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This is the sequal to my previous post 7 Pet Peeves About America.
Being away for so long didn’t just amplify the pet peeves I had about my country, it also gave me a greater appreciation of the things which are great about America. Here are my top seven:
1) The first floor is floor number ONE. I can’t tell you how dumb the numbering system in on most foreign elevators. The first floor is actually the floor above the ground floor. If the ground FLOOR is in fact a FLOOR, then it must be the first of such FLOORS in a building. If you have five apples you don’t start counting 0,1,2,3,4, you count starting with 1,2,3,4,5. Count the number of levels which people can be on. That is the number of floors in a building. If you have zero floors, then you don’t have a building. I blame the British for exporting this nonsense. People have tried justifying this to me on Twitter and the fact remains you start counting with 1, not 0.
2) Roads. As much as we might complain about our roads, we have it good. The Interstate Highway System is the most impressive network of roads in the world if only because of the sheer scale of the project. In Australia, which is about the same size as the continental United States, and even large parts of the Trans-Canadian Highway, are two lanes. You can go north, south, east and west all over the US on four lane, divided highway with exit ramps. If you had enough fuel and didn’t have to sleep or eat, you could go border to border without stopping. Even remote parts of the country have the same four-lane, divided highway with on/off ramps.
3) 24 Hour Stores. I give much of East Asia a pass on this one, but Europe is guilty. You can in most places in the US at least find a gas station or convenience store open at any hour of the day. Good luck doing this in any major European city. This is one of the many reasons why I’m more of an Asia guy than a Europe guy. Despite our history, I find more and more things Americans have in common with Asia and less and less we have in common with Europe. 24 hour stores is one of them. (I reserve reservation on Spain because I have heard legends about how they are a late night people.)
4) Crazy people. America has some really batshit crazy people. There is nothing I like better than to go talk to the conspiracy guys when I’m in Dallas (they are there every single day) or to walk around Venice Beach in LA. We have a spectrum of crazy which is not even approached in other countries. There is no cultural heritage which people feel they have to conform to in the US like they do in many other countries. You can see some kids in some wild costumes in Japan, but there is a conformity to their rebellious dress. There is nothing special about crazy people per se, but they are the canary in the coal mine. So long as we have the crazies, the rest of us are (relatively) safe.
5) Free refills/Free Wifi. I can’t describe how stingy the rest of the world is with their soft drinks. Someone needs to tell them that the stuff is 99% water and it is almost all mark up on the product. Moreover, they need to sell more fountain drinks and less cans/bottles. Outside of a few places in Australia, I can’t recall ever seeing free refills at a fast food restaurant anywhere in the world. Getting refills at a sit down restaurant is unheard of. Couple this with the outrageous prices for soft drinks in most countries, and the US is really a deal.
Driving around the US from September to November I found lots of places that offer free wifi. Most motels do, many restaurants and cafes do as well. It is not too hard to find free wifi in any bit of civilization in the United States. Good luck finding it anywhere in Europe, Australia or New Zealand. I think this has something to do with the free refill thing. I’ve heard many people say that service in American businesses is better than in their overseas counterparts and I think providing free services like wifi and refills are part of it.
6) Popular music and TV. I’ve seen television all over the world and have had to listen to local popular music (and I’m not talking about cultural or world music here). Most of it is really awful. The bad original programs you see on PAX or CW would be winning awards in most countries. Production values, singing, acting, almost all of it is across the board bad. Americans do TV and pop music well.
7) Humor. Perhaps it is a cultural thing, but I didn’t find a whole lot of humor in other countries. It isn’t that everyone else is serious (although some are), but much of what they thought was funny, really wasn’t very funny. Think of the foreign films you’ve watched, how many of them are comedies? I can’t really think of any. (UK and Canada excluded) Even the shows I saw in Australia and New Zealand, both English speaking countries, wasn’t that funny. Flight of the Concordes is not that funny. Japanese humor seems more goofy than funny. The French think Jerry Lewis is a genius…nuff said.