America – the land of the free, the home of the brave and a great big tourist attraction all rolled up in one. Aside from price of tickets, immigration and the excruciatingly long plane journeys – made bearable only by the free food, drink and inflight movies – travelling there is virtually pain free. Especially when the only alternative to flying is still tarnished with the idea of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet floating around on a piece of wood.
With simple roads the size of an English motorway and no roundabouts in sight, driving on the opposite side of the road was the least bizarre thing about American traffic. As we drove towards Dallas, we passed under a freeway – for those of you who don’t know what a freeway is, think of the moment in Transformers with Optimus Prime, the unsurprised child and the mother with a serious delayed reaction; a giant web of bridges, criss-crossing over one another, like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.
Needless to say though, the most confusing thing about America is going from air-conditioned indoors to gorgeously warm outdoors. In England, you trade stifling hot indoors for icy cold outdoors – even in summer. However, when you visit a country for its warm weather and therefore pack for it, it is a little disconcerting to be sitting at dinner wishing you had brought a jacket for the cold indoors. You may think I’m mad for wishing for the heat – it was after all averaging around 42° every day. But in America, it is not the sticky, stifling, suffocating that the Brits see briefly in that day we call “summer”. It is a comfortable warmth, that still manages to give you the stupidest tan lines, making you look like Neapolitan ice cream whenever you try and amend them. It was quite funny – when we got home, I had several people telling me that it was the warmest day in ages. It was 15° and I sat wrapped up in bed in a woolly jumper, freezing cold.
However, there is never a more satisfying sight than an American Outlet Store on sale. It’s a triple discount. I’m not exactly a fan of the brands, simply because of the outrageous prices the sell their clothing at – but when it’s half the price, there really is nothing harder to resist. The funny thing is walking straight out of Hollister into Abercrombie&Fitch and seeing the exact same clothing throughout the store with just a different logo on. I envy whoever produces the plain versions of it all – they must make an absolute fortune. Alike with stores, it is fun driving around and seeing all the American commonplace items that are well known to everyone simply because of their feature on American TV shows and films. Walmart, 7 Eleven, Red Lobster – despite the amount of them that there are in England, I actually smiled when I saw the first American McDonalds.
However, the accent is something else. I still don’t understand how people with the same origins can sound so completely different – the same goes for Australia. Still, it was relatively fascinating to have our accent loved and thought of as part of the cast of Eastenders. And they were polite as anything – it was all ma’ams and sirs. Not exactly the slating and swearing you hear in England. If there could be only one thing I miss about the States, it has to be the manners. You know you’re back in Britain, when you get shoved out of the way in a hallway and thrown filthy looks for every necessary question you ask of someone who’s “Happy To Help”. I guess the weather’s just pathetic fallacy.
The USA is a big and beautiful land – and that’s from the miniscule portion that I saw. Hopefully England will see how successful its neighbour is and get its act together, preferably in my lifetime.