We said goodbye to America recently and had we not been leaving it to spend six weeks in the UK, we would have been very sad.
It’s such an incredible country and has surprised us in so many ways. Here are some of the most surprising things about America to a Brit/Australian family:
Americans are really lovely. I know that shouldn’t be surprising, but they can get a bad press. Yet pretty much every single interaction with an American was a positive one. It’s true that an ironic or self-deprecating sense of humour is rare in America but with a lack of irony comes sincere enthusiasm and minimal whingeing, which was very refreshing.
They sure do love their country – something like 80% of Americans fly the star-spangled banner at home, at work, or on their RVs. I can’t help but read patriotism as too close to nationalism for comfort but I’m sure for many it’s just pure pride in everything that America is.
The environment is for the most part very well looked after. I thought it might be quite trashed – so much consumerism, so many cars, emphasis on individual rights etc. I had imagined rubbish in the sea, people going around shooting all the remaining animals etc. But the sea, rivers and lakes were all pristine, and everywhere that we saw rare critters like manatees, whales, sea otters, elephant seals and bears mostly came with a heart-warming story about how numbers had been bouncing back in recent years.
It is so beautiful that I can see why many Americans don’t leave. It is the most beautiful country I have been to – dramatic landscapes and the diversity of scenery and experiences are second to none:
Race relations still have a long way to go. With a black president and seemingly equal representation in the media and movies, I had naively imagined that America had become a beacon of racial harmony since the Civil Rights movement. But ethnic minorities were still disproportionately serving in shops and restaurants or cleaning hotels in a way I thought would no longer be the case. Add to that the police shootings and the #BlackRightsMatter protests while we were there, there is clearly so much disharmony that it is hard to know where to start to either describe it or fix it.
Less surprising things that confirmed what we already suspected:
Recycling is not second nature. We stayed in countless hotels where the entire breakfast was served on disposable – often polystyrene – crockery with no opportunity to recycle – yuck!
There aren’t many people who know a lot about Australia. But if they did, we sure heard the full story:“Oh yes, I had a cousin who moved there. She went to Brisbane, her name is Bronwyn, do you know her?”
It seems like it’s rare to travel much until they retire, then they go nuts and travel in an RV as big as a famous person’s tour bus with two small dogs for the rest of their lives.
There is no “I Quit Sugar” movement in America. You couldn’t quit sugar if you tried. It’s baked into the bread, infused into cereal, poured into coffee and every one is glugging Gatorade out of massive cups like it’s water.
The choice of supermarkets and choice within supermarkets is astonishing and can make for very enjoyable – if time-consuming – shopping. Also, blueberries are delightfully cheap, as are bags of tiny, peeled baby carrots just made for dipping in humus. Maybe those items go some way towards counteracting all the sugar?
It’s so diverse both geographically and socially, it’s really impossible to sum up into a list of dot points. This entire post probably doesn’t apply to at least half the country, so I’ll stop trying!
Now we have left the wonderful States, the nature of our trip has changed too. We are no longer intrepid explorers winging it from one place to the next, stopping to swim in rivers or eat cider donuts (yes really) at whim. We’re now in the UK in very familiar territory and will spend the next little while drinking endless cups of tea, marvelling at the biscuits in Tesco’s and buying Marks and Spencers out of knickers. But the best things about our intrepid exploring will come with us and will hopefully stay with us forever. Here are the main ones that spring to mind so far:
The girls’ relationship is transformed. They are best friends and play together as equals for sometimes hours each day. Before we left on this trip, more than 15 minutes of continuous play without someone shrieking about being injured by the other had happened about twice and caused me to call a friend and report the occurrence in hushed tones.
M. Hotford has stopped biting her nails and chewing her hair.
The girls now aspire to be park rangers and astronauts. They also still want to be ballerinas and mummies, but they now think it would be possible to fit all four careers into a lifetime.
They talk all the time about how they can go to places when they are older like back to the US or to visit their cousins in Scotland – let’s hope the travel bug stays with them for life. They are also supporting the US in the Olympics and play all their games in an American accent – I think that’s taking it a bit too far personally!
I am currently reading my fifteenth book. That means I’ve read more books in the last five months than in the previous five years!
Mr. Hotford and I have learnt new things about each other, even after 14 years together. Being on holiday for four months is not all pina coladas and sleep-ins (actually none of either) and some of the logistics have tested how we cope together and under pressure like no other time in our lives together. I’m pleased to report the outcome is positive and we have newfound respect and patience for each others’ strengths and foibles. And I definitely have new respect for his driving skills – he drove about 9,500 of the 10,000 miles we covered, most of it in an RV, which is medal-worthy in itself!
I’m sure many more benefits will come to light as we return to the real world in a month’s time, but for now I’m feeling like we have been very lucky to have had this golden time as a family. I’m also feeling like a cup of tea and a biscuit so I’d better get onto that!This entry was posted in Coastal California, Deep South, Florida, Grand Canyon