A-Z Blogging Challenge - X is for XXL

When I went to the United States for the first couple of times, I was always amazed by the size of everything: buildings, freeways, malls, clothes, food portions,... 

Everything was tall, broad, large, big, huge!

As service-oriented as American sales people usually are, when you ask for "small" they frown and shrug "sorry, don't have small." 

I must know. It was during my tenure with Starbucks that the short cup disappeared from the menu.

(As you get more savvy, you'll know to look for travel or snack size, or individually packaged. Plus short cups are still around. Ask for it!!)

Speaking of coffee.

Joe Fox explains perfectly how confusing (or liberating) it can be to order a beverage in the U.S.:

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, et cetera. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”

Now imagine ordering a whole entire meal!

Actually just a visit to an American full-service restaurant is pretty different from Switzerland. Let me show you: 

  • In most Swiss places you are allowed to walk into a restaurant and seat yourselves. 
  • Unless they wear a name tag (rarely ever happens) or you're a regular guest, you'll never know your waiter's name. 
  • You order every course separately, meaning no soup or salad is included.
  • Typically there are two salad dressings to choose from: Italian or French. 
  • The sides belong to the dish. If you want a different one, you have to ask nicely. If the waitress is feeling bitchy, she'll say no right away.
  • If you think the meat is too well done to be medium, be prepared to a defensive reaction and a bit of a wait, should they decide you're getting a new one.
  • If you're old enough to come to a restaurant, you're old enough to order a glass of wine
  • After coffee and desert you may sit and chat, and if you want the check, you actively have to motion to the waitress. 
  • Tips are included in the check. If you were super happy with the service (which doesn't happen too often in a random restaurant) you may leave an extra tip.
  • Oh, and up until spring 2008 (I remember because it was shortly before Colin was born) people were allowed to smoke in restaurants. It was such a treat to go out for dinner in the U.S. for this fact alone!

Can you imagine the challenge for first time visitors in an American restaurant?

The wait is 30-45 minutes, here's your buzzer.

Hello, my name is Ashley, I'll be taking care of you tonight!

Study the menu really well and be prepared for questions.

There was a funny incident that happened twice, once with my ex-boyfriend, and once with my husband.

Waitress: "would you like a soup or salad?"

Ex-boyfriend: "yes, please."

Husband: "what is a super salad?"


"What dressing would you like: French ranch, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, thousand island, honey mustard,..."

Once you ordered the meat the way you want it cooked, don't take a breather just yet.

"What side would you like?"

"Baked potato, please"

"Sour cream or fully loaded?"


Until my late 30s I had to bring ID. No exceptions. No ID, no wine. I kind of miss being carded.

Don't be afraid to send something back. With my Swiss background I was really hesitant, but one day, my beef fillet had been cooked way too long, so I dared complaining nicely. Not only did they take it back without a word, I immediately got a new one, with apologies, and they didn't even charge for it at all. 

I so love to eat in American restaurants.

Another thing that strikes you when you're new to the U.S. is that they are using different words than the ones you've learned at school. 

We don't mean to be rude when we ask where the toilets are, but obviously if you need to take a comfort break, the restroom is where you're gonna wanna go.

Speaking of... When I was living in the U.S. I was really confused when I wanted to buy toilet paper. There were packages with cute puppies or babies, h*** even bears on it - where were the ones for grown-ups? Cause I understood, for "adult" products you're usually supposed to go to a different kind of store.

And how could I be sure those were TP rolls not kitchen paper, nowhere on the package does it actually say what's in it?

People don't just die. They pass (away), depart, decease, or, should it happen at the hospital, are a negative patient outcome. 

With Starbucks we would say a partner (employee) got promoted to customer ;-)

Can you relate to XXL?
What terms have you encountered that sugar-coat the cold truth?