Odyssey, Revisited

Finally, it has happened. During the last couple of years, when going back and forth between Germany and the US, with every trip I brought my German toothpaste to Manhattan. At some point it usually ran out, and I had to use, grudgingly, one of the odd-tasting, much more aggressive seeming American brands for the remaining time. This time, I packed my American toothpaste going back to Europe, and don’t intend to switch back.

Copyright 2005 Jens Haas - www.jenshaas.com

Same with prescription free medications. A simple pill against headaches comes in some purplish pink in the US. German tablets come in shades of white, taste bitter, and are ridiculously big. Simple marketing – the actual chemical substance that is supposed to affect the pain is identical (Ibuprofen, for example) down to the last gram. But studies have found that Americans respond better to purple painkillers compared to tablets that come in some boring color. With Germans, it seems to be the other way round, and German expatriates usually swear that the colorful American tablets are of no use.

For better or worse, I’m not into substance abuse, but whenever I have a headache, I’ve come to love the purple, American pills (which wouldn’t have any effect on me the first few times I took them). The big, whitish German tablets now seem entirely anachronistic to me, and I’ve stopped using them altogether.

So that’s what happened to Odysseus too, right? At least that’s what I understood from this hero’s travels. When he and his comrades get to some strange place, they try and not consume any of the strange food, because *it makes you forget home* (and Penelope! so even divine food, as offered by Calypso, is out). But there’s temptation! And there’s starvation, and sometimes one just has to try the strange stuff. And then these terrible things happen, and you find yourself unable to expect any relief from whitish Ibuprofen, and your teeth don’t feel clean enough without American whiteners. So, that’s the things that you better don’t tell your family at home. Like Penelope, they might seriously resent it.