I am back after taking a short break from work and life. I've been in the USA for the past three weeks, spending the majority of my vacation in New York and South Florida.
While the holiday also included a hiatus from writing, I managed to jot down some notes about America which I wanted to share with you. Before you read any further, I should reveal that I enjoy the USA and visit there frequently.
Francis Scott Key coined this place 'The land of the free and home of the brave' in the Star Spangled Banner. I am not sure if that's the most accurate description of the USA, but it seems to make the locals puff out their chests with pride.
Anyway, in no particular order, here are 10 random observations from my recent visit to the place they call 'Murica'.
1) The Presidential elections take place next year, so campaigning is well under way! Every news bulletin over there seems to lead with a story on who will be the next President. Hilary Clinton will almost certainly lead the Democrats, but the Republican candidate is still very much up for grabs. Somehow Donald Trump is leading the popularity contest right now?! As they say... 'Only in America'.
2) Homelessness is increasing worldwide, and this was definitely evident in New York and Miami. I saw way too many people searching through garbage bins and sleeping on the streets. The beggars I encountered actually asked for food instead of money (which never happens where I live). No one in our world should ever be hungry. More needs to be done to address this situation - and I hope whoever gets elected next year puts this on their agenda.
3) The price on products in stores is never the actual price. I can't tell you how many times I took out the exact amount of cash from my wallet after seeing the amount on the tag, only to have to pull out my wallet again to add on the extra tax that was not included. How hard can it be to add the tax into the final price like we do in Australia and the UK? If an American reading this can educate me as to why it works this way, I'd be most appreciative!
4) People in this country love their firearms. Overall, about a third of Americans with children under 18 have a gun in their household. They even sell guns in department stores! How can anyone be surprised that there are more gun related deaths in this country than anywhere else? I love Americans, I really do - but I will never understand why so many (including some I call friends) feel firearms are essential. Hopefully this issue will get some airtime in the lead up to next year's election.
5) Everything is bigger in the USA! This includes the height of buildings, the width of freeways, the size of meal portions and the length of women's high heels. The only smaller things that I can think of are the size of hotel rooms in New York City - (unless you stay at the Affinia Dumont hotel - A real diamond in the rough!).
6) The work ethic in this country is top notch. People work long hours, especially in New York City. If you wonder why Americans don't travel much, it's because most professions only give their staff two weeks of annual leave. That's half of what I get each year. One of the criticisms that some people have of Americans is that they don't leave the USA enough and as such may be considered 'unworldly'. If they had some more time off perhaps it would help remove this perception.
7) Americans have their own version of English. They remove the letter 'U' from many words. I would love to know how this started and what exactly the educators had against such a wonderful letter. This isn't only evident in the spelling of words, but also in the pronunciation. Tuesday has somehow become 'Twos Day', Stupid is pronounced 'Stoopid' but perhaps my favourite example is when they say the word 'Aluminium'. Ask an American to say this word out loud for you and you will see what I mean.
8) Plastic surgery is a big business in this place. In the summer time when people don't wear as much - you can't help but notice the enhancements even more. I personally don't have an issue with this and believe that it really is up to the individual. Interestingly, one in every five American women is considering getting some work done on their body.
9) They love their big chains in this country. Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway, Red Lobster, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, etc. are all over the place. Independently owned businesses are much less common in the USA, probably because it's so hard to compete with the multitude of 'big name' franchises across the nation. I personally prefer the independent stores as they offer variety and their own signature qualities. I also think an increase in independent stores would lead to more cultural diversity.
10) Americans often get a bad wrap from people in other countries, and I don't think it's fair. I have always found people to be friendly and helpful. Yes they are a louder bunch than most, but the folks I encountered don't take themselves too seriously and seem to have a positive attitude towards life.
They're also very well mannered. Almost everyone I interacted with said 'Please' and 'Thank You' in their sentences. This was very refreshing and the USA should be commended for instilling this in its citizens. If there is a more polite Western nation on this planet, I haven't been there.
So there you have it, ten random thoughts on the 'big smoke'. Everyone should visit this place at least once in their life as it's certainly entertaining.