Ten things we love about America

Wishing a happy 4th July to everyone celebrating American Independence Day!

helena fairfax, new yorkIf you’ve read my About me page you’ll know I’m British, was born in Uganda, of Irish heritage, I now live in England and have lived in Austria, Germany and France. Every one of those countries has characteristics to be proud of. One day the world will be one single nation, governed by one body. And if we could pick out the ten best things from each country to keep, and make one brilliant whole, here are the ten things I love most about America:

  • Americans are polite. I have a big thing about good manners. Here’s an example of American courtesy: when I was living in Germany there were a lot of US troops stationed near where I lived (this is going back a lot of years :) ) A friend of mine was dating an American soldier, and she invited me round to her house for dinner with her and some of her boyfriend’s mates. When I walked in her room, the Americans all stood up. They introduced themselves, shook my hand and made polite conversation. What well-behaved young men. It may not sound a big deal, but common courtesy isn’t actually that common.  Americans pretty much always show natural good manners.
  • Americans are full of positivity and enthusiasm. Everything is achievable, and they don’t moan about all the stuff we moan about here in the UK. Remember how it was before the 2012 Olympics? We were convinced it was going to be crap. We even had a TV series making fun of how rubbish it all was, before the Games had even started! None of this carping happens in the US. (Although I did think the sitcom was hilarious.)

 

  • Barack Obama. I suppose this one is a bit like thinking other people’s parents are far cooler than yours when you are a teenager. If you actually had to live with them, you might feel different. On the other hand, when Barack Obama came to power it really seemed like a symbol of change in a new country, a sweeping away of old prejudices, and it literally brought a tear to my eye. Also, he’s very good-looking.

 

  • The TV shows. Here are some of my favourites: Frasier, Cheers, Fargo, Twin Peaks, The Simpsons, Heroes, and my all-time favourite television series ever, The Wire.
  • Hollywood. From Gone with the Wind to the Coen Brothers, and Paul Newman to George Clooney. Hooray for Hollywood!
  •  All sorts of things that are massive.  “Everything’s so much bigger over there.” I thought this was just a saying, until the first time I visited and saw the Hudson. Now I know what a river is. It’s not the Thames, it’s the sort of river you can land a Boeing on. And there are lots of other massive things, too, like fridges in people’s houses that are the size of a small room, canyons, highways, states that are bigger than the whole of the UK. Where we take a trip to the seaside, Americans take a trip to the ocean. That says it all.
  • Knowing how to put on a show. Before the FA Cup we sing a couple of verses of Abide with Me. In the US they have Prince playing live at the Superbowl.
  • Fabulous wildlife. In England pretty much everywhere is either urban or intensively farmed. If we see an urban fox, it’s an exciting day, so this is one I really envy. Chipmunks, porcupines, raccoons, bison, alligators, iguanas, coots, all sort of creatures great and small. (We’ll leave out the snakes and scorpions, though.)
  • The diners. If I had a local diner, you’d find me there every day, chatting to the waitresses and eating my weight in pancakes. And who knew bacon and maple syrup actually could taste this good together? Genius.
  • Friendliness. Strangers stop and help you, and people you don’t know strike up a conversation. When I pulled my map out in New York to check my bearings, two people came over and asked if I needed help. This would never happen in London. Also, people actually like my English accent.

So wishing you a happy fourth July, and I hope you enjoy celebrating in the way you know how!

Do you agree with my list? What things do you love most about America? If you have anything to add to the list, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

 

32 thoughts on “Ten things we love about America

  1. Aloha Helena,

    Interesting blog. :-) And interesting for me because I live here, but I’m a New Zealander, born and bred. American by citizenship. So, someoone elses perspective is fascinating. I do hope we do not become one world. I would hate that. Our very differences are what make things bearable for me. :-)

    I’m floored that you find Americans polite. I find often very rude. They’ll say excuse me for no reason but to be annoying. But seem to forget to say please and thank you too often for my liking. And I have run across too many ‘ugly Americans’ when I travel. I get why the Canadians have their flag blazened across everything. LOL. I do not travel on my American passport.

    I do think though they are positive and enthusiastic. :-) And it really does generate a ‘land of opportunity’ feeling that I don’t get in my own native country. :-)

    I love Barack Obama… I’m a small majority in this country. LOL.

    Things are MASSIVE here, that is very true. When I moved down to Australia, I spent 6 months pulling my hair out at the stupid size of things like the washer and driers etc. LOL. They made no sense whatsoever. You coulnd’t dry anything in them without it looking like a wrinkled ball of something at the end. The American washer and driers do a load in 30 to 45 mins tops. One hour and 15 minutes to wash and dry a big load. It must save a ton on electricity for a start, not to mention time. :-)

    Centrally heated houses… coming from NZ… much appreciated. :-) It’s FREEZING in New Zealand. Everyone huddles over a wee bar heater. It’s ridiculous.

    The diners are super cool. I love the diners. :-)

    I don’t find them overly friendly, but I come from NZ… so… it’s all relative. LOL.

    I had a friend who thought the US was super free. I don’t find it that way. But again, I come from New Zealand. She was a Christian from Malaysia, a heavliy Muslim country… LOL.

    I’ve just read a book called Culture Shock New Zealand and it’s so interesting to read someone elses point of view on my native country. Apparently we smile a lot. LOL. Which I think we do. :-) And we don’t wear shoes often and you shouldn’t take this as a sign of rudeness. LOL. I never wear shoes unless I absolutely have to. :-) So these were funny.

    I’m a hybrid now. I don’t quite fit in either country, but despite some things here that I don’t like, I’d rather be in the States than NZ. It’s a funny conundrum.

    Thanks, interesting article. :-) I was trying to read it through your eyes. Very fun.

    Aloha and thanks Meg :-)

    • Ohh, and I keep meaning to ask. What was it like growing up in Uganda? That must have been fascinating? :-) And where are your family from in Ireland. And how did you end up in Yorkshire? Enquiring minds want to know. :-)

      Aloha and thanks Meg :-)

      • I was only in Uganda a short time, Meg, and came to England when I was six, but I still remember a lot about it and it took a long time for England to feel like home. It was cold, and I couldn’t understand the local accent. I think that experience has given me a lot of empathy with others who arrive in this country. I ended up in Yorkshire because I went to uni here and love the north of England, and wanted to settle here. Really love it now!

    • Hi Meg, yes it’s so interesting to see things through another country’s eyes. My daughter is in NZ working at the moment, and she would totally agree with you about the friendliness of people there. I’ll tell her about that book you mention – she’d be really interested to read it! My daughter’s also mentioned the lack of central heating in NZ, and of course it’s winter now. Strange to Skype her and see her huddled in thick dressing-gowns!
      I also empathise with your feeling of being a hybrid. In some ways it’s good, because I really can’t identify with any sort of nationalistic jingoism. I’m a firm believer that people should take the best there is to offer from all the different cultures of the world.
      Thanks for your comment. Fascinating to have your perspective.

  2. Hi Helena

    In brief and blurry with early morning fug, politeness goes a long way with me, too. Most times right across the States. I enjoy travelling in America, although I’ve got used to the massiveness (massitivity?) of everything and, of course, I’ll never forget California…

    • Hi James, I would absolutely love to do what you did, and travel right across the States. And how could I forget to put Buffy on the list of TV shows?? Glad you had such a memorable time in California. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Great post, Helena and I agree with many of your points from my very few trips to the USA (I’ve been to Canada more). I think it probably depends which part of the US you’re in – as in all countries! Glasgow is the kind of friendly place you often get help from strangers, and I’m sure it happens in other UK cities too but not all over the country perhaps! Buffy is one of my all-time favourite US programmes.

    • Hi Ros, I have to confess I’ve never been to Glasgow but I’ve heard many people say how friendly the folk are there. I’ve an English cousin who’s lived there many years and loves it. I’m sure James Christie – a previous commenter – would agree, as a fellow Glaswegian! And Buffy is James’s favourite show, too! Thanks for your comment!

  4. Being from New York, I have a slight disagreement on the subject of rudeness, especially in connection with people in cars with horns. However, I agree that New Yorkers will stop and help a lost or semi-lost traveler.
    Great post!

  5. Great post –
    Canadians love Obama as well.
    Love the American civic pride. Canadians are improving, but have a way to go.
    HGreenis – The Natasha Saga
    Happy 4th of July to our southern neighbours!

  6. I had to laugh at your post. Yes, what you call a refrigerator is what we give the kids for their college dorm room. I think we can whine with the best of them, and not everyone is polite. But Americans are different and the American dream is still alive and well. I won’t touch the politics, but I do hope we get someone qualified to run this county. We’re a melting pot of people and that makes life interesting. Head for any public school and it looks like a young version of the UN. Now if we could manage to find world peace, it would be wonderful!

    Thank you for the great post!

    • Thanks very much for dropping by! I haven’t been anywhere else in the US apart form New York, but it’s immediately noticeable how the city is a melting-pot. You only have to travel on the subway to see people of every different nation. And I agree – if only we could get those nations to live in peace in the world! Thanks for a great comment!

  7. I agree with your top 10 Helena. I’ve visited the US 3 times and each time I loved it. I love the mix of different cultures and cuisines and especially the wildlife and the national parks! Tina :)

    • Hi Tina, yes, I love the mix of cuisines, too. And I’d love to go to Yosemite National Park, or the Florida wetlands. They both sound amazing. Thanks for your comment. Glad you agreed with the top 10!

  8. Hi Helena, as a lifelong resident of Illinois in the US, I enjoyed reading your list. Most of my travel across the country was due to my former son-in-law being in the military.I think people were friendlier way back then as compared to now

    I used to be a TV addict, but it’s my computer that takes all my time, especially the kindle reading app. My daughter did get me hooked on watching The Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, but both are extremely violent. It doesn’t pay to get attached to any of the characters.

    Thanks for a very interesting post..

    • Hi Leona, It seems to me, too, that people used to be friendlier and more polite than they are now, but maybe every generation has said this. I don’t watch a great deal of TV, but if I get hooked on a great series I like to watch it to the end. I haven’t seen The Walking Dead, but I watched the first series of Game of Thrones and really enjoyed it. You’re right about not getting attached to the characters! Thanks very much for your great comment!

  9. Hi Helena, Awww, thank you for your positive take on the USA. The country is made up of so many regions each with their own flavor and lifestyles, it’s hard to lump us all together, and yet, all these folks from different backgrounds blend together as Americans, especially on this special day, the Fourth of July, when we celebrate our birth day in 1776. We had a visitor from Amsterdam with us this week and it was so interesting to compare taxes, food, housing market, etc.I too wish for world peace, but do not want to lose the unique cultures around the world which add to the depth and richness to our globe.

    • Hi JQ, I’d love to explore more regions of the US. The massive diversity is another example of “massiveness” :) Everything from Alaska to Hawaii, New Orleans to Seattle. Each must have their own unique flavour. Thanks for your interesting comment, and hope you’re enjoying July 4th!

  10. Dear Helena. I was so impressed to read your post. As a Southern American, I was surprised to find that you found us polite. But, I’m glad you have that impression.

    Actually, we found Londoners that way (surprise to you!). They always stopped to help us find what we were looking for. Maybe there are nice people in every country.

    As for Barak Obama, please tell Meg she’s not alone in loving him. I’m living in a red state, but I love our President and I’m proud that the country put him in office. There are other things related to the government that will put me in a rant, however.

    Movies and tv, I guess we’re spoiled. We come to expect what we have. Never having lived elsewhere (just vacationed), I can’t imagine being without the quality programming we have. Some of my favorites are: Breaking Bad, Mad Men. And, I must say, I love all the British shows–Downton Abbey, Midsummer Murders, Masterpiece (in all forms!). So, there you go. . .

    Thank you for sharing the things you like about America. I feel a bit better about living here.

    • Hi Joan, I guess every country has good and bad aspects. There was a lot about the UK that I didn’t appreciate until I moved away for a while and I missed it. You’re right, there are nice people in every country.
      I forgot to mention Mad Men on my TV list. I love Jon Hamm so much!
      Thanks very much for your comment. It’s been interesting to get your perspective as a Southern American. Happy July 4th!

  11. Helena, I enjoyed reading your post and chuckled on several occasions, esp. about the massiveness of everything and how we put on a good show. We Americans are not a subtle people. ;)

    As for the politeness, that has changed a bit. It was never a case of Americans having natural good manners, those manners were drummed into us as children for many generations. Sadly, that is no longer always the case.

    New Yorkers are good about helping lost and hapless visitors, but American friendliness varies from region to region. I grew up in Pittsburgh, which had a good sense of community and very friendly people, then we moved to So. Calif. where it is possible to live entirely anonymously (unless you happen to be a celebrity) without even knowing your neighbors.

    Do try The West Wing. If you love Barack Obama, you will love Jed Bartlett! Another good political show is The Newsroom from HBO. My husband and I watch Doc Martin on public TV and love the Cornish setting and characters. Such a funny series!

    Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

    • Hi Lyndi, thanks for your great comment! So interesting to hear how the regions vary in the US. I live in northern England, and even though England is only a small country, there is a very different culture difference between north and south.
      I’ll definitely try The West Wing. I’d heard The Newsroom was great, too, but I can’t get the HBO channel with my TV provider. I’ll see if I can get it on DVD.
      Thanks again for coming by and your interesting comment!

    • Hi Mary, yes, the polite men were military. I seem to remember they came from all over the US, and not just one region. Happy fourth July, and thanks for your comment!

  12. What a wonderful list you compiled, Helena. This great country has so much going for it. I’ll add that the US is probably the most generous country in the world, always the first to send aid in times of disaster. Not just federal funds, either. American people reach into their pockets to give to those in need whenever there is a world disaster.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts~it’s so nice to ‘see’ you again! Hope you and your doggie are enjoying your walks on the moors in some decent summer weather.

    • Hi Gemma, lovely to hear from you. I hope you enjoyed a fabulous 4th July! We’ve been having a lovely summer so far – a relief after all the spring rain :) Have a great weekend!

  13. Thank you, Helena for your very nice post about Americans and America. As I mentioned before, London is my favorite place to visit and I am very fond of England.

    Although I voted for Obama twice, I think he is more highly regarded in Europe than he is here.

    Every country has its pluses and minuses. It was interesting to learn what your pluses were about our country.

    Susan

    • Hi Susan, thanks for your lovely comment. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed your visits to London. I really love visiting there, too, although I’m always glad to get home as there is too much hustle and bustle after a while for my liking! You’re right, there’s good and bad wherever you live. Your July 4th is a good time to celebrate what’s best. Hope you had a good day, and thanks for your comment!

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