This land is my land.

28 03 2011

Now that I have been in the United States for A WHOLE MONTH already, I have come to realize that there is a lot about the culture here that I can still totally identify with, even after spending the past almost 20 years overseas. I feel like I would feel completely comfortable easing back into society here, and pretending I had never left.

For example, take… people. I understand their language, their jokes, their mentality and their concerns. I can talk shop on baseball, hurricanes and inflation in the cost of an ice cream cone. And everyone is just so nice to each other. That’s what I really like about Americans.

In the past couple of weeks, I have also been noticing stuff that is maybe a little under the surface… things you take note of only when you are here a longer time, that are so very different from my life in Europe. A couple of days ago, I started writing down a few of these, and thought I’d share them.

Here an incomplete list of fascinating stuff I have (re-)learned about the USA:

Freight trains, though not as plentiful as in Europe, are exponentially longer than in Europe. The other day I was stuck at a railroad crossing in downtown Hollywood, FL as a cargo train passed. I counted 150 wagons, not including the two locomotives that were pulling it.

– There is a good reason it’s called commercial radio. When there is a commercial on the station you happen to be listening to, there will be commercials on all the other radio stations, at the same time. It’s like all radio stations have together conspired to simultaneously flood their listenership with paid advertising. The exception to the rule is, of course, (commercial-free) National Public Radio… that is in the middle of its Spring fund drive.

Radio Gaga.

– And by day four of the above-mentioned NPR beg-fest, any intelligent and loyal NPR listener is ready to pick up the phone, not to pledge but to tell them to please, please STOP! There is only so much penetrating, public on-air groveling I can tolerate before it seriously grates on my nerves. And you’ll notice that the voices get more desperate the closer the deadline creeps. (“Please, pledge NOW! We need your money!”)

– One more thing about advertising. The U.S. oil and natural gas industry is currently paying millions to bombard television viewers with the message that “the deeper you go the more good you learn about oil and natural gas.” Really?  Deepwater Horizon, anyone?

March Madness is not some kind of psychotic illness that runs rampant in the Springtime, but a basketball tournament that everyone seems to get real excited about. (OK, maybe it is an illness…)

–  To end on a positive note: Americans volunteer more than any other population I know. There are opportunities to do unpaid social work everywhere – coach a team, chaperone kids or help old people. If only there were as many paid jobs as there are volunteer opportunities, this country would be in fantastic shape.

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