On the first day, I was very tired, yet very excited. It was my first time in a country outside of the US (besides a family bicentennial road trip across the US and into Canada in 1976 and the obligatory Tijuana bar hopping as a college student).
I had noticed so many differences already. Everything was smaller. Why does that sign on the side of the road say "toilet" (or is it "to let"?) And each time we passed a car I was sure we were going collide.
After a short rest in my shoe-box size room that would be my space for the next six months, my stomach started to grumble.
I could smell food cooking downstairs, but was not quite sure what it was. It was something savory, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
I made my way downstairs and followed my nose to the kitchen.
"What's for dinner?" I asked my host family mum hopefully, as all meals were part of the deal.
"Mince and tatties," she smiled and stirred what looked like ground beef and chopped onions and then she picked up a container of salt the size of a coke bottle and gave it a heavy shake.
"That's ground beef and potatoes," she translated. I was her third American student lodger.
"Smells good," I told her, not completely telling the truth. That didn't smell like hamburger meat. I looked at the frying pan again and took another whiff.
It didn't smell bad, just different.
I made a mental note. The beef is funky here.
It was years later when I discovered the reason. I was living in the UK and married to my Scotsman who was running the European offices of a dot com company. A techy consultant, who had been raised in a ranch in Colorado, was over to help implement an eCRM system for a large bank and we took him to dinner at a local restaurant.
Cattle are grass fed here he said, and corn fed in the US.
Ah, yes of course, grass and corn. One is yellow and one is green. Does it make them poo differently too I asked jokingly.
He also told me why bacon was different (soft and not crispy). You need to buy "dry cured" bacon (Tesco have it in their Finest line). The standard bacon that you get off the shelf is injected with water.
Then the waitress came and he ordered the vegetarian lasagne.
This post was written by Susanna, an Expat Mums Blog founding contributor. You can read more at her blog, A Modern Mother.
Photo credit: Duke Matthew 2000