In a quote often mistakenly attributed to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw said ‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language’.
That is not all, people. That is not all. Here are some random thoughts.
I moved to the US, DC specifically, some 14 years ago. I had no idea what living in the US would be like. I’d grown up on the telly diet of Dallas, Dynasty, Knight Rider etc. All are crap actually, when it comes to representing American culture. There are no oil barons with alcoholic wives, no Princes of Moldova, nor talking cars that play a part in solving crime.
I had been told of massive shopping malls, big cars, bum bags & white trainers, loud voices and a gihuge number of television channels. All exist.
My first realisation that all was not as I thought it would be, was within the first few days of arriving. George Bernard Shaw was bloody spot on. Incredibly, there are loads of cultural differences between the UK and the US, not just the spelling and grammar.
Nobody knew what I was saying half the time. It was funny at first, then just became a royal pain in the bum. A roommate of mine once revealed that during our house share that lasted 1 year, most of that time he’d had NO idea what I was saying. Embarrassing. I tried to Americanise some words – water goes to wadder but the d is soft and the r is emphasised strongly. Say what?! If you have to repeat yourself more than twice, it’s time to use hand gestures. Or leave. Just don’t attempt an American accent. You will be seen as pitiful. I speak from experience.
I thought men wearing cowboy hats and cowboy boots to balls (galas), a la JR Ewing, was a fallacy. I thought it utter nonsense that any grown man would commit such an odd outfit horror. I was so, so wrong. It happens. If you never spend any time in Texas or at an event where there are lots of rich Republicans, you may never actually see this. Trust me, though, it’s not an urban myth. There are levels of boot status. Crocodile (quite basic these days, apparently), hog leather and the ultimate – hippo skin. <retch>. The bigger your stetson, the better. I’ve been known to covet a few chapeaus. Anyway, moving on.
Strangers on the metro make eye contact and say Good Morning. The first time this happened, I recoiled so hard, I almost got whiplash. It took me a while to get used to it. New York is a different matter – much more like London in the dreadful unfriendliness and worry that you will get stabbed for smiling at the wrong person. The smells are similar too. <retch>
The public loo. To this day, I get weirded out by the massive gaps down the side of the cubicle door. You sit down, look ahead and see at least half of one person waiting in line. If you can see them, it’s only natural that they can see you. Right? On the loo, knickers around your ankles. WHY are the door gaps so wide??!! After you get over stagefright, you have to become a bit of a contortionist. To move yourself out of the viewing area, you turn your whole body to one side. Except the cubicle is so narrow, your knees hit the wall. Gross. You flush – the flush is so powerful, you try to step back to avoid getting wet. There is nowhere to move to, though. The cubicle is not just narrow, it’s short and tiny. The door opens inwards, meaning you need to step back towards the loo that has no lid, and rub half your body against the wall. Gross, again. For a country that has such huge hotel bedrooms, it is insane that public loos are so small.
Tax is shown separately. For example, it says $1.50 for a coffee. You get to the till and they ask for $1.70. Eh? It’s not included, which is the norm in the UK. The worst was getting to the till with the exact change only to realise it wasn’t enough. My mum would DIE. For someone who prides herself on counting out the exact sodding change in pennies…
How folk eat <blood pressure rises>. Not going there.
Health insurance <brain almost explodes>. For another time.
All the above said and done, it’s the land of opportunity. Those that work hard are able to take advantage of opportunities not afforded in other countries. If you work hard, you are applauded and encouraged.
Despite the present bullshit being spouted by The Donald and Surgeon Carson, it’s already a great country. These two muppets represent a small percentage of Americans and thankfully it doesn’t appear likely that either will win a seat in the White House. I shan’t get any deeper into politics as it’s a very sticky subject, much like religion. <raises eyebrow>