Wednesday, May 13, 2009


A few years ago I was listening to a comedian on the radio talk about how Americans have many quirks, one of which being their phobia of germs. (I sunk down in my seat a bit as I acknowledged that: yes, I'm a member of that club). But he went on by giving a few examples of what we do to prevent us from even the slightest possibility of catching germs. We carry around hand sanitizer and use it 10 times a day, there are anti-bacterial wipes at the grocery stores to wipe down your cart before handling it, and death row inmates who are on the execution table have their arm cleaned with an disinfecting swab before the needle is placed in them. Because, heaven forbid, they get some infection due to the needle that killed them.

Point being, we have our quirks. But it's always fascinating to discover what things are considered "normal" for another country. In Scotland men wear 'skirts' and call it tradition. In some African tribes women wear rings around their necks in efforts to elongate them. And in not-so-long-ago China, young girls went through the gruesome process of getting their feet bound, all in hopes of becoming more eligible for marriage.

So, even though there are odder things in the world, I was still quite taken aback when I discovered a few things in the past year that I wasn't quite used to. For example, the Dutch don't rinse off soap suds after washing dishes. Kind of strange, yes, although I'm sure the soap residue just adds to the flavor of the dish. But what I (coming from a country infiltrated with the do's and don'ts of fashion) found more interesting is that the Dutch wear the same outfit 2 or sometimes 3 days in a row. It actually makes me wonder why, over the past 28 years, I have occasionally stopped in the mornings when picking out an outfit and posed the question, 'Wait, did I already wear this on Monday?'

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