For example: When I visited Hawaii, I expected palm trees, sand, and coconuts. I did not expect roosters strutting around strip-mall parking lots, flattened frogs along the side of the road, or a Dairy Queen with oxtail soup on the menu.
(Even the local McDonalds offered Portuguese sausages and guava juice at breakfast.)
Oregon is closer to Chicago than Hawaii, but I've already encountered a number of cultural differences.
I recently mentioned to my landlord that I have been known to enjoy the occasional game of video poker, and that I wouldn't mind a visit to one of the Indian casinos sometime soon. He laughed and said that I don't need to visit a casino: Most Oregon bars have video poker and slots on premises.
"Yes", I replied, "but they don't pay out, do they?"
(Many bars in Chicago have video poker machines "for entertainment purposes only", paying out only to trusted customers.)
Landlord informed me that the state lottery runs the video slot and poker concession. Oregon bar owners cheerfully, and legally, pay out to anyone who plays the machines.
Then, of course, is the whole medical marijuana thing. While users aren't supposed to light up in public places, even if they have a medical card, some folks who have the charge of "public places" are pretty tolerant folks.
(People up here apparently have better things to worry about.)
Strange as legal gambling and decriminalized pot may be, it's the dancing that really knocked me for a loop. My landlord took me to see a friend of his, a local musician, play a show at a sports bar. As the band got going, I noticed some people getting out on the dance floor.
(The fellow in the wheelchair was the best dancer by far.)
(No, I am not kidding. He is really, really good!)
As people danced, I got an uncomfortable feeling. Like somebody was about to get in trouble. I remained tense for a few seconds, when I realized what the problem was.
I turned to my long-suffering landlord.
"Those people are dancing."
He acknowledged that this was the case.
"In Chicago, that sort of thing is illegal."
He looked shocked.
I explained that in Chicago, it is illegal to dance in a bar or restaurant unless it has the proper permit. I further explained that it is very difficult to get such a permit.
He began to laugh.
Then I began to laugh.
After he was done laughing, he proceeded to tell everyone around us that I was unused to public dancing because it is illegal in Chicago.
They all started to laugh.
(It really is very funny.)
Of course, some things that are legal back home are against the law out here. For example, pumping your own gas is a big no-no in Oregon.
Somehow, I think I'll survive.