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contributed by Michael Harling (website
A while ago, I wrote an article highlighting the differences in the UK, so I thought it only fair to give the US equal time.
I must confess that most of my writings favor the UK. Having arrived in a shiny, new country, it’s easy to spot all the things that are better than what you left behind and, as the UK was sort of like a foster child, it was prudent to behave as if I loved it best. But now that our relationship has been firmly established, I can safely point out that, in addition to being seen by many as a big, mean ogre run by war-mongering lunatics, the US has many fine qualities.
So here is a list of some of the little things I no longer see, hear or experience during my daily routine due to my emigration from America, and which, if I still had them, would make my life here just a little bit better:
- Boston Market: God’s perfect food.
- Chipmunks: Smaller, cuter and less obnoxious than the ubiquitous grey squirrel.
- Thunderstorms: No, I mean real thunderstorms, with torrential rain, hail the size of marbles and cracks of lightening so close by you can smell the ozone.
- Rueben sandwiches: Granted, I had to go to NYC for a good one, but since no one has even heard of them here, I still have to go to NYC to get one.
- Monarch Butterflies: No milkweed equals no monarch caterpillars equals an island bereft of these beautiful creatures.
- Manned Space Flight: Where do all your astronauts live? Oh, sorry, I forgot; you don’t have any. (I had to be careful with the wording here because there actually is a British Space Agency, but it is EUEuropean Union
-based, its budget is less than 3% of NASA's and they don't send up people.)
- Cheap Cigars: £12 ($24) for a Vegas Robaina! I want to smoke it, not frame it.
- Humming Birds: The only bird that can hover and fly backwards and the British don’t have any.
- All-You-Can-Eat Chinese Buffet: Sure, there’s a Chinese Take-Away on every corner (right next to the Kebab shop) but it doesn’t compare to sitting down to a plate piled high with a dozen or so personally selected Chinese/American delicacies and then going back for more.
- The Weather Channel: It remains a mystery to me how a nation so obsessed with weather has failed to provide a 24-hour weather channel.
- Pencil Sharpeners: Every time I mention this, I am assured by those around me that the United Kingdom is teeming with all manner of pencil sharpeners, but I have yet to see one; maybe the badgers have them all. I recently asked a co-worker if we had any pencil sharpeners in the office and he replied, “No; when a pencil gets dull I just thrown it away.” I’m still not sure if he was joking.
- The Big Gulp: Like the revolver in your night stand, you know you’re never likely to need it, but it’s a comfort knowing it’s there if you do.
- My Balcony: In the US, my balcony comfortably held a small storage unit, my bicycle, a barbecue, a round picnic table with four chairs and a chaise longue; in the UK it holds a folding chair.
- Front Porches: Granted, the place I lived in when I left the States did not have a porch, but I had lived in places that had them and hoped to again. The front porch is an American Icon, and there is nothing quite like a porch for lounging on during hot afternoons in the company of good friends and a case of ice cold beer.
- Koozies: Sort of a foam rubber condom for a beer bottle to keep your beer cold. They aren't needed in the UK but I was never without one in the States.
- Parking: In the US, when I drove somewhere, anywhere, there was always a place to put my car once I arrived. Mostly for free.
- A Decent Bagel: Reputedly, there are (or were) good bagels in south London, but that has yet to be proven. Good bagels in the US used to be limited to NYC but thanks to the seasonal migration of city-dwellers to the Albany area, NYC bagels eventually became commonplace in Upstate NY. The ones they sell in Waitrose are crap.
- Doorknobs: They have latches and handles here, but no doorknobs. No one knows why.
- 110 Current: The plugs they have on the electric wires coming out of your coffee pot, laptop computer, table lamp or what-have-you look like the ones we have in the US for plugging in our electric stoves. Give me a compact, easy to store plug any day.
We have now achieved balance, and both my adopted country and the land of my birth have come away looking fairly attractive. And it’s nice to discover that all I really need to be happy is a koozie, a Reuben sandwich and a reasonably-priced cigar.
Mike Harling is American author living in the south of England. His book, Postcards from Across the Pond--dispatches from an accidental expat
, is a hilarious account of British life as seen through the eyes of a bewildered American. You can keep up with Mike at his blog, Postcards from Across the Pond