Please welcome our special guest poster, Laura Jane Williams, who has graciously agreed to share her views on life among the Americans with us.
A LIFE IN THE DAY OF.
This was my first time in the U.S and I declare with zeal, zest and ardor- I LOVED it. For saying that, even my own mother calls me a Slag of the World because I get around the globe with quite some enthusiasm; admittedly I didn’t get to see much, though.
I accidentally spent 20 hours in New York, nine of which I was asleep for but two of which were spent in The Village eating some really very memorable Mac n Cheese with truffle oil.
And the rest of my four-month trip was spent willingly confined to the state of Michigan, about 20 minutes from Detroit.
I’ve talked at some length on my own blog about the preconceived notions I had about Americans before I worked amongst them in Italy last summer. See? SLAG OF THE WORLD. It was the usual stuff. Too loud. Too in-yer-face. Too ignorant. Too fat.
How wrong I was.
And as soon as I found that out last summer, I decided I needed to observe the Yanks in their own, natural, habitat. I wanted to see what I could learn. Because working with them, slowly it became apparent that they weren’t loud, they were confident. Not in-yer-face but social and outgoing. Not ignorant, but curious. And not always fat. Damn, I saw me some cutie-pies, too. Ding-DONG!
And when I got home to England, the land of the stiff-upper lip and constant talk about the (ALWAYS grey) weather it hit me. At heart, I’m an American. I’m social and curious and positive- I needed to spend some more time amongst them. They are my people. And luckily, so ready to welcome me.
I don’t think it was a self-fulfilling prophecy that my time in Michigan was made most memorable by the people. I don’t travel to tick off a list of tourist attractions I need to say I’ve visited—and ultimately go on to forget—I travel to get under the skin and to the bones of a place. And the Midwesterners made that oh so very easy.
Speak and thoust shall be spoken to. I spent sixteen weeks just talk, talk, TALKING. Everybody wanted to know about me, about England, about why I was in Michigan and what I liked about it. They were INTERESTED, and not shy about letting me know that.
The sense of community was overwhelming- doors left unlocked, neighbours baking Easter cupcakes for one another and mowing each other’s lawns, being in each other’s business BECAUSE THEY CARED. I often feel like the UK very much has a sense of the individual about it: “I will succeed in spite others”. The U.S. struck me as being entirely collectivist: “I will succeed because of others”.
The UK can feel to me like it is being run by The Daily Mail: you can do well, but only if you act the underdog and even then you must be careful of doing TOO well. If you do too well you get verbally ripped to shreds. The U.S., though, salutes trying, even in failure. There is an undercurrent of relentless positivity that the UK just doesn’t have. Maybe it’s that grey weather I was talking about.
Don’t get me wrong; there were a few downsides. I do wish that America put less sugar in their bread and learnt how to make a decent bar of chocolate. And if they could recycle a bit more, that would be lovely. Oh, and it’s really quite irritating that the pay-as-you-go cell phones charge to both send AND receive text messages. That was a bit of a minus-ten-points situation, AMERICA.
But really, what’s a ten cents charge between friends when the very air you Americans breathe is laced with such possibility?
We could do a deal. Maybe if we Brits learn to be a bit nicer, a bit more celebratory, a bit more like you, maybe you could talk just a smidge quieter and try to reuse your carrier bags at the store.
I do love my country, but there is so much you could teach us about kindness and loosening up a bit, America. Not to mention your seemingly endless supply of boys with great teeth.
Britannia might rule the waves, but my word, the U.S.A. rules my heart.
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