Wednesday, 4 March 2009


So Gordy and I have been here in the Great US of A, hence my lack of posts for the last couple of days.

He is here to try and make himself look big and leader-like and strong and international and brave and virtuous and altogether much more important and clever than Dave. Not sure that's really going to work really. Frankly, even God would struggle to pull him out of his nosedive.

I am here to meet with my American colleagues. I work in an international business. Whenever I visit the US, there are several things that jump out at me about Americans, both good and bad.

Good things

Can do attitude - This is such a refreshing change to British negativism. We are a pessimistic, dour, fault spotting nation. We always come up with 10 reasons why something won't work, rather than looking to see how to make it work. Americans are just so optimistic. Even when presented with a plan that clearly has serious flaws, their DNA is pre-programmed to be positive and look for the good rather than fixate on the bad.

Infectious enthusiasm - They are so goddam bouncy. They could enthuse you about your own death sentence. They often achieve things just through sheer force of enthusiasm alone. It's very energising.

Practicality - They are so astonishingly practical. Everything from business processes to retail experience to design to anything really. Some silly examples:
  • Their road signs are held up by simple, cheap metal posts that have holes stamped all through them. They are as efficient as the much thicker metal posts we use, way cheaper and as they have holes in them any hurricane or wind of any strength just blows right through them. Why didn't we think of that?
  • They have 'drive thru ATMs'. I know, fat Americans can't be assed to get out of the car. But think about those moments when we have all parked on a double yellow and dashed in the sheeting rain to the cash point!
  • The snowy bits of the States actually have snow ploughs! They laugh at us and our gritting lorries. Before you even get to work, the bloody car park has been ploughed, let alone the roads.
  • The nozzles on the end of the hose at any petrol station has a lever to hold the trigger down so that you can stand beside your car and watch it fill up, rather than grapple with freezing fingers having to keep the trigger depressed while the petrol flows into your tank.
Bad things

Immediate shallow friendliness - They are all over you when you meet them. They tell you their life history in the first 15 minutes and always tell you you must meet up, drop in, come round to dinner etc. But let's be clear: all that is American for 'hello'. They actually do not want to see you at all. They would be mortified if you showed up.

Baying voices - Certain states. Certain places. OMG, it can be awful. 'Nu Joisy' (New Jersy), 'Baastan' (Boston) etc. Painful on the ears.

Arrogance - They are just so oblivious to the ROW (rest of the world), almost as if it is actually just one other place. "How do you do this in Europe?" Honestly, I was asked that this week, as if Europe is one homogeneous landmass.

But, for all this, I love them. I find them fascinating, invigorating even. I even forgive their arrogance. It is the arrogance of the population of the unchallenged world superpower. I am sure the British in the early to mid 1800s were equally irritating for foreigners, as we wandered around the world invading everywhere and buying everything. The Chinese in 2050 will be the same.

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