Monday, November 10, 2008


**Time again to revisit Sophistication. Numbers 10-12 are the additions this time.**

After we had lived in Poland for a while I got back in touch with an old family friend (their family are friends of my family). I had lived in their basement when I first moved to Rexburg to start school. They are a family of intellectuals (Dad's an English professor and they're all very smart). I have always felt just a bit intimidated by them, even though they're the nicest people on the planet. When I lived there, my intimidation was tempered by the fact that they listened to Snoop Dogg, watched and quoted the Simpsons non-stop and made lots of delicious brownies. Who can be intimidated by anyone while eating brownies?

So this woman asked if I was getting all sophisticated, living, as I do, in Europe. This question obviously struck me, since she asked it about 6 years ago and I still remember it. I suppose I started thinking that maybe I should be getting sophisticated, living, as I do, in Europe. This is my inspiration for this post. That and the fact that I only ever post about things that are very important. Or let's just say important, ranging from rather to extremely. And relevant to my readers. That's another thing I value. Relevance.

So I've decided to start a running list of important things I've learned, living, as I do, in Europe. My hope is to gradually reveal the level of sophistication I have achieved. I will add things to the list as I remember them and re-post the list showing my updates. I'm pretty sure you are all on the edge of your seats. Here it comes, in no particular order:

  1. Smiling at strangers doesn't always give them a feeling of common understanding with you. Some places it's more likely to make them afraid of you.
  2. You can make a cereal that tastes almost exactly like Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs (not available in Poland) by stirring your dry Cookie Crisp (available in Poland) with peanut butter (available) and then adding your milk (also available).
  3. Children (especially babies)whose ears are not covered if there is a breeze and it is below 75 degrees outside, will almost surely die. If they don't, at least their mothers will from the deadly looks they are given by more experienced mothers. This has improved in the years we've lived here, and now people just mention over and over that, don't we think our kid needs a hat?
  4. Hershey's chocolate (milk and dark) bears little resemblance to real chocolate. It's brown and it's sweet, but beyond that, different. Not bad, just different. I'm not such a snob that I won't eat it. It's a tasty, American, chocolate-like candy.
  5. Getting from one city to another 75 miles away doesn't have to take an hour. It can take two or three.
  6. Children should sleep without underwear. I'm still not clear on why, I just know it's weird for them to sleep in their underpants. And if you're LDS and your kids sleep in their underwear? Hmmm.
  7. It's possible to spend an entire summer walking down sidewalks and never once have to detour into the street to avoid getting sprayed by a sprinkler. Or: It's possible to spend an entire summer walking down sidewalks and never find any refreshment from the heat in the form of sprinklers directed almost completely onto the sidewalk. (maybe this has changed in America now that people are loving Mother Earth a bit more).
  8. Babies need tea. They should drink baby tea (fruit and herbal) every day from their first month of life.
  9. Children should NOT drink cold drinks. For children under 3, "cold" means room temperature or colder. For some older kids, room temp might be okay, but it's safer to warm the beverage, like you do for the younger children. Cold drinks give kids (and many adults) sore throats. (This is true! Since drinks are always warmed for children, they can't handle cold ones.)
  10. On a long drive, when you gotta go, you gotta go, so there's no need to wait for a gas station. Just pull off the side of the road and do your thing right there. You don't have to worry about covering yourself, or walking 5 paces from your car into the forest through which you are driving. And also, kids should learn to pee on the grass at the park.
  11. Cakes that taste any sweeter than a typical store bought hamburger bun are "too sweet." Or at least "very rich." (more opinions on Polish cakes here.)
  12. There are entire grocery stores full of food, good food, that doesn't have brightly colored packaging, or big bubble letter words, or all the reasons you should eat it listed on the packaging. (when we first came here I thought it was so sad and boring, now I think it's really funny when I'm visiting the states and see all the stuff you guys have there. Seems silly after you've been away from it all for a while)
That's it for now. I'm sure I'll be coming up with some EVEN MORE sophisticated things that I've learned over the years.


*MARY* said...

I once had a group of old ladies in China approach me and tell me to go home and put some socks on my baby because he'd get sick if I didn't. It was like 80 degrees outside.
And once I was waiting for my husband to get his hair cut and I was given a glass of steaming hot water. It was the weirdest thing anyone has ever given me, but perfectly normal to them.

Erin said...

I remember thinking how strange some of the things people did in Paris were the month I spent there. Then when I got back home, I realized I kind of missed some of those "strange" things.

I love posts like this!

Annette Lyon said...

Fascinating stuff! (And yes, you're totally sophisticated!)

I'm kinda stuck on the underwear thing, though . . .

Heather said...

The things that are the same in Ukraine are the smiling at strangers, mandatory wearing of hats, chocolate (I loved your description of chocolate like candy), no sprinklers (but they don't have them in PA either), babies needing tea (they give them watered down black tea in the daycare centers), no cold drinks (my MIL's first English words were "no ice please," to say to the flight attendants on the plane over here), "rich" American cakes (all our Russian friends in SLC would go on and on about how sweet American cakes were and how they couldn't eat them).
Cool post , I could totally relate to it. Once I had a Russian friend babysit my daughter. When she put her down for a nap she stripped her down to her underwear, and my husband still doesn't understand why I like to sleep in pajamas.

nevadanista said...

I kind of relate to this post. As I remember from my time in what was formerly East Germany, men wearing socks with sandals was also high sophistication. Definitely all drinks had to be room temperature, including sodas (Fanta), and many other things we refridgerate. As for chocolate - Milka and Ritter Sport! Nuff said :)

Oh, and children may also catch cold if they don't wear tank tops underneath their shirts.

You are a sophisticated lady ;-)

Becky said...

My kid is ALL OVER number ten. Gotta do your business? Drop the drawers and take care of it. Whenever. Wherever.

Melissa Bastow said...

I've never been to Europe, which is good, because I like cold drinks. Although my husband always puts our kids food in the freezer after it has been cooked - is that kind of the same?

So he's making corn dogs, takes them from the freezer and microwaves them, then puts them back into the freezer and then gives them to the kids. So pointless.

Give me cold drinks and hot corn dogs, I say!

Kazzy said...

Have you learned to live in a smaller space? Less storage? Every time I have been to Europe I have been surprised at how indulgent we are here with living space. I felt the sophistication oozing out of you.

kitchenditcher said...

Wow. I am overwhelmed by all of your "sophisticatedliness". I am going to need lots more lessons before I can compete with you! lol

Great post. I loved it!

Moody said...

Wow---really interesting (and funny!). Oh, those Europeans are a weird lot!

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

Wow. I read and was beginning to think I am not good enough to visit a sophisticated person's blog. Then I realized just at the right moment, Hey, a lot of those things you listed applied to me and my life growing up in Asia. I didn't even know I was sophisticated:-) So I will be coming back to your blog because we sophisticated people need to stick together :-)

Barbaloot said...

I love it! I wish I could see a blog of the opposite. Someone European living over here and writing their "sophistication posts" :)

Alison Wonderland said...

You are super sophisticated. So sophisticateed that I may not even feel comfortable here anymore. I think I'll get over it.