What Does America Smell Like?

In my last post I discussed trying to observe differences when I come to America.  I’d like to further this post by discussing more observations over the next few days.  The first of these observations is something I almost immediately notice: smell.

Sometimes when I walk outside in Russia, I can smell that I’m in Russia.  Now what exactly does that mean?  Does Russia have a certain smell?  Well, probably not.  But many cities and countries are made up of unique components that do give off certain smells.  For example, when I’m in New York City, it smells like New York City.  I can smell the food from the street vendors which is a very unique smell.  Likewise, I can smell certain things when I’m in Russia.

One of the things I first smelled when arriving at the airport in America was the smell of fast food.  Of course there are fast food restaurants in Russia too, but they don’t smell the same.  And the food doesn’t taste the same either, but that’s a topic for another day.  But I was especially surprised by how strong the food smelled.  I had never noticed it before and this time it actually made me feel quite ill.  I was overpowered by the smell of grease.  I’d never been a great fan of fast food before I left America and now that I’ve been gone, this seems to have only made me dislike it even more.  But I still eat it because I like to remember what it tastes like and see if I can remember a time when I ate it and was completely oblivious to different tastes.  Now I’ve eaten fast food in so many countries that it’s actually strange to eat it in America.

But I digress.  This post isn’t about fast food.  My point is to illustrate the small things that we never notice or that we take for granted but that make up our lives and our culture.  I think the fast food example is also quite popular because it seems to be something that is common throughout countires, yet varies quite a bit.  Everyone seems to have a different experience with it everywhere they go.  Not to mention the numerous articles devoted to how fast food changes countries and how it adapts to fit cultures.  Plus I find that real life examples always make such observations more interesting and help to paint a more vivid picture.  In addition, I’d like to add that another reason it’s good to experience things that you never paid attention to before  is that it provides a unique opportunity to see how your country and culture are observed by others.  Some people may arrive in America and have a negative impression.  When they express this, we may not understand because we can’t see (or smell) the same things they do.  But if we all left the country, then came back and saw it anew, we might be a bit more understanding.  What do you think?  I’ll add another topic tomorrow.


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