7 Things That Are Awesome About America

Being away from my home country for so long—I’ve been traveling the world since 2007—but it didn’t just amplify the pet peeves I had about America. This time away has also given me a greater appreciation of the things that are good about America. Whether you’re visiting the country or you lived here your entire life, here are seven things that are just downright awesome.

America, eff yeah!

1. The First Floor is Floor Number ONE

I can’t tell you how dumb the numbering system is in on most foreign elevators. The first floor is actually the floor above the ground floor. Sometimes it’s even two floors up if there’s a half-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 on which people can be when you’re inside a building: 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 that in the ordinal counting system, you start counting with 1, not 0.

2. The Interstate Highway System

The highway in Death ValleyCalifornia disappearing into the distance.

As much as we might complain about the roads in America, 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. It’s so impressive that I rated it one of my 7 Wonders of America.

Roads in Australia (which is about the same size as the continental United States) and even large parts of the Trans-Canada Highway, are two lanes.

Why? You can go north, south, east, and west all over the US on four-lane, divided highways with exit ramps. If you had enough fuel and didn’t have to sleep or eat, you could drive border to border (either north to south or east to west) without stopping. Even remote parts of the country have the same four-lane, divided highway with on/off ramps. Until I traveled the world, I didn’t realize how awesome this is and what an accomplishment it is for our country.

3. Stores are Open 24 Hours A Day

I give much of East Asia a pass on this one, but Europe is guilty. In most places in the U.S., you can find 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” on my world travels. 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. And 24 hour stores is one of them. (I reserve opinions 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 talking to the conspiracy guys when I’m in Dallas (they are there every single day), or walking around Venice Beach in LA. We have a spectrum of crazy that is not even approached in other countries. There is no cultural heritage that people feel like they have to conform to in the U.S. like they do in many other countries. And that is awesome.

Sure, you might see 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 for the USA, and that’s a good thing. So long as we have the crazies, the rest of us are (relatively) safe.

5. Free refills and Free Wifi

God Bless America!
God Bless America!

I can’t describe how stingy the rest of the world is with soft drinks. Someone needs to tell them that the stuff is 99% water and it is almost all markup on the product. Moreover, they need to sell more fountain drinks and fewer cans and 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 in most of the world. Couple this with the outrageous prices for soft drinks in most countries, and the U.S. is really a deal.

Now let’s talk about wifi. Driving around the U.S. over the years, I found lots of places offering free wifi. Most motels offer it, many restaurants and cafes do as well. It’s not too hard to find free wifi in any bit of civilization in the United States. Again, awesome.

But good luck finding this widespread across anywhere in Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. Now, since my travels first began in 2007 this has changed—but never to the level of the USA. 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 is 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, and 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 many other countries I’ve visited. 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 (the UK and Canada excluded from this, however). Even the shows I saw in Australia and New Zealand, both English speaking countries, weren’t that funny. Flight of the Conchords is not that funny. Japanese humor seems more goofy than funny. The French think Jerry Lewis is a genius . . . nuff said.

What did we miss—what do you love about America?

49 thoughts on “7 Things That Are Awesome About America”

  1. This is very attention-grabbing, You are a very professional blogger. I’ve joined your feed and stay up for looking for extra of your magnificent post. Additionally, I have shared your web site in my social networks

  2. So what is great about roads with a speed limit?
    american roads may be bigger but germany has the best road system in the world.
    The german autobahn has no speedlimit and 4 to 8 lanes.
    wikipedia -> autobahn!

    And 24/7 stores: Most gas stations near the autobahn are 24/7 – and there a lot autobahn over germany

    But you are right – having no free refill sucks…

  3. I just love NY & the restaurants & Bars there (i also have made nice website about this at the link on my name). My favorite restaurant is Baltazar & favorite bar is the hudson bar at the hudson hotel!

  4. Burger King in NZ do free refills. Only place outside the US I’ve seen it.

    Scotland has 24 hour supermarkets (363-ish days a year). The rest of the UK does not courtesy of the ridiculous religious bias of the “Keep Sunday Special” brigade who insist we close them at 8pm on Saturday and only open 6 hours on Sunday. Rest of the week is 24 hours though.

    Thanks for acknowledging UK humour :) But I do believe our TV is superb. The US does exceptionally good drama, and a handful of good comedies (and some real rubbish). The BBC makes, without a doubt, the best nature documentaries. Our classic and cult television is second to none and our dramas are wonderful. The majority of the good stuff is BBC – the commercial stations rarely make anything noteworthy.

    Free wifi – McD’s in the UK and France, at least, do free wi-fi. I’ve never understood how a $10 hostel will give you free internet when a $150 hotel room charged you $10/hr for it. Several airports in Oz (mainly provincial ones) do free wi-fi too. Cairns and Adelaide included, if memory serves.

    And Ground Floor = 0. First floor is the first one *above* ground level. Think about it – if you’re in a bungalow then you’re on the ground floor, not the first one… as there isn’t a second floor. Can’t have a first without a second! A bit like McD’s having their smallest meal called “medium” which is grammatically incorrect! So there :-p

  5. Like the list.

    1) I found a lot of free wifi in south america (at least in Chile and Argentina). In fact, I was a little surprised at the level. It was easier to get free WiFi in Chile then it was in NYC in 2006.

    2) Humor – yeah, I keep getting French “comedies” and they are most certainly not humorous in the American sense. They are often bittersweet stories about all sorts of people cheating on each others.

  6. Although I agree with you on most points, I have to say a couple aren’t true in my experiences:
    1. Free wifi in Europe! I’m living in Prague right now and there is free wifi EVERYWHERE! KFC and Starbucks have it. Every mall. Sometimes I can even pick it up while waiting for the tram! It’s definitely more extensive than anything I’ve seen in the States.

    2. 24 Hours Stores: Prague is loaded with them. And actually, when I lived in Spain, there were some there but not as many as here. And in Korea there are some as well.

    I have to agree with the no refills things! It’s crazy. But even worse is the fact that in many countries you can’t even get free water at a restaurant (including the Czech Republic even though the water here is fine to drink).

    It’s all crazy!

  7. Gary you picked crazy people over American movies??? I think one of the greatest things ever about America is we own Hollywood. Hell it’s are greatest asset for world domination and influence! lol

    Someone asked me once when traveling if I miss the food from my home country. I just laughed and said “I always have my home country food with me when I travel. With places like; McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and Sub-Way all over the world, it’s not hard to get an American meal in any country!” I thought about that afterwards and still not sure if I’m sad or happy about that.

    I’ll give your credit though Gary… you sure do like to stir sh*t up with people and get them going! lol

    • The reason I didn’t put down movies is because there are a lot of good movies made in other countries. That doesn’t seem to extend to TV, however.

  8. Nice, honest articles Gary. The dichotomy of America is that once you’ve argued your wy through immigration, America offers simply the most amazing hospitality in the world. The customer service is something we here in the UK could get used to, but we’ll still moan about your tipping culture!

  9. The lack of 24 hours killed me when I was abroad!! But I do love the rest of these – and a few are the things that I dearly missed while I was out of the country. It really did take leaving to appreciate something as bizarre as the “batshit” crazy of some people in the US :-)

    Oh, and sweet tea is on my list – I just love Southern sweet tea and you can’t find the same anywhere else in the world :-)

  10. The ground floor is the ground; you haven’t ascended nor descended anything to get to any floors yet. When you go up a floor, then you’re on the first floor.

    Other things great about America:
    – Yay, Amtrak. We can take reliable rail transport to select cities at almost once per day.
    – The American standard of measurement (formerly known as Imperial system, but since the UK has made moves over to metric, we can claim it as American now.) 16oz to the pound is way better than the multiply by 10 decimal metric system, because everyone knows that 16 is more than 10, so it has to be better.
    – Anywhere you go in America, people all speak the same single language: English. In Europe, people there often can speak three or four different, extra languages, but they speak English pretty poorly.
    – A lot of building and monuments elsewhere in the world are really old, and many of them have fallen apart. American buildings are newer and better, even the historic ones. We really cherish our historic buildings because we make it a historic landmark, so it doesn’t accidentally get renovated.

    • If you call the ground floor the ground floor, then it must be a floor, and if it is a floor and must then be the first floor. The only way it cannot be the first floor is if the ground floor is not a floor, and if it is not a floor, then it can’t be called the ground floor, it would just be the ground.

      It is not the ground. The ground would have no structure on it. The floor is above the ground. It has a floor, ceiling and windows just like any other floor.

  11. Well, obviously the most awesome thing about America is my wife!

    When I first came here I felt very proprietorial about numbering floors “Ground” and then “1” etc. But I’m forced to agree that starting with 1 is a lot more sensible. :)

    The 24 hour store thing. That was totally true int he 80s and 90s, less so now. Especially in cities like London or Berlin where I’ve never really had a problem with that. Maybe not as widespread as here, but it’s still there. If you get into more rural areas, then you’re on your own!

    The free refills thing is wonderful. It just makes me happy. I usually drink a lot of liquid while I eat so eating out in the USA is a lot cheaper and a lot less stressful (what with having to constantly flag down a waiter to reorder a drink!).

    Humour doesn’t seem to travel very well. For instance, I don’t find much American humour funny. I prefer the more dry British sense of humour. And that’s the thing, in countries like the UK and Germany, humour is usually delivered so dryly that if you’re not tuned into it, you might not know the person was telling a joke!

  12. As a US programmer, I have to say that it seems perfectly reasonable to me to start counting from 0 rather than 1. I do it every single day of my life, and it makes my life easier. Personally, I’d just as soon import the “foreign” floor numbering system to the US. And while I’m confusing everyone, I’d dump the whole “let’s pretend there is no 13th floor” nonsense.

    • Humans are not computers. If you start your counting at zero and then have to output the results of the count, you would need to add 1 to make the results make sense.

      • It depends what your numbers represent. It seems in the US the floor number are just labels, since if they were counting something, there would have to be a 13th floor. Might as well use A,B,C,D. Personally, I think it makes sense to have the numbers mean “number of floors above ground level”. That means the ground floor is 0 floors above ground level, the basement is -1 floors above ground level, and so on. Is the basement floor 0 in your scheme?

  13. I never thought about the road system, and now that I have I can see your point. The soda thing may be good so they do not drink so much as many do here in the USA.

  14. I agree – excellent followup to your previous list of pet peeves. I have to agree with all of these, except that I do find british comedy to be riotously funny. I know others who don’t get it at all – just one of those things you either get or don’t get.

    The only places in the US that I find are still really stingy with their WiFi (and drink refills) are the mid- to high-end hotels – it’s almost like they think their WiFi (and soft drinks) are SO much more ‘special’…..yeah, right…..and their sewage doesn’t smell bad either, right? Ha!

    All things considered we do have a lot to be grateful for. :)

  15. Excellent follow up!! :)
    I agree with 2. 5. & 6. Roads in Ireland for example are dreadful – it takes me over 2 hours to get home from the airport and I live less than 100km away.
    However, I’d answer your other points as follows:
    1. I’m with your twitter buddies, but it’s just a random convention like driving on one side instead of the other. I’d argue that you start counting once you start going up.
    3. Definitely more convenient, but it screams consumerist culture. Why in heaven’s name do I need to buy pringles at 4am?? I know people have to work during the week, but the Saturday rush is a social thing. Going to a shop when there is nobody else there seems antisocial to me; I like seeing other people.
    In Europe we always have 24 hour pharmacies and hospitals in cities, that’s all you “need”. Anything else is lazy and dangles a carrot in the air for people to work night shifts and lose out on family time. We can do 24 hour shops in Europe, but instead of the customer always being right, sometimes the shop assistant deserves a little slack ;)
    4. I hate crazy people (not funny crazy people, but the dangerous kind). I felt safer living by a favela in the northeast of Brazil than I did coming home at night in San Francisco or New York on a bus with several loud wakkos.
    7. American humour is too obvious. While I don’t know about Asia, the rest of Europe is more subtle and requires you to think more. The “sarcastic voice” also doesn’t exist in other countries so you have to figure out when someone is telling a joke by the context. I’ve also noticed that Americans require you to laugh to acknowledge a joke (hence canned laughter). Humour is once again a matter of opinion, since you grew up with American humour you are going to prefer it ;)
    Feel free to follow up this comment with “7 things that suck about loud-mouthed Irishmen” :P :P
    Great double post!!

  16. For someone who’s allegedly so worldly, you come off as kind of a complete moron.

    The reason they don’t have free refills in other countries probably has something to do with corn syrup, which is the entire reason our fast food places refill our Coke when we ask, or why you can go into 7-Eleven and buy half a gallon of Mountain Dew for a buck seventy-nine. It’s also the reason our country is so goddamn overweight. This is, oddly enough, actually tied into the highway system, by some cause/effect stretch of the imagination. Ever notice how LA has the best fast food places? Fast food nation, man.

    And criticizing the sense of humor in other parts of the world? Are you retarded? That’s like saying “Man, all these foreign people have weird accents, and talk in some language I can’t understand. What a bunch of weirdos.” Of course you’re critical of their humor. You’re American. You think people in Turkey think Jackass is funny, or some fucking Rob Schneider movie?

    There are a lot of great things about America, and it’s a pretty awesome country in a lot of ways. It’s just a pity we have people like you living here, you rotten bastard.

    • I like your use of the world “probably”. It has nothing to do with HFCS because diet soft drinks are treated the same way. Putting cane sugar in a drink hardly justifies the high prices you see in other countries.

      Do I think people overseas think Jackass and Rob Schneider is funny? Based on the pirate DVDs I’ve seen sold on the streets, yes I do. Bad American comedies are right behind bad action films.

      Thanks for the constructive comments and I hope your Tourette’s Syndrome treatment is successful.

  17. I am Swedish and have so far visited over thirty countries on all continents. I think it is important to understand that humor is an integral part of every culture on earth. American humor is just one type of it. I love some of your comedians as well as the more subtle European humor. I don´t understand the humor of some countries but it is wrong to say theirs is not as advanced because you don´t understand it. I totally agree on the refill issue but I am sorry to inform you that American internet connections are just low average in the developed world, my American friends have 2Mb connections and think that´s fast. My 100Mb cost me 30$/month so it is a bit expensive but that will change soon. (source: http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/Images/commentarynews/broadbandspeedchart.jpg)

    • I’m well aware that many countries have better broadband than the US. I’m just talking about open wifi connections in public spaces.

      • In my opinion 24 hour shopping and free refills of sugary or artificial sweetened sodas is not something to be proud of. I I agree with Benny… shop assistants need a life and soda will kill you lol

        Good roads are important but I would much prefer to have the excellent public transport infrastructure of Europe any day…

        As for foreign humor… Perhaps you need to watch more French, Spanish and Italian movies my friend…

        • What works for Europe doesn’t work everywhere else. Most of North America is still pretty empty. Not everyone lives in large cities. Roads are important.

  18. What a twat. Your country was built and is maintained by the blood of millions and you fuckers should be nuked off the face of the planet. Let me give you a list. Greatest thing ever done by an Arab: 9/11. Pity they didn’t fill the planes with Mustard gas and wipe another few of you cunts off the planet.

  19. Not true. Romania has many 24/7s close to the city center. And 100% of the gas stations in Romania are 24/7s. The same thing applies to most of Europe, when it comes to gas stations.

  20. 6/7 Pleaseeeee
    1/2/5 You got me

    3 Dude we got loads, London might not, but thats due to high crime rate (y)

    6 – Nothing to be proud of… =/

  21. I live in Western Europe and we also have 24 hour stores (and 24hr gas stations along pretty much every bigger road). Not everything is open 24/7, but these stores exist. ;P

    • If you had just gotten rid of the last part of the comment, you could have actually put your name on it and have participating member of a public discussion.

      As it is, I can only assume you are so embarrassed of your like of Flight of the Concordes that you don’t want it to be known to the rest of the world. I don’t blame you.

  22. I live in Romania and there’s a 24 h store really close to the town center. And most gas stations are open 24 h as well. You should probably try Europe :)

    • I have tried Europe. Romania would be the exception in Europe, not the rule. I salute Romania.

      Then again, I think that East Europe is more vibrant than Western Europe, so I’m not too surprised.

  23. I am totally with you on the roads and free refills. Also, you should add super-fast internet. I haven’t been anywhere else in the world that has better internet than the U.S. (though we haven’t been to Japan yet.)

    • For good interent, Japan and South Korea are hard to beat. Also for Cell phone coverage/plans. Korea has one the best high speed internet infrastructures in the world, which is not surprising since it’s also the MMO capital of the world.

      • I don’t think most people realize the speed of bandwidth in some places because the don’t visit sites which are hosted in that country. If you aren’t visiting South Korean servers, much of the benefit of the huge pipes are lost. They work perfectly well for Koreans, however,

    • Are you kidding me? The internet in USA is awful slow.

      Go to speedtest.net and click world results. You’re not gonna find USA in the top 15. Not even mentioning Japan or S. Korea, you’re ousted by everyone from Latvia to Germany.

  24. I love flight of the conchords and I am a Brit! But I will concede that your free wifi is rare here. You may have better roads, but the rest of us have a thing called public transport. Speaking as someone whose tried to negotiate California without a car, I’d say that you’ve a lot of improving to do on that front! I do love the US, despite my criticisms.

    • The UK is also squished into an area the size of Alabama. Public transportation in larger countries like Australia or Canada are just as poor.

      It only works in the US when you have lage cities reasonably close together like Boston/NYC/Philly/DC or Chicago/Milwaukee.

  25. The refill thing blew me away when I went to Spain in Oct. We travel on a budget, and things you would normally do here to conserve money, order water etc, costs a pretty penny over there. NO REFILLS, and NO FREE WATER.

    You are correct about Spain, they are night people, but if you want to do anything mid day forget it. Eat before 2pm or you won’t find a place to eat until 8pm at least and even that early the waiters aren’t happy that you are there. They prefer you not show up until 9pm or later.

  26. Again, I couldn’t agree more – it’s the little things that make us what we are. No where else can you find all of this but America!

  27. I like this list (and the pet peeves one), but I have to disagree with #7 (Humor) slightly. Yes, Americans have a great sense of humor, but I do like other countries’ sense of humor as well. The Brits have a wicked sharp humor that’s so subtle sometime you miss it the first go ’round. I also love the the dry wit of the “Flight of the Concords.” And nothing cracks me up like watching a Japanese game show, especially ones in which the contestants are asked to perform ridiculous stunts — watch an episode of “Human Tetris” and you’ll understand what I mean.

    • I think we enjoy Japanese game shows for a totally different reason than the Japanese do. We are laughing at the show, they are laughing with the show.

Comments are closed.