We British are used to the old adage that they do everything bigger across the pond. Whether it be burgers, buildings or bank collapses, we can pretty much rest assured that whatever it is we manage to produce, our brothers and sisters over the Atlantic will have done it bigger and better. And probably first. And more probably to a rocking guitar soundtrack. Well personally, I'm fine with that. Because if Americans didn't have the attitude that small things are stupid, then the USA wouldn't still be the most fun country to visit on the face of the planet. And here's why I hope they never change.
I've loved the States as long as I can remember loving things, so probably since I was about three. I don't think any other place on earth is as exciting to a British child. After all, Harry Potter and James Bond aside, it's where they make the movies. Disneyworld is there (I don't count the Paris one, I imagine Mickey to greet children there with an insouciant shrug and a three-fingered flick of an over-sized Gitane) and not only that, it's where they launch spaceships from. How could a country possibly contain more exciting things that? Growing up, it was the place where McDonald's was from. And visiting McDonald's to a six year old boy is impossible to quantify in terms of a treat (If it's your birthday they even let you see the kitchen. That's where the magic happens.)
When my Dad returned from occasional business trips away in the US with something like a sports team's baseball cap for me to wear, it was as if I were being handed actual rock from the moon. Did this place really exist? A place of colossal skyscrapers and fries for dinner every day and ice cream and what the hell maybe even Santa? I know if I was Father Christmas I'd live there.
When I finally got the chance to go myself, I was about ten years old, and sadly now I don't remember all that much of it. I think it was too much to take in for a kid that hadn't been that far from home before, but I do remember the buildings in New York City being as high as the sun. My one vivid recollection involves fairly excruciating social embarrasment (as these things usually do), as at the top of one of the World Trade Center towers I wet myself due to thinking there were no toilets (all I could see were things called 'Rest Rooms', which I presumed had sofas and stuff in them.)
Returning to the USA as an adult some 15 years later, I was properly excited. And America didn't let me down. And actually hasn't ever since. The food is incredible (as long as you like chicken wings, and steaks as big as your face and hot dogs smothered in inexplicable amounts of other food, and I like all of those things.) The people are fantastically friendly anywhere you go, and several times a day you'll hear 'Oh I love your accent' from someone you've never met before. And they mean it. If you're a single man or woman it is nigh on impossible not to end up kissing attractive strangers simply because of the way we say 'aluminium'. Cars are massive. Buildings are made to soar to the sky for no discernible reason other than they can be made like that.
Americans still get properly excited about things. In Britain we tend to be fairly unfussed most of the time, until something like The Olympics comes to town and then we go absolutely mental and start constantly screaming and waving flags. But rarely would we do things like the young man who served me in a Foot Locker in Pennsylvania, and reacted to my accent by sprinting into the back of the store and emerging with his mobile phone so I could speak to his girlfriend who had "never heard a real life British person talk before". I didn't even get the trainers I asked for, he was jumping up and down so much I just left him to it in the end.
Yes, America can divide opinion in the world. They often make catastrophic decisions. And a lot of them are very, very fat. But they're younger than all of us other countries, and so they're still learning (this is NOT an excuse for war by the way, just the smaller misdemeanours like... I don't know, Crocs. Actually I think they're Australian.) And like children, they have a fantastic optimism that dreams can be achieved, and goals can be chased and that cheeseburgers should be served in schools. Because it's a ridiculous, over-the-top, wonderful mish-mash of a country. And one I hope I'll eventually call home.
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