When I was fifteen I lived in France as part of an exchange program. The family I stayed with asked me to prepare a traditional American meal. Because I’m from Colorado I made fajitas. This did not amused my host family very much as it was a real pain in the ass to locate things like jalapeños & avocados in the middle of Normandy. But also because I think they expected me to make hamburger helper or tuna casserole.
As I head into my forth week in Europe I’m starting to miss “American” food. So I ordered Mexican for dinner. In a testament to the strange truth that big cities have more in common with each other than actual countries do, I got some of the best pork tacos I’ve ever had. Just absolutely perfect Cochinita Pibil in Frankfurt.
Maybe it’s my imagination but between delivery apps and Netflix and the expectations of urban living cities have become a kind of default global standard of cosmopolitanism. I suspect this is why the digital nomad has become a thing. It’s not that young urban professionals are actually willing to become immersed in other cultures. It’s that we’ve formed our own culture that is portable to any city of a certain density. Frankfurt and Denver are basically interchangeable when it comes to amenities.
So we bounce from one Airbnb to another with our iPhones and Apple Air computers and we expect a certain standard of cuisine and service and global sameness. It used to be that if you were an American you’d end up at a McDonalds because you were homesick and wanted something that tastes like home. Now I expect to be able to get absolutely authentic Mexican food no matter where I am.
So I guess in that sense I did serve my French host family a traditional American meal. Americans pushed the neoliberal cosmopolitan smoothed edge sameness on the world. And I’m glad I could get good tacos to be honest. But also damn it’s going to be weird when we export cosmopolitan yuppie culture as a traditional Earth meal to the aliens when we finally have first contact. Hopefully they will be less disappointed than my French family was.