Welcome back to Top Ten Thursday!
Just like this it's July, and in the first week of July there are two important national days going on: July 1st: Canada Day and July 4, Independence Day, so let's honor those two countries, shall we? Let's talk about the top ten things that we (dis)like about the U.S. and Canada, differences that strike us, whatever comes to mind!
Before I can start, here's a disclaimer of sorts: I love both countries. We spend 8/10 vacations in North America. I moved to the U.S. because I wanted to live there. Under some circumstances I might still want to do so.
If I come across as critical it's either because that's my subjective perception and because I think it's important to take a look at the entire picture, minus the rose coloured glasses that I'm certainly wearing most of the time.
Having said that - let's go!
- The American dream - curse or blessing? The prospect of starting out doing crappy little jobs in order to advance and achieve great success is brilliant, and I'm happy for everybody who worked hard and gets to benefit from it. To me the downsides are: where does it stop? When does success turn into greed and into exploitation of others, less fortunate ones? How many big shots share their fortune either by giving back money or by mentoring and coaching others?
- The American nightmare - it has been going on for a good 18 months now, it's called the Trump administration. Not a week goes by that we don't hear another absurd and frightening piece of news from the White House.
- Hello / Bonjour vs Business or Pleasure: immigration into Canada is way more enjoyable than into the U.S.: friendly Canadian officers ask a few standard question and wish you a great stay, whereas most U.S. officers treat you as potential terrorists, or an annoyance at the very least.
- Customer service: coming from Europe, North America is paradise to shop and eat at! Whether it's OK to pay waiting staff next to nothing to force them to be nice and earn tips may be debated. We enjoy being greeted and served in an efficient and friendly manner. I'm not saying they're necessarily competent, though. One morning in a Las Vegas restaurant I ordered pancakes with maple syrup, simple enough, right? "I'm sorry, we don't have maple syrup" the waitress claimed. I couldn't believe what I just heard. "We have pancake syrup" she offered. Sure, I'll have that, please. Sure enough it was even labeled "maple syrup" ;-)
- Prices in general: this probably only applies to us because we're Swiss, and everything in our country, especially clothes, gas and groceries, is ridiculously expensive. I benefit from the Asian ladies living at the West Coast: they ensure the availability of petite sizes in the clothing shops, whereas in my country I always have to have my pants altered.
- What always damps my enthusiasm is the sales tax, though. I shop, I roughly do my mental math so I know what to expect: 3 x 9.99 + 2 x 19.99 + 24.99 + 49.99 that'll be just about 95 bucks. In any case below 100. Brilliant, right? Nope. 101.82, please - receipt in the bag? And would you like to sign up for our newsletter?
- Driving: If you're European and you rent a car in the U.S. or Canada, you'll be surprised how relaxed things can be on the streets, especially at the West Coast. No hectic, no cutting each other's way, instead a friendly wave meaning go ahead, heavenly! Also (this is not always true in Canada, though) there are designated lanes, or at least left turn signals for folks who need to, well, turn left. So you actually get a chance to do so as traffic gets heavy.
- Organisation: I love that places that expect large crowds of people are prepared to deal with them: there are sections, lanes, ropes, so everyone knows where to go and wait their turn. In (continental) Europe people just push and shove to get ahead in this unspecified cluster of people.
- Food: while I love my steaks, cheesecakes, pancakes, donuts and the like (Hello, Tim Hortons, Cheesecake Factory, Outback Steakhouse, IHOP and other favorite restaurants!) I am amazed by a) the omnipresence of food: TV and radio commercials, huge billboards on buildings and along the freeway. It's all about eating, and it's b) kind of a glorification of unhealthy choices. Have a burger, have a soda, sorry, pop, enjoy some ice cream. I understand that broccoli and celery sticks probably don't sell well, but people kind of believe that burgers, fries and 33 oz of Coke are an OK everyday staple. Heart attacks are just around the corner. No wonder healthcare is not affordable by many. PS: the burger combo is of course cheaper than the salad. Which sucks.
- The downside of consumerism: over-indebtedness and landfills. Why they won't invest in proper waste disposal is beyond me. Maybe I'm being overly Swiss here but we maintain refuse incinerator plants to get rid of our stuff. The stuff that can't be recycled, that is. I am shocked at the sight of North American landfills. Not only are the mountains of trash getting bigger every year, ground water is getting polluted. And it's not that the dryer parts of the USA have excess water.
So, what do you think when you hear USA and Canada? Let me know in the comments below or link up your own post.
July 12 let's talk soccer, or football, depending on where you live. Could care less, love it, live it? What team are you rooting for? Who's going to win the FIFA World Cup 2018? Who's your favorite player? Sign up here.
July 19: "This kind of sh** only happens to me" - like trying to push open a door that clearly says PULL. Or writing down your childhood phone number on an application form. List your top ten mishaps and help me feel better about my own clumsiness! Sign up here.