After I wrote my 10 Best Things about the UK post, I started thinking about the things I’ll miss when we leave America. My friend John left a comment on that post, saying his 5 favorite things about the US were space, politeness, optimism, the weather in summer and ‘the buzz.’ Some of mine are the same and some are different. So here are my top 10 things about the US, in no particular order.
I fell in love with baseball when we moved to Canada and, while my interest isn’t anywhere near as strong now, I still love it. It’s such a beautiful game with so many different things to appreciate. I will always remember Joe Carter’s home run to win the world series for Toronto (OK, that one was Canada), and taking different family members and friends to games, and spending warm hazy afternoons high up in the stands while guys with trays run up and down the aisles shouting ‘peanuts, popcorn, caramel corn.’ I especially like how people pass their money all the way down the row to the guy with the tray. Try that at an English football match and your money would be gone long before it reached the end of the row!
Yes, the summers are too hot for me and I moan all the way through them, but the sun in Fall and winter is a really wonderful thing and I will miss it very much when I’m in the middle of a grey and dark English winter. We get 2,800 hours of sun per year here. I don’t know how many it is in Kendal, but definitely a lot less than that. One of the things I like about England is the variability of the weather, but it does have its downsides.
Our back garden last winter
How is it that British people haven’t cottoned on to what a great idea window screens are? Sure we don’t have as many bugs, but we have moths and wasps and spiders and – my worst nightmare – Daddy Long Legs. The window screen is a simple and brilliant idea and came in really handy a few years ago when a praying mantis decided to visit. [insert mental image of my hair standing on end!] Still, at least the cats will have lots of bugs to eat when we get home.
A praying mantis on a window screen (this one wasn’t ours but ours was just as hideous)
New York City
The first time I visited New York I loved it, but said I couldn’t imagine ever living there. Just too much noise and movement and stress for someone brought up in an English village. And we don’t actually live in New York – we’re about half an hour outside the city which is perfect for me – but we have the city right on our doorstep and that’s something we’ll definitely miss when it’s not there anymore. When you first visit New York, you feel as though you have been dropped into the middle of a movie, and even though that feeling wears off over time, every now and then you’re walking down the street on your way to do something very mundane and you realize “Holy cow I’m in Manhattan! Little me from South Milford! And I know where I’m going and everything!” and suddenly you have the urge to throw your hat up in the air like Mary Tyler Moore. And the thing is, if you gave way to the urge and did it (which I never have), no one would really care. That’s the best thing about New York.
America does multiculturalism so much better than most other countries (although Canada was great too). That’s not to say there are not problems, because there are. But to date there haven’t been any homegrown muslim terrorists the way there are in the UK. In fact, no immigrant group here feels as alienated and angry as British muslims seem to do. This is not to say racism doesn’t exist here because it does. Just that when compared to European countries, I think America has done a much better job of absorbing people from different ethnic backgrounds. Did you know that America is the first country in the history of modern civilization to elect a member of a minority as its leader? That’s something to be proud of.
A crowd in LA watches the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2008
England has it’s ‘full English’ breakfasts and they’re great, but I still think diners are something special. Probably because as a kid I saw so many movies that featured people ordering exotic food items like ‘root beer floats’ and ‘eggs over easy’ in settings that looked nothing like the ones I knew. And I still love diners. I love the pace of them and the endless menu choices and how they equalize society: rich or poor, you’ll eat at a diner. I know the UK probably has tons of ‘American diners’ now, but they won’t be like the real thing.
This is probably the biggest one for me. As a society, America is optimistic and cheerful whereas Britain is pessimistic and a bit grumpy. When we first moved here, an old friend who had lived in the US told me “the difference between the US and the UK is that in the US, when you have an idea, people say ‘oh that sounds great! But in the UK they say ‘well that will never work…'” She was so right. We would never have started our business if we’d been in England, because we would never have thought it could succeed. I don’t know if any other country views itself as negatively as Britain. Ever since I can remember, Brits have been complaining that the country is going to the dogs and it’s simply not true. By any objective measure, the average British person is healthier and wealthier than at any time in their history, but they’ll never admit it because they’re too busy complaining! I partly think it’s the British character – but the media doesn’t help either.
Phil told me not to include this – he thinks it’s a pathetic thing to go on a top 10 list but I don’t. If anything could persuade me that God exists, it would be the taste of fresh watermelon in the summer. Humans haven’t created anything that tastes better – even if you count fish and chips and ice cream and Maltesers. I don’t know if you can buy watermelon in the UK now, but if you can I suspect it doesn’t taste as it should, just because it will have traveled so far.
The South West
It’s years now since our last trip, but we had some fantastic holidays in the southwest. I just loved riding on those long straight roads through vast wild empty desert, seeing nothing but the occasional cactus and the feeling you get when you’ve been doing that for hours and you come across a little town with a gas station and maybe even a diner. Food tastes so much better when you’ve had to drive for it! And I don’t think there can be anywhere in the world more beautiful than Zion National Park which is so awe-inspiring that it makes you feel insignificant and important all at the same time. I have a book about that part of the country called “The Place where Souls Are Born.” That’s the perfect description.
Rain that really means it
England might be famous for its rain, but America has real rain.Rain that comes down in rods and bounces off the pavements. Rain that sounds like a huge waterfall and that drenches you in seconds. And when it comes after days of hot and humid weather, it’s the sound and sight of sweet relief. There will be no shortage of rain when I get home, but it won’t be like the rain here.
So those are my favorite things. What about you? If you’re American, what do you love about your own country? And if you’re British, what do you envy about America?