Few times stand out as clearer to me as a prime example of culture shock, than when I was for the first time ‘on my own’ at a grocery store in the US. I’d been overwhelmed not simply by the vast quantities of food and merchandise available, but by the variety from which to choose. A simple task like selecting toothpaste became a half hour, painstaking decision.
When I finally gathered my list of goods together, I was exhausted and overstimulated. I arrived at the check out counter to be greeted by a friendly smile, but accousted by a persistent question: “Paper or plastic?” Befuddled I stared blankly back at the inquirer. “Paper or plastic?” he repeated. I blinked. “Paper or plastic?” His tone had shifted from friendly to ‘annoyed’. Scrambling to find an adequate response to his insistent query, I finally blurted out “Is cash OK?”