Tuesday, April 3, 2007

UK and USA: Compare and Contrast

Gentle Reader,

I thought I would write down some things I had noticed about living in the UK and USA.

I moved from England to the US about 20 years ago and have remained in the US the whole time since (about another 20 years) except for a 2 year stint in Italy.

Here are some of the reasons I left the UK:

* Different rules for different people - the worst case being the royal family and privileges awarded by virtue of birth. WTF?
* Constant grey skies. Maybe this is changing or will change soon with global warming?!
* The depressing feeling at times that "nothing is possible".
* Felt very crowded, especially London, where I used to live. Listen to the song "Waterloo Sunset" by the Kinks to get an idea what I mean.
* People often seem pessimistic ("mopey"), they spend a lot of time complaining, with not much "get up and go".
* I sometimes felt unsafe. I was mugged a couple of times.
* I was awarded a scholarship for study in the US that at the time paid about the same as my full-time working salary in the UK. So that decision was a no-brainer...

Here are some reasons I am glad I live in the USA:

* The feeling that "anything is possible"
* I can actually afford a reasonably sized house and back yard with a bit of space. (No, I don't live in California or NYC).
* The weather is usually interesting (lots of snow in winter, lots of sun in summer, storms in-between)
* Easier to find an interesting job (I am in IT)
* Americans like the British (it's the accent thing, which seems to more than outweigh our bad teeth, haha)
* The women are more attractive (!) I never thought I'd be so chauvenistic. But there you go, sometimes I surprise myself.
* People are generally very optimistic. They get things done and have a "can do" attitude.
* America helped to liberate Europe during WWII. Americans led the allied invastion of Normandy. Near where I live there is a memorial featuring a life-sized bronze replica of a man crouching behind one of those criss-crossy metal beam structures that the Germans placed all over the French beaches.
It brings a tear to my eye imagining the courage of the people who overcame such terrible odds as they made their way up those beaches against the relentless machine-gun fire.
* I feel more independent, less "babied" than in the UK
* The US seems less bureaucratic, less intrusive into my life
* The US seems to be more of a meritocracy - less emphasis on "pay scales", most jobs pay based on experience and aptitude.
* No annoying UK public school accent (in the UK, public school really means "private school", don't ask me why)
* Still plenty of wide open spaces

Here are some of the reasons I sometimes wish I were back in the UK:

* I have many UK-based friends - for some reason I found it much easier to make friends in the UK, maybe that's because you make friends easier when you are young?
* Weather is usually very mild, assuming you live somewhere vaguely in the South.
* Despite its reputation, the food is generally better in the UK (at least, you don't have to work quite as hard to get good food).
* The UK has reasonable public transportation (trains, buses).
* You can often get places by walking, The USA is too focused on use of the car.
* Healthcare for all, as opposed to healthcare tied to your job
* Better (different?) sense of humor. People are "quirkier"/funnier in general. Bit of a sweeping generalization there, but...
* More vacation days! The USA is pitiful in terms of vacation days (unless you work for the US federal government, interestingly)
* More of a safety net if you lose your job. I have lost my job in the US and it's genuinely frightening how quickly things can go downhill.
* Seems like the education system may be better in the UK (I have been gone a while though and it could have deteriorated by now). On the other hand, nothing of use is taught in school, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde.
* Geographically closer to the relatives on my side of the family who live in England and France.
* Pubs! As opposed to sports bars. You can have a conversation in a pub. Beer is better in the UK as well by the way.
* No George Bush. Oops, there goes my green card application.
* Far fewer religious fundamentalists, far more atheists and free-thinkers. By now you may have figured out that I am god-free.

Here are some of the reasons I may never return to the UK:
* Cost of housing has increased too much. My poor dollars ain't worth very much any more...
* Constant grey skies, feeling that "nothing is possible", crowds, the feeling that I am unsafe...

Before I get too misty-eyed, here is a quote for today:

History continues even though the graveyard is full of indispensable leaders. -Charles De Gaulle

And until the next time, gentle reader, I remain as always,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

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