Tag Archives: Cultural differernces

Oh America, you so crazy!!! (Thoughts of a Dancing Irishman on his rambles through the USA)

31 Oct

America, land of the free and home of the brave… and the downright crazy.

I’ve been here in the US for over a month now and I finally reached my goal destination of New York City a little over 2 weeks ago (where were you all with the welcome parade eh???). It’s been a roller-coaster of experiences so far.

Football games, homecomings, shrimps n’ grits, beach after beach after beach, terrifying bus stations, pumpkin spice lattes, compliments about my good English and even a little bit of salsa dancing… that’s how I’ve spent the last month or so and I believe I’ve got a good grasp of (certain) things here in the states (at least enough to write this article).

A whole lot of crazy
Everywhere on earth is different (thank god for that) and the great thing about being a traveling, dancing Irishman is getting to experience these differences first hand.

Here’s a few little things that have stood out to me over the past few weeks in the United States of A, both good and bad, that have made me stop, think and say to myself either “hmm, that’s nice” or, alternatively, “what the F##K”.

Excluding Tax
“Oh look, a pack of peanuts for only 89 cents. Why that’s wonderful, I’ve got exactly that in change in my pockets”…Up to the register I contently skip, elated with the fact that I can now relieve myself of the heavy burden of coins I’m carrying. I count out my change carefully to make sure it’s all there, pass my peanuts to the clerk with a smile and she smiles back while saying “that’ll be $1.04 please”… Dreams of a change free pocket crushed!
Really, would it be so hard to just label things with the tax included???

People talking to themselves on the street
They’re everywhere and I always make sure to check that they’re not using a handsfree set or bluetooth… and they’re not. The majority of them appear to be bats##t crazy too.

Cinnamon on everything
Now I like cinnamon just as much as the next dancing Irishman but I really don’t understand why Americans have chosen it as the “spice of choice” for everything sweet. I can’t seem to find any baked goods that haven’t taken a shower in it. Less is more folks.

Adds for law offices
This I really can’t understand, there are so many advertisements for lawyers on local television and newspapers that it boggles the mind. Has suing other people for accident claims become the new pastime of America? If add space on newspapers and airtime on local radio is anything to go by then it certainly seems so.

Big Gulps
Why in the name of god would anyone need a “bucket” of flavored sugar-water.

Tipping
Please America, just pay your staff a fair wage. You are expected to tip for everything in this country which (along with the non-included taxes) means that you’re almost never sure how much you need to pay at the end of a transaction.

I understand the necessity of tips for servers but they’re only necessary because servers get paid a ridiculous hourly wage. On top of that (speaking as someone previously unfamiliar with the custom as it exists in the US) I used to get so confused about tipping in different places; should I tip 15% or 20 %? how to I tip my bartender? what if I’m paying with credit card?and what if I’m in bad mood? Does my server have to suffer for my bad day? I could go on!!!

And don’t get me wrong, I tip generously, as i know that’s how the people who wait on me  make their living so I consider it good karma… But I still resent having to pay extra for a service that is included free in most other countries in the world (and I imagine other travelers would be like-minded). In Japan, for example, restaurants provide some of the finest service I’ve ever experienced and they actually refuse tips.

Obnoxiously friendly servers
Related to the above, some (and I really have to stress that it’s only some) servers put on way too much of a show in their attempts to get better tips. Some are overly friendly to the point of just coming off as false and some push more and more product on you that it’s annoying. In case any servers reading this are getting pissed off at me for writing this “without knowing what I’m talking about”… I assure you, I have plenty of experience as a server.

Big cars
Having lived in Europe and japan where small cars are frequent sights I find it very difficult to comprehend Americans prejudice against small cars. The streets are full of huge gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs with usually just the driver inside. I’ve only visited urban areas so far here in the states so I really don’t get why anyone would even need an SUV. Do they think that extra power is necessary for the slope in their multistory car-park?

Small cars are looked down upon as something to be ridiculed and the only small cars I saw with any frequency were mini coopers and Volkswagen beetles, cars that get bought for their style factor and not for the fact that they make economic and environmental sense. Priorities folks… please!

Oh My “GOSH
I really didn’t think people actually used the word “gosh”. It appears I was seriously wrong!

In your face food
This probably stuck out to me a lot more due to the fact that I arrived in the states after 3 weeks in Cuba, which is practically another world, but as I soon as I arrived in the US I couldn’t help but feel the desire to EAT!!!

Advertising for food is literally everywhere here. I can’t walk down a street without being recommended a limited edition “first long weekend in October” burger followed by a half gallon of chocolate-chip jalapeño ice-cream made with milk extracted from “recombinant growth hormone-free” Persian kittens, all washed down with hot and delicious PSL (google it, they’re really good actually).

Yup, Fried Chicken and Waffles... for breakfast. I ate it coz the sign told me to.

Yup, Fried Chicken and Waffles… for breakfast. I ate it coz the sign told me to. This, by the way is only half a portion, I was sharing breakfast.

Taking that Into account and combined with the overpricing of fresh produce and ridiculously low pricing of processed junk-food (which comes in equally ridiculous potion sizes) it’s no wonder that America is fighting an obesity epidemic.

Awkward hugs
I can’t help but laugh my ass off when I see Americans meeting friends on the street and performing the most awkward hugs imaginable. You know the ones I’m taking about; cheeks out to the sides and asses sticking way, way back (you’ve got to make sure those crotches don’t get anywhere near each other now). I don’t want to over generalize (not that I haven’t been doing that since the beginning of this article) so I really must add that I only see these hugs performed by white Americans. Everyone else seems to know how to hug.

What's wrong with allowing those crotches to get nice and close?

What’s wrong with allowing those crotches to get nice and close for a proper hug?

Work work work
It seems that the majority of Americans I’ve met so far either work ridiculous hours or work multiple jobs, in some cases just to “get by”. I really don’t know the reason behind it: is it the unrivaled consumerism here that compels people to spend spend spend, or the need to compete socially with every one else or maybe just the simple desire to make as much money as possible. Whatever the reason, I see a lot of people missing out on actually living and enjoying their lives!

The Green Man is White
Does it not strike anyone else as odd that, for driving, the internationally recognized color for “go” is green and for “stop” is red whereas for walking, “stop” is a red man but “go” is mysteriously” a white man?

I’ve even heard people say, “let’s go, it’s green” when the “white” man lights up…

LET’S THROW IN A FEW NICE THINGS SO I DON’T SOUND LIKE A COMPLETE PESSIMIST…

Lovely people
Americans, as a people, tend to have an awful reputation internationally but I have to say that I really only hear it from people who haven’t actually had a lot of contact with Americans. I have worked with Americans for years (admittedly, outside of the US) and I’ve found them to be great people. In fact, a great deal of my closest friends are American. They’re helpful, courteous and great fun to be around.

Even since I arrived in the US a little over a month ago I feel I’ve been blessed with meeting an unfathomable amount of incredible people all along the way. Every day, I get to start up little conversations with Americans who are always interested to hear something about me and what I’m doing here. To be fair, the majority of the them just happen to be attractive women and I may be playing up my Irish accent a little to help get a little extra attention 😉 , so I might be just a little biased with my judgment. What good is all this Irish charm if you don’t use it, right?

Anyway, I think Americans are lovely.

You want it, you got it!
No matter what you need, be it organic unrefined cold-pressed armadillo oil, a 700 meter shocking-pink extension cord or the latest issue of “LGBT lumberjack quarterly” (real magazine, seriously), if you live in a large-ish American city, you can probably get it.

They really have everything here!

Power Showers
Americans know how to take showers. From super high pressure that makes you feel like you’re getting massaged by a thousand tiny hands to heat that makes you want to stay in the shower forever on a cold morning, I always look forward to my showers in the US.

That said, I probably appreciated showers here a little more after 2 years in Colombia where I had to deal with low water pressure and no heating…at all!!! Thank God I lived in the tropics

Hmmm, seems a little one-sided
I know it seems like I’m really trying to insult the US with this whole post but that’s just another name for international diplomacy… right?

Honestly though, I’m having a ball here in the states and I plan on having even more of a ball once I get settled in a little better. I’m here to do things that can only be done in the US (specifically New York) and there are a whole lot of things that can only be done in New York. I plan on doing lots.

Watch this space.

Where else in the world can I take photos like this? New York is gonna be a lot of fun!!

Where else in the world can I take photos like this? New York is gonna be a lot of fun!!

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Have you been working-out lately? Because you look spectacular 🙂 If you liked this article go ahead and share it with your friends via the Facebook or Twitter buttons below and if you use Stumbleupon please give it a “Thumbs Up”. I’d really appreciate it 😉

Fiona Uyema

Japanese Cookbook Author

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