The customer is always right: A revelation to the average person coming from the UK is that questions are hardly ever asked when customers have complaints. I got it on my interview visit to the IMF when I ordered a pizza and when it arrived the delivery man apolgized for its being late–I never realised–and had brought a 2nd pizza as compensation! Then, after an early shopping trip during a sale, a friend told me that prices had fallen further and I could go back to the store and get the difference as an extra bonus! What was this sorcery?
The South isn’t all dread for black people: You could have knocked me down with a feather if you thought I’d take a driving tour through the USA’s southern states and end up feeling that I ought to move to South Carolina. But, that’s how it looked after ending up en route from Florida to DC and stopping in Savannah and Charleston.
Football aka soccer: Were my finest hours really being involved with football (soccer) in the USA? Playing, coaching and refereeing, with mainly good memories is what it should be about. Getting licensed to coach and refereeing were never on my radar in England. That I ended up coaching girls was astonishing. That the team won its first ever tournament was dream-like, and those 9-year olds will forever have that trophy-winning moment in 1996.
The West Coast and Pacific North West: Fewer coastal areas are stranger than these, with rugged edges and massive falling trees on beaches.
Buying a car: In the UK, it could easily take weeks to complete a purchase and take away the vehicle. In the USA, it takes hours and you will leave the lot in your car. It’s not a great process, with the faux haggling, but it’s really a sign of totally different outlooks to consumerism.
Urban freeways: It took some getting used to how US roads and urban areas are constructed. I remember looking for a store and being able to see it from the freeway but not being able to figure out how to get to it. I went past and looped back and saw it passing below me, for several tries. Eventually, I discovered the exit and located the store. The other big difference was being told my destination was up the road and 2nd left. When I told the man I was walking, he was stunned. “Up the road” was about 10 miles along the freeway, and “2nd left” was the 2nd exit. Different strokes…
Disenfrachisement: It was fine being a foreigner with a special status, but not having the opportunity to vote isn’t fine, irrespective of what you want to do with your vote.
Absence of extensive public transport: Like many major US cities, the greater Washington area doesn’t have an extensive public transport network. DC and near suburbs are not badly covered by underground trains and buses or and overground lines cover some areas, but it’s really motorized transport that rules. Belatedly, plans to extend the Metro lines into Northern Virginia have gotten underway, but has still not reached a natural major end point at Dulles International Airport. The nearer airport, Reagan National, is easily reached by Metrorail.
Tipping: European attitudes to paying for service are completely at variance with those in the USA. It’s simplest in European countries where a bill is rounded and that’s it, and change that remains goes to the server. None of this decision making over a percentage and better still not attitude about the tip not being big enough. Pay the people the right wages!
Easter and Christmas are not one-day affairs: I’ve never worked during either Lent/Easter or Christmas, both of which are long holiday periods in the Caribbean and UK. So, these not being more than a day’s holiday, at most, was and is shock; we took the full time as holidays every year, including the 12 days of Christmas.