After 6 weeks in Europe, a combination of some work and more vacation, there's a bit of culture shock coming back the the United States.
- Sprawl: flying into SFO, the sprawl across the East Bay was extensive. Residential development in Europe tends to be more clumped: areas of density immediately adjacent to rural. Suburbia is much, much less extensive.
- Being immersed in English: this feels wrong, sort of like cheating. I'm not complaining, though!
- tasteless food: I cooked some California brown rice and cooked it. The taste, or rather lack, was a bit of a shock. In Switzerland, all of the food I had was rich and flavorful, fresh and good. A lot of food in the US tastes empty and stale, produced for quantity rather than quality.
- California stops: after assembling the Ritchey Breakaway and riding to the train on Monday morning, after my return Sunday night, at the first intersection I hit where I had right of way and cross-traffic a stop sign, a driver did a California stop: drifting through the sign without actually stopping. He knew he was letting me go, but it wasn't obvious to me. A big part of being on shared roads is to communicate your actions.
- bumpy trains: the Swiss trains were smooth as silk. On Caltrain, on some trains I can't even type on my keyboard due to the bouncing suspension. I actually experienced this first on my way home from the airport, on BART, which is smoother than Caltrain but the trains still look old, worn, and weathered.
- wide suburban roads: after Caltrain, I have a 3+-km ride to work. My usual way essentially ends with a left from Middlefield in Mountain View onto a highway frontage road. Middlefield is a suburban road, yet is 8 lanes at this point, so I need to merge across 3 then make a left across the remaining 4. 8 lanes? Even the intercity roads I was on in Switzerland, France, and Germany never exceeded 4 (2 each way).
- parking lots: generally, the amount of land squandered on asphalt here is appalling, both roads and giant parking lots surrounding every building. Even in Meiringen Switzerland, which is in an agricultural valley and thus land is abundant, the public parking lot is buried.
- lack of cycling infrastructure: In Switzerland especially, but additionally in France and Germany, grade-separated bikeways were common. I rarely see these here. There's plenty of bike lanes, but generally to get around on a bike you need to know the best routes In Basel there was the challenge of navigating the streets, but on roads with too much traffic there was almost always bike infrastructure: I didn't need to have any insider knowledge on which subset of the roads were bike-friendly. It's ironic that Proposition L in San Francisco's November election is advocating a "restoration of balance" for car-infrastructure. A comparison with Europe shows the present situation is out of balance, but well in favor of private motor vehicles.
- Lack of mobility without a car: I want to go to Low-Key Hillclimb week 3, Welch Creek Road, this weekend, but just getting across the Bay without a car anywhere resembling early morning is a challenge. In Switzerland you could pretty much get where you wanted, when you wanted.
- Street people: in San Francisco, they're everywhere. In Basel, I didn't see anyone camping in the streets.
I really do like it in San Francisco. I don't know if I'd be happy living and working in Switzerland: it's a much more dynamic environment here. But I certainly miss a lot about my wonderful time spent there.