I was lucky enough to spend four weeks traveling and sightseeing in the USA at the end of 2016 with my American boyfriend. I have been born and raised in the countryside of England and there were many things I learnt about America during my time here (and things I learnt about my own country).
1. The people are friendly and welcoming.
English people are not chatty. We don’t particularly engage with strangers, especially in the south of the UK where I’m from. So to have strangers have a good old chat with you in theme park queues or in a lift in a hotel was something pretty new for me.
Americans are curious and warm, and it was a lovely change. Us Brits do have great friendships, but you generally must get to know us first. We tend to be socially reticent with strangers.
In the service industry in the states, whether it be in a shop or restaurant, the representative of the company will go out of their way to ensure you are well looked after and get top service. Our Uber driver in Arizona kindly waited an hour for our horse ride to finish, so he could take us back, because we didn’t have any signal out where we were.
He had no obligation to stay and obviously, we made sure he was reimbursed for the time he spent waiting, but his intension was just to look after these tourists in his home town. Nothing is too much trouble. Don’t expect much more than a smile from us back home — we will resent you for bothering us (I’m thinking of you Transport for London staff).
2. Gun culture is mad, but shooting them is fun.
Okay, full disclosure, I am a liberal European vegetarian. I do not understand the need or right to bear arms. It is not normal for me to see ‘open carry’ or for them to be used so liberally by police.
My local police do not even carry guns and I certainly wouldn’t expect the car next to me in the parking lot to have firearms stored in the trunk.
They kill countless innocent lives each year in America and gun control needs to be seriously changed. However, I’m aware of the difficulties of getting stricter gun control laws in the USA and how this may be even more of an issue under the Trump administration.
However, for recreational purposes, they are great fun! I had the opportunity to shoot them in Las Vegas, and not any old gun — they let me shoot a machine gun.
I had never held a gun before, let alone shot one, but with careful guidance I did it and really enjoyed it. The people that worked at the range were fantastic and knew exactly what they were doing.
One described it as “the best stress relief you could get” when firing them on the weekend. I can see why people enjoy them and when used harmlessly what enjoyment you can get out of them.
3. America is beautiful.
Hiking down to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon was one of the best experiences of my life. And sailing past the Statue of Liberty with Manhattan stretched along the horizon was stunning.
It is a wonderful country with a varied scenery from huge national forests to mountains to bustling cities — any kind of location you are looking for can be found within the fifty states.
4. Politics are baffling.
Donald Trump? Really? The whole world was horrified at that announcement on the 9th of November. But after the shock of Brexit a few months before, that voter mentality of, “let’s overturn the status quo” was something that we could relate to.
Fear of immigration and uncertainty in jobs and housing had not been dealt with satisfactorily by the current government and people did not feel like they were being listened to. Chatting to people that voted for Trump, I could see why they were sold on his ideas. The man is confident about what he believes and what he can do for the country.
However, that mindset of America being the greatest country in the world is not shared by many people outside of America. America is only one country out of 194 and we must all be able to get along with each other for the security of our continued existence on this planet. The sooner the new president realizes that, the better.
5. Americans think big and boldly.
Whether it’s tourist attractions or businesses, Americans are told to think they can be the best at something and the most successful if they only try hard enough. It’s the American dream. I love the thinking that things can be achieved through putting 100% effort in.
Due to the class structure that has been embedded in our British culture for hundreds of years, we learn to ‘know our place.’ Also, our tendency for self-deprecation and not celebrating success prevents us from making the same successes that have been achieved across the pond. I’m getting better at it though. ‘Anything is possible.’ ‘You can achieve your dreams.’
Think like an American. It’s a wonderfully optimist way to be.