A lot of people here and back home have asked me what I do and don’t like about America, what I miss about home etc and I thought I would do some posts about this so here goes: what I do like about America – in no particular order.
Mail boxes – they’re just better. Most small parcels fit into them, no one seems to steal stuff from them and if you want to send post out, no need to find a post box, just stick your little flag up and the friendly mail lady collects it to post on her way. Letterboxes in our front doors should be done away with, our American chums have got it right.
Holidays and Themes – Oh you think you decorated for Halloween because you put a pumpkin out? Well the Americans have projectors broadcasting ghosts on top of their houses, tomb stones in the yard and candy bowls that grab the kids hands! Oh you put a Christmas tree up? Well just drive down the road and you’ll see massive inflatable santas, giant light up reindeer, perhaps stop for a while outside the house that has 10,000 lights on display and it’s own Christmas radio station for passers by? And what about all the extra holidays? I got a day off for Martin Luther King Day. Americans love their holidays and they out do us in every single way.
Lack Of Pantomimes – I can’t stand pantomimes… I just find them annoying and cringey and when I explained this to my wife she said “what’s a pantomime?” That was when I knew she was the one for me… but seriously, it’s so nice not to be plagued by these over Christmas, I just hate them. For the Americans reading, they’re sort of a play for children put on at the theatre with Z list celebrities and there always seems to be a man in drag for some unknown reason and the audience has to participate (ugh) by shouting things.
Greetings Cards – I love American greetings cards, they’re really funny. They have moving ones, singing ones, all different novelties. The hardest thing to find is a blank greeting card (which I need to write to my Great Aunt who can’t use “the face book”) because they have them for every thing you could possibly think of. I got Kim a dancing hamster card that sings MC Hammers ‘Can’t Touch This’ for her birthday because I physically could not leave the shop with out it, that’s how much I loved it. Greetings cards are so expensive in England anyway, why not make them worth buying?
TV Shopping – now I loved TV shopping in England, but in America not only do they sell regular things, they also sell weird stuff! Like this, the lunchbox sized personal oven, cook your meals from under your desk! Also they have callers from all over the country so I get to hear “iiits Miiisteh cawlling frum Teyxus an aiii jus bowt tin uvens fur awwwl ma relateeeves!” Bliss.
Weather – Now I’m indecisive about the weather, I miss the grey of England where you never needed to really check the weather forecast, lest your pipes freeze over night if you don’t leave the heating on. But it is nice to have proper seasons and know summer will be nice and hot, get snow at Christmas etc. I’m bored of the snow now though, that can stop coming. Every time I think it’s thawed and gone more comes. We bought a power snow shovel thing so I think now that we’ve bought it, it won’t snow anymore – you’re welcome Connecticut.
Accents – it can be fun to hear all the different accents here. Back home my accent just sounded slightly posh but mostly boring and regular. In America I’m almost exotic, today someone called me sophisticated… the last time that happened in England was when my friends were making fun of me for eating pizza with a knife and fork. Sometimes the Americans mistake it and think I’m Australian, and I just run with it if I’m feeling bored and talk about dingoes… no one’s ever twigged yet.
Good Service – The customer service here is just better. Servers in restaurants are much better, retail workers are genuinely helpful and friendly. I had to return something for the first time last month and I arrived at the store prepared with my receipt and a whole big reason for why I needed a return ready. In any UK store they would scrutinise the returned item, gain the entire story checking for any plot holes and then make you write down your name and address and signature fixing you with a suspicious look like you may be a criminal. In the USA the store lady didn’t even care, she said oh that’s ok you don’t need a reason, hardly looked at the receipt and wanted to know if I would rather have the cash or put it back on my card. I was disarmed.
Radio – The radio in the USA is excellent. In the UK I was subjugated by my radio’s inability to pick up anything that wasn’t Heart or Kiss and the occasional Norfolk yokel station. Here they have everything, my favourite is 104.1 alternative rock, or if I fancy I can switch to classic rock, Christmas music, pop, oldies, some strange Latino music all in Spanish… the list goes on. And there are fewer ads that last for less time, less DJ prattle. Is there anything worse than having to listen to DJs personal lives whilst in traffic? Sometimes on Kiss in the mornings I’d be driving back from night shift and all you could hear was the idiot DJs laughing at their own unfunny jokes for a solid minute – just laughter, and I would stare down the line of cars gridlocked ahead of me wondering what I had done in life to be here. That is no more!
Food – Now I like UK food for the most part and there are many things I miss from the UK but the food here is very nice too. American crispy bacon is better than UK floppy bacon (which they call Canadian bacon), although Kim prefers UK bacon to USA bacon. I always used to think the USA portion sizes were way too big however the reason they are so big is because most people then take half of their meal home to reheat the next day as left overs. Left overs are a big thing here and if you leave any of your meal your server will offer to box it up for you which is great because you’ve paid for it already so why waste it? And no one has to pack a lunch for the next day. Another good thing about the food is that because of all the immigrants from all over the world there are a ton of new foods I’ve gotten to try that are popular here but I hadn’t seen in England. I’m still not brave enough to try meatloaf – I would do anything for love; but I won’t do that.
No NHS – Now no free healthcare is a bummer, yes. However we are lucky enough to have medical insurance and the care we get really is a million times better than the NHS. I worked in the NHS for almost 5 years and as much as the staff made the best of a bad lot, due to money and the strain on the services I think that a lot of the time the staff was unable to provide the care they would have chosen to. All the healthcare professionals here seem to have a lot more time, fewer patients and provide great customer service because they are in competition for your custom. In the NHS there wasn’t really an alternative place to go unless you want to pay (and who wants to pay?) but in the USA they want to keep you as their patient to earn your money. Which is why Kim’s doctor asks Kim about me and the cats and holidays coming up etc because they keep notes on your personal lives to make pleasantries with you the next time you visit – smart. Yes the cost is annoying, but maybe it’s worth it when you know the care is so good?
Living Abroad – this is still a novelty to me. It’s nice to sometimes get confused about what things are in shops and visit new places. In the USA I don’t recognise half the stores or brands. A coworker told me she had a new Coach handbag the other day and I wasn’t sure whether this was a good thing or not. The same is true for Kim in reverse, she was confused about who Ted Baker might be and loved living in the UK. I’m still quite rubbish with the coins because I don’t use change much to pay for things, when I do need to use coins I get the people in the store to help me pick out the right coins (they all look the same!) and they never mind because they just permanently smile in a dream like state of perfect customer service.
Power In The Bathroom – The UK needs to make this happen. Yes, I get that you could electrocute yourself if you plug something in and then drop it in the bath but if you’re silly enough to do that then isn’t that just a helpful pruning to the human race? Survival of the fittest and all that? I’m an adult and I want power in the bathroom! Thank you America.
Shopping – The mall here opens until 9pm, apart from Sundays when it’s still open until 6pm. Most shops in England aren’t open at 6pm, let alone on a Sunday. It’s lovely to be able to realise you have bought the wrong Christmas lights then traipse back to Lowes (the USA’s answer to B&Q) at 8.30pm. What joy. There are lots of independent stores in the USA as well as chain stores including independent grocery stores which I can’t ever remember seeing in the UK, the term here is ‘Mom & Pop stores’. Also there are all the coupons you can clip from the newspapers to get money off everything, I think I enjoy things more when I know I’ve got them for a bargain. And then there is the sheer range of products available, and all of them new to me because most brands in the UK don’t seem as popular here. For example, do you want a bagel? Perhaps there are 3 or 4 types of bagel available in the UK where they are sold. Here I could have cinnamon raisin, onion, poppy seed (although these show up on drugs test as opiates!), plain, wholegrain, multigrain, whole wheat, sesame, cranberry walnut, cheese, chocolate chip, french toast, blueberry…. or perhaps I would like an everything bagel? Yes, there’s an everything bagel. England cannot compete.
Nature – A lot of the nature and the wildlife in the USA is new to me, it’s a special kind of novelty to see a brand new animal in the wild for the first time. I came to a full stop in the middle of the road this week to watch a possum scuttle about. As a teenager I had a Saturday job in a exotic plant nursery by my house – we used to sell some of the plants there that grow wild in the area… as being exotic…. they’re not exotic anymore!
Driving – Now although I had to retake my driving test which was mildly annoying and drive on the right hand side of the road (which is clearly incorrect), there are a lot of things I prefer about driving in the USA. Firstly, almost all of the roads are very wide (how else would the masses fit their SUVs down the road?) so you hardly ever get some tosser hogging your side of a country lane. As well as the roads being wide the parking spaces are wider and often diagonal to give the least amount of effort to parking. Lady parking jokes aside, I think we’ve all been to some shitty car park in the UK where the spaces are minuscule and there’s a concrete pillar inches away from scratching up the side of your car door because the owners of the car park are desperate to get an extra couple of pounds out of us by cramming as many spaces in as humanely possible – there is none of that here. Also most places you park are free, sometimes we are planning to go somewhere and I ask Kim if she has change for the car park, she fixes me with a funny look and says “Babe, this is America” witheringly. However when the rare occasion arises that we do have to pay for parking Kim would obliviously hand over a small fortune whilst I would say “are you fucking joking?” and insist on walking from a mile away just to get a dollar off. Petrol (or gas, as I must call it if I don’t want anyone to look confusedly at me) is so much cheaper, I can fill my entire tank for less than it cost me to fill half a tank in the UK – when I first discovered the price difference I was sick with rage. Insurance is also cheaper… go figure?
So that is a small sample of the things that the USA just does better than England at.