Monday, 16 January 2012

Whimsical and Ridiculously Oversimplified Comparisons

Things That are Better in America:

  • Newspapers. The important ones, at least, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, are always a good read, even when you don't agree with the views presented. The writers can write. At the risk of sounding a bit morbid, I really like the obituaries. Everyone's story is told and honoured, their contribution acknowledged - it's not just a litany of relatives' names and bad poems.
  • Restaurants - an incredible range from fabulous and expensive to very very cheap (ie $1 specials at Maccas). You really can get anything you want, service is almost always friendly, courteous and well-informed - I guess because the wait-staff rely on tips to make a liveable wage. A good main course, which they inexplicably call an entree, averages about $15 - way better value than in Australia. There is a definite pattern to the restaurant industry - a guy starts a successful small restaurant, then opens another one, then it goes to franchise, then there are 342 of them across the country, all pretty much the same.
  • Toilets. Seriously, they flush like the Maelstrom and public toilets are clean, functional and everywhere.
  • Philanthropy. Anyone who achieves anything in their life expects to give back to their community. As a result, endowments support universities, art galleries, theatre companies, public artworks, sports facilities, gardens, scholarships, museums, community building, all types of research, environmental projects, concerts, events, you name it. The result of this is a very visible enhancement of the quality of life, and individuals are admired and remembered for what they have done.
  • Waterfronts. There are some great ones. Marinas and waterfront living make places more interesting, energetic and prosperous. Bunbury should learn from this.
  • Live music. Almost everywhere - some great, some not so much, but it's really good to see musicians getting a chance to be heard.
Things That Aren't so Great:
  • While everyone is very courteous and friendly, the actual service, in terms of getting things processed, delivered, authorised etc is often hopeless. This seems to be particularly the case with postal services and phone companies - Telstra and Australia Post look efficient and professional from here.
  • Sugar. Everything is sweeter - bread, crackers, soup, biscuits, drinks; marinades fror meat are all sweet - baked beans (yuck!) - I think there's some kind of conspiracy to support the corn and beet growing industries. The sugar OD is clearly reflected in the national waistline.
  • More is better. This belief applies to all sorts of things - four different toppings on a baked potato; five kinds of cheese on your pizza; supersize it, add fries, add three kinds of sauce; put flavoured syrup in your coffee and serve it in a gallon bucket... There is also a surfeit of cheap junk designed to make you consume throughout the calendar, especially on fake festivals like Hallowe'en and Valentine's Day.
  • Television. Loud and frequent advertising, evangelical channels, lamer sitcoms than the ones that make it to Australia. Drugs, medical procedures and legal services are all advertised, which is interesting initially but wears thin very quickly.

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