Mrs. Selfish and I first started taking Thanksgiving trips abroad every year starting in 2006. There seemed to be something poetic about leaving the country during Black Friday – when people are often trampled to death during sales.
We really looked forward to leaving the States and diving into a country where we didn’t understand the language, culture, or customs. There was something exciting (and perhaps a little dangerous) about the whole traveling abroad experience and the States always seemed boring by comparison.
After a year abroad, however, there were many things I missed about the good ol’ USA. There are definitely some crappy parts about the States, no doubt about it, but after having visited 33 countries (25 on this trip), I can definitively say there is no place else like America.
Here are a few things we noticed.
1. Convenience is king.
Trying to get groceries in Germany on a Sunday? Not happening. What about a meal in Australia after 2pm, but before dinner? Good luck. How about a haircut in France after 5pm? Don’t even bother.
America is the home of 24/7 restaurants and next-day delivery. If you have the money you can pretty much get whatever you want, whenever you want. Businesses are open, and they want your money.
2. Food is not as fresh.
Disappointingly the price you pay for convenience is quality. In order to get produce year round America does horrible things to its food. Tomatoes are grown in the swamps of Florida, harvested green, and then shipped cross country. Chicken and beef are stuffed with growth hormones. Base ingredients are just not as good.
Fortunately it is possible to find a good meal in the States. It just requires a lot more research and planning than many other countries.
3. But beer and coffee are the best.
We’ve had beer across Europe, Asia, and Oceania, but without a doubt the best beer is in America – and I’m not talking about the Bud/Coors/PBR crowd. America is home to an amazing microbrew scene that is constantly reinventing itself and is all about variety. Try to get a stout in Germany, or a good IPA in Ireland, and you’ll see what I mean.
And don’t get me started about coffee.
France? A joke – they’re rumored to sometimes reuse their grinds over multiple cups of coffee for different customers. Asia? Mostly instant – Nescafe rules the day over there. Australia & England? It’s amazing they can taste the coffee itself when each cup is more milk than coffee.
4. Putting the ME in America.
America is all about the individual. Sometimes that can be good – a lot of cool stuff gets made when people don’t decide things by committee. Other times you see a lot of questionable decisions, like vanity plates.
5. Each State is infuriatingly different.
Taxes, speed limits, gambling – pretty much everything is different between States. It’s probably the same in other countries with States/Provinces/Territories, but it is painfully obvious how inconsistent America is when one drives cross country. Especially after watching the speed limit jump from 55 mph to 75 mph.
6. Go BIG or go home.
Everything is bigger in America. Houses. Food portions. Appliances. There are even roads with 4 lanes (they’re called highways, New Zealand and Ireland).
After arriving back in the States, we were delighted to actually be able to finish all of our laundry in one load! We were also horrified at the portion size of several of our meals.
7. …also applies to people.
We saw several large people in England, Germany, China, and Australia, but nobody is bigger than Americans (except Mexico, perhaps). If I have to guess, I’d imagine it has something to do with a lack of good public transportation, and cheap horrible food.
Once we hit the States and stopped walking 3-5 hours a day, we definitely gained some weight.
8. Power is CHEAP.
Electricity is so plentiful that the States don’t even have switches to turn an individual outlet on and off. Gas is roughly 1/2 the price as it is everywhere else. Stop complaining about gas prices, people.
9. So Air-Con is everywhere.
Pretty much everywhere has air conditioning (especially in the South), and it is always cranked to the maximum. Not so in countries in Europe, and large parts of Asia where it can get swelteringly hot.
That’s it for today. Continuing Part 2 tomorrow!