Thursday, 4 October 2012

Holiday Observations – US vs UK


I have returned!

I got back to Blighty on Tuesday but jetlag is killing me at the moment and I am struggling for any energy to do anything, except at 3 in the morning – yes, I was up in the early hours of this morning re-basing my Nurgle Terminators!

I'd like to thank everyone who commented on the scheduled posts, especially those of you who gave advice on my San Francisco post at the beginning of my holiday – I did manage to read the comments on the odd occasion we had wi-fi for the iPad and some of them were very useful.

In the absence of any hobby-related stuff, I thought I'd share some of my observations from the holiday, the differences between the UK and US. These observations will be unavoidably skewed – things differ across a given country and you are treated differently as a tourist.

1. People
In the UK we like to think we are the epitome of good manners and that Americans are loud, brash individuals with no concept of courtesy. Alas this is not true. I find most Brits live in a bubble, with no idea what good manners are and how to treat the people around them. We don't generally talk to strangers, to the point of ignoring people stood around us. The "Have a nice day!" cliche that we have about Americans may be true but it extends beyond the service/retail industry. I found strangers you share a lift with, or individuals that cross your path during a given day will wish you the same good fortune – something unheard of in the UK and something that leaves you remarkably upbeat. The other cliche that all Americans are obese, lazy types is also about as accurate as the idea that all Brits wear Bowler hats and know the Queen personally. I witnessed more obese, lazy individuals in my walk into Folkestone town centre just now than I did during the entire duration of my holiday.

2. Driving
I have a bug bear when it comes to UK drivers. I rarely see an indicator used these days and middle lane campers seem to be on the increase too. Patience is almost non-existent and road rage is a growing phenomenon. I found driving in the US a pleasant change. The roads over there may be (from what I witnessed) in generally a poor state but traffic travels at a slower speed (even those breaking the limit) and once you get used to the undertaking there seemed little to stress you out. There are exceptions of course, and city driving was a nightmare, but as someone who often gets cross when driving I was most chilled. My experience driving an automatic wasn't great – it was like driving a go-cart and it was constantly struggling to find the right gear. It might have been me but give me a gear stick every time (I'm not a control freak honest!).

3. Food
My previous experience of food in the States was ridiculously sized meals that a skinny Brit was never going to finish in a week. This time round things were different. Meal portions were much more appropriate and I rarely left the plate dirty. Aside from a couple of excellent evening meals out I did find the quality of meals not up to scratch. Our choice of venues perhaps as we did find some superb cuisine while we were there. Also, how can it be that my two favourite Ben & Jerry ice cream flavours left the vendor at the B&J store scratching his head?!! He'd never heard of them!

4. TV
We did watch a bit of TV during our stay and I have to say I'll stick to Sky thank you very much. Adverts every 10 minutes, tv programmes starting literally as the credits from the previous show were still rolling, over the top presenters and news readers who constantly fluff their lines made for pretty poor viewing. Ironically most of the show we watch here in the UK come from the States but it was quite painful at times watching tv over there. TV adverts were the comic relief, however, even when they are meant to be serious – so shallow in their creativity and often full of doom and gloom.

Also –
One of my favourite evenings whilst over in the States was spent sitting at a bar, drinking Miller Lite, eating a Philly Cheesesteak and watching American Football surrounded by genuine football fans of all ages. The barman was great to chat to and have a bit of banter with. I will miss that.

I wasn't particularly taken with the city. Napa Valley was superb contrast and so laid back and calming. Yosemite was simply amazing, and the scale of nature in that place makes you really re-evaluate how you perceive the world around you.

I would love to move to the States – not necessarily to any of the locations we visited, but I definitely like the idea. The grass is always greener, isn't it!

24 comments:

  1. I found myself nodding my head to everything you've written!

    ...and jetlag is murder, after my first trip to the US I made the mistake of going to work the next day and fell asleep at my desk... :/

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    1. I knew we'd have jetlag out there and it took a couple of days to get over but was not expecting it so bad back here. It has meant I get some hobby stuff done overnight!

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  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed you trip. Many people in the States watch TV essentially on tape delay where they can fast forward through the commercials.

    With the worldwide readership on hobby blogs I wonder if it makes sense to ask advice while your planning a trip since someone is likely to have been/lived/be from there.

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    1. Superb trip – your advice was very useful although we didn't get to do it all. We did have the audio tour at Alcatraz, so thank you to your wife!

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  3. Never been to the States, yet, maybe one day. Sounds like you had a great time and do you mean to tell us that you don't in-fact own a bowler hat?

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  4. Its not somewhere I've been but stereotyping is unfortunately given everywhere.

    Manners is something that seems to be dying out. It really peeves me when I hold a door open for someone and they don't even say thank you.

    Glad you seemed to have had a good time and that you re-adjust accordingly to UK time.

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    1. I still get grief living down in the South but coming from the North… by both groups of friends. I have no doubt that there are similar differences the length and breadth of the States.

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  5. My wife and I honeymooned in England a few years back and I think you might be right about the grass being greener. While we were there, we met a lot of people who were helpful and friendly. We did find some things interesting: British bacon being more undercooked than American, the roads being, generally, quite a bit more narrow, etc. But the people were all friendly and open to conversation about... well... pretty much whatever.

    Might be a case of being a tourist. While in America it is second-nature to say "Have a good day" to pretty much anyone, even if you just spoke with them for a couple seconds, I find even traveling to another state in the US usually results in a lot more attention from strangers. Could just be how I carry myself differently when I'm a tourist versus how I carry myself where I live.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip to the States. Should you ever be heading out to the Washington DC / Northern Virginia area, let me know.

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    1. One thing about Brits is that you will get a reaction if they hear a foreign accent, so that would explain people's willingness to engage – when I moved down from the North (like 200 miles) I initially got a lot of banter from the locals because of my accent.

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  6. Heh I love seeing this kind of post as I suffer from it every time I go home! Living in Turkey at the moment, and then going home to visit family in Canada is always entertaining!

    Especially the driving!

    Glad that you had a good time, and second the part about the commercials. However since I watch most things from my computer now I haven't really seen a commercial for a while.. unless I brave the Turkish shows! Which is closer to 20 minutes of shows, 30 minutes of commercials!

    BTW.. I miss the ability to have proper conversations with the bartenders. Turkey doesn't understand it, and I haven't had the chance often while in UK to see it in action either. A trip back home is starting to become required here.. :)

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    1. Surely you'll be going home for the holidays. I think I would enjoy being Stateside for Christmas – they do holidays so much better than we do in the UK.

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    2. Would be nice, but not likely. Lack of vacation days this year playing against me. But hopeful for next spring just after the snow thaws out ;)

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  7. Wait until you visit Canada. Our politeness is just a thin veneer for the crazy;)

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    1. Was in Toronto for a while back in '96 and didn't want to come home. It felt like a happy medium between the UK and US.

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  8. I've only been to the States once and that was just for a weekend (friend's wedding - juggling flights and hotel within a limited budget meant I could only stay 3 nights). I found that everybody I met was really friendly. Eating was mainly done in two places - hotel breakfasts and evening meals in the bar across the road from the hotel. I might have had room service for one evening meal.

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    1. Wow – that is a long way to go for a weekend!

      Because we stayed in 3 different locations some distance apart we didn't get to stay more than a couple of days in each so I feel your pain. There's always more to do.

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  9. Great to have you back Sir, loved the post, but not sure I'm ready to pack up and leave these hallowed shores just yet.

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    1. I would dearly love to leave the UK but I'm not truly convinced that anywhere else is going to be that different over time.

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  10. I recommend Chicago, mate. Next time?

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  11. I'm stuck living in the States right now and I have to tell you DON'T MOVE HERE. They were only nice to you because you were a tourist. They're horrid people and they hate foreigners, really, really hate foreigners living there. There are no jobs, they are violent, small minded and ignorant. I have to get out of here before I slap one of them and wind up in jail.

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    1. I got the impression, certainly in the city, that I had a dollar sign above my head, so I am under no illusions that this is definitely a 'grass is greener' situation.
      As for the violence and hating foreigners, sounds just like Folkestone except we have knife wielding immigrants rather than gun wielding locals and police!

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    2. I have to ask Anne, where in the US are you living? I've been here in Baltimore for 10 years and haven't had the troubles you seem to be facing. There is certainly a lack of knowledge about Australia (my home country) but no hostility because I'm foreign.

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