurry because I took them from the bus. There was one billboard with a big steaming pile of dog poop. I really wish that had turned out, because I wanted to translate the ad. I simply couldn’t imagine what one would advertise with a picture of dog poop. Maybe Toto could figure it out.