This article began as a response to last week’s “10 Things You Should Never Say To A British Person”; I was going to sit here and preach to y’all about things one shouldn’t say to an American, but from a British perspective. Stuff about obesity, and religion, and guns, as though it were coming out of the mouth of my dear grandfather, who, despite never having stepped foot on American soil, believes he knows all about life over in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Stuff I wouldn’t say to an American stranger for fear of being snarled at. I’m not trying to sit here and suggest you’re all spherical and trigger-happy, dancing around with snakes on Sundays while you guzzle double-cheeseburgers. Especially not in writing when I’m in the process of applying for an American visa (so that I, too, can shoot guns and get truckloads of In-N-Out in my belly).
So. I sat here and scratched my noggin for a while, and I came up with only one thing that wasn’t simultaneously untrue and offensive: ‘Can I bum a fag?’ (Stop sniggering—in the U.K. it means may “I have a cigarette?”). Everything else seemed to come across as a little too snarky. You guys are far too full of ‘Murican pride for me to sit here and lambaste you like that, and I’d feel way guilty, too, because I love America.
Instead, I thought I’d turn the tables somewhat—instead of telling you what you’re doing wrong, please let me tell you (from a foreigner’s perspective) what you’re doing 100 percent right. So, I proudly present: ten reasons why you’re lucky to live in America—a.k.a., ten reasons why I want to move back.
1. You’re American, first and foremost.
I just think it’s awesome how patriotic Americans are. In the U.K., unless there’s a specific reason (such as a jubilee or a Royal birth), you’d be hard pressed to find a house that flies the Union Jack in their front lawn, and if you did, you’d immediately assume the residents were members of the EDL or some other crazy Fascist movement and steer well clear. Here in the U.K., being patriotic is increasingly synonymous with being racist, whereas in America everyone is proud to be American. Whatever their race, culture or creed, everyone puts themselves as an American first and foremost, and I think that is wonderful.
2. You have so much more respect for weapons.
In a country where bearing arms is (largely) legal, I have found that there seems to be a greater respect for potentially lethal weapons. I do believe that, in a culture where weapons can fall into the wrong hands regardless of how legal they are, it’s valuable to have grown up respecting the power of a gun, and knowing how to use it safely is an important skill. In my opinion, it’s better to have been taught how dangerous a weapon can be, but also how to use it correctly, than to pretend they don’t exist altogether.
3. You can say what you want.
Don’t agree with the opinion I just expressed? You can tell me so. And I can disagree with you. You are free to express any and all opinions. If you don’t agree with something, you can contest it, and you can do so whether you’re black, white, male, female, gay, or straight. That is a remarkable ability in a world where so many millions of people are not as fortunate.
4. a) Everything is more convenient.
Disaster strikes: It’s 1 a.m. and you’ve run out of candy. In the U.K., you are forced into a candy-fast ’till morn; in America, this isn’t even a problem because there is always a 24-hour convenience store at hand. I’m all about those late-night CVS runs.
4. b) … There is always more.
And while you’re on your midnight snack trawl, you’re spoilt for choice. Want M&Ms? You’ve got plain, peanut, peanut butter, dark chocolate, pretzel, coconut, almond… and don’t get me started on all the different kinds of Ben & Jerry’s that are exclusively on the left side of the pond. Woe betide you if you’re trying to locate the Vermonster in England, buddy.
5. Everything is cheaper.
Aside from feeling like you’ve got a wad of Monopoly money in your pocket because of that blessed exchange rate, it’s far less expensive to live in the US. Everything from petrol (gas) to clothes to cigarettes and alcohol is cheaper. In California I saw a bottle of wine for $4 that was being flogged in a British supermarket for £6.99. And that was at half price.
6. People like talking.
Brits are famously awkward and insular. We talk to strangers sparingly and wrangle ourselves out of situations that involve more than a quick exchange. I’m not sure why we are the way we are, but there it is. In America, people are so much more happy to chat. You can share stories and secrets with people you meet in the line at Starbucks. If Americans are open books, then Brits are your teenage diaries that you forced shut with two padlocks before throwing the keys away. And that shit’s no fun.
7. You have so much space.
America is the perfect place for an adventure. In one (vast) country you have all the landscapes and climates you’d ever want to visit. You can travel down roads that stretch right into the horizon, or you could get lost in a forest with no hope of ever finding your way out. You’ve got mountains and deserts and eagles and bears and craters and canyons and Justin Timberlake’s house. I’m not saying I’d like to get lost in a forest or be eaten by a bear or die in a sweaty heap in the desert, but the point is that America is enormous and incredible. There’s so much space in America that is truly wild, that doesn’t belong to anyone. If that’s not pure awesome, then I don’t know what is.
8. Universities give you more room to discover yourself.
I do love the fact that in America, when you go to university, it’s up to you to decide which classes you’ll take, and you have to take a variety of classes to help round out your education and help you decide what you really want to learn. I loved that I could take a class in art history and obscure German silent movies along with my Shakespeare and my American literature. I love the emphasis on a broader education, because not all of us know exactly what we want to specialise in at the ripe old age of eighteen.
I was a tea-drinker before America happened, but I decided to adopt a “when in Rome” philosophy and quickly became addicted to my daily doses of Joe. In America I can wake up at the crack of dawn and always find myself within a short walk to a freshly brewed mug of heaven. I love that a coffee machine is just as much a kitchen staple as a toaster or a microwave, and when you’re not home, you can go to any convenience store and be guaranteed a good cuppa cawfee. In the U.K., we drink ‘that instant shit,’ and it tastes like gravy. Insert gag noises here.
Ask me what I miss most about America and I’d be lying if I didn’t say “food.” When I lived in Pittsburgh I ate like a king (oh, the irony). In the U.K., the chances of my seeking out a decent salad on the high street at lunchtime are slimmer than a woman who lives off iceberg lettuce. If I want a burrito the size of my face, there’s no Chipotle or Q’doba to nurture my rumbly stomach. And our version of Dominoes pizza is shamefully inferior to its American counterpart. You get the gist: Americans are crazily fortunate to live in a land where foods from all over the globe amalgamate into one big melting pot of deliciousness. When I tell border control I’m coming to the U.S. to visit my boyfriend, it’s just a ruse for ‘I’m here to eat ALL the food’… and I’m pretty sure my fat-ass BF would high-five me for admitting that.
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