Wednesday, 5 August 2009

separated by a common language

Boston 511
I havn't been back in the USA for over a year, whereas in some years I'd be here pretty much every month. The gap is long enough to re-examine some little day-to-day differences, which initially stick out like a Hopper lighthouse guarding the shoreline, but soon assimilate into the way things are around here.

Remember I work with quite a few Americans and we all get along just fine, but here's a few observations from the last couple of days
  • ordering a coffee provokes a response of "awesome". Not quite sure why, but its certainly very friendly

  • getting commments about "not being from this town" in many places on account of my accent

  • remembering that television comes in ten minute bursts interrupted with commercials on most of the 60-100 channels provided in hotels.

  • knowing that all tablets and health remedies have a page of disclaimers and that special people are paid to recite these characteristics very fast in adverts.

  • being reassured that objects are still closer than they may appear

  • flicking around the radio dial and being surprised at just how many country music stations there are

  • needing to be especially careful when ordering anything with multiple options on account that I could be misunderstood with entirely unpredictable consequences

  • being pleased now that most electronic devices are multi voltage so I can take one plug adapter and a UK powerstrip instead of lots of plugs.

  • being surprised at the fragility of some US domestically produced items. Thin metal designed for short MTBF.

  • remembering that food comes in industrial quantities in many restaurants. Moderation required.

  • being able to do calculations of tips for all manner of services. Everyone gets paid, etc.

  • remembering that the temperatures indoors are no guide whatsoever to the temperatures outdoors

  • the sheer number of American flags on display everywhere

  • hating that after landing if I don't use my usual car hire company then there's an undignified argument about extras, insurance, upgrades and why the car I've been allocated looks as if its a repo thats been in a car chase.

  • noticing that, charmingly, just about everyone has a story (Just finished chatting to Dmitry about his exploits since he left Russia)

  • hearing debates about Dubya and Barack and how Republicans are trying to make all of what Obama says sound like spin.

  • needing to drive at American speeds, which are both different and slower than Europe and in some states within a good 5 mph safety limit of the prevailing speed limit

  • being still amazed that gas is only $2.59 per gallon.

  • pleased that GSM and 3G coverage is finally pervasive after years of irritaingly poor coverage

I know these are all trivial points, but they are things that pop up in the first couple of days and make me smile. By tomorrow I'll be taking it all for granted.

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