7 Pet Peeves About America

Posted: December 14, 2009    Categories: Travel, United States

This post is a companion to the article 7 Things That Are Awesome About America

When you spend a significant time away from your home country, you get a new appreciation for the good and the bad. Now that I’m back in the US and have traveled around the country for three months, I have a really different perspective on what the good and bad things are about my country. Here are a list of my pet peeves about the United States:

Id love to see more dining options like hawker stands and street vendors in the US

I'd love to see more dining options like hawker stands and street vendors in the US

1) Dollar Bills. We really need to get rid of the dollar bill and replace it with a dollar coin. The US dollar is probably the smallest denomination of any major country to have a paper note that small. The smallest paper bill in Japan is 1,000 yen (about $10) and they have 500 yen coins. Likewise, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Euro Zone all have coins up to about $2. We’d do well to follow the lead of Canada on this one and kill off the dollar bill and adopt the $1 and $2 coin for everyday use. I realize we do have dollar coins, but until we kill off the dollar bill, there isn’t much incentive to use the dollar coin.

2) Pennies. These also need to die. Many Americans get hung up on the idea of rounding prices. It is done almost everywhere. You benefit from rounding just as much as you lose. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t use it in a vending machine, it shouldn’t be in circulation. The government loses money on the production of every penny. Literally, it is worth less than the metal they put in it. Only the government could take a valuable commodity and make it worth less than it is worth in the ground.

3) TV News. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, all of them are brain dead. They are so desperate to fill time they end up focusing on the murder trial of the moment, celebrity news or anything else which doesn’t matter. For a few days take a look at what is the top story on the US version of CNN.com and the International version. Sometimes the difference is dramatic. I can’t stand watching the news now.

4) Month/Day/Year. This really doesn’t make sense if you think about it. The rest of the world uses Day/Month/Year as it goes in order from smallest unit to largest. I have no idea why we do it this way or how it started, but it is change people should consider phasing in.

Driving around Australia gave me an intuitive grasp of the metric system

Driving around Australia gave me an intuitive grasp of the metric system

5) Non Metric Measurements. Here is something strange. I have done almost all of my SCUBA diving outside of the United States. When I dive now, everything I’m used to is in metric. I know that 40m is pretty deep and 30C is pretty warm water. I did a dive in Grand Cayman and everything was in Imperial units. I was totally confused. I’ve also totally adapted to metric mentally for temperatures between about 10-40C, but not below that. Likewise, I’m pretty use to driving in kilometers now having driving about 10,000km in Australia. I no longer have to mentally convert these units because I have an intuitive grasp of what they mean. I think the key to adopting the metric system in the US will be to keep sneaking it in like they did with 2 liter bottles of soda.

6) Police, TSA Workers, and Immigration Officials. I got a ticket in New Zealand for speeding. The officer was downright apologetic about it. I accidentally had a Leatherman in my camera bag when I borded a flight from Perth to Adelaide and the security officer just notified me of it and suggested that I put it on a checked bag. They didn’t confiscate it or try to toss their weight around. Cops and security officials in the US seem to have an enormous chip on their shoulder and seem more concerned about people obeying them than they are about protecting the public. The new effort on the part of the Federal Government to promote tourism to the US means nothing if the first encounter people have at the airport is hostile and one where they are assumed to be guilty. Several members of the International Olympic Committee stated this as a reason why they did not vote for Chicago for the Olympics.

7) Stupid Regulations. I’d walk around cities like Seoul or Bangkok and wonder why there isn’t more street food in the US. Even cities like New York which do have street vendors have to pay insane sums of money to have a street cart. In LA the city is going ape shit about taco stands and bacon dogs. There aren’t people dropping dead from food poisoning from illegal taco stands. The food safety is on a par with a backyard BBQ. Given the economic climate in the US, I think we’d have a explosion of food options become available if we just let people set up tacos, hot dogs and hamburgers stands. Street food adds to the culture of a city.

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