reflections on a trip to the united states of america

I am back from my trip to sunny California. Even though the US is just over there (I am pointing south right now), I rarely go to there, so I don’t have a lot experience with Americans. So I present to you my list of overarching, generalizing, statistically-inaccurate, impressions of the United States of America:

  • It was a brisk/mild/cold/warm/normal/abnormal low seventies all week. I can’t pick a qualifier since Americans don’t seem to talk about the weather as much as Canadians do. Instead, whenever I would assume Canadians would politely comment on the weather, Americans talk about money. How expensive something is, how cheap something is, where to find it cheaper. This is probably a blessing in disguise for me since I can never remember the Fahrenheit conversion tables anyway.
  • In Canada we have three accents: Francophone, Cape Breton, and Newfoundland. These accents are, generally, located in Francophone areas, Cape Breton, and Newfoundland respectively. In the states, it seems that everyone has a southern accent. People who I wouldn’t think would have southern accents do. Like people from San Francisco and Michigan. Maybe I’m just more sensitive. I heard a lot of, for example, “You grew up in Alabama? You don’t have an accent at all!” where it seemed that all you could hear was a pleasant southern twang. Maybe your ear tunes it out after a while.
  • There are sidewalks. That is how the Latino gardeners go between bushes to trim the sides that face the road. Other than that, people don’t walk even on nicely laid out, wide, and well-maintained (see note re: gardeners) pathways. Americans seem rather suspicious about walking.
    • subpoint: In a layover in O’Hare, there was a line to get on a shuttle to go to another terminal, a line that stretched from one end of the terminal to the other. An employee announced that it’s really only a five minute walk to the other terminal. I was the only one that got out of line and decided to walk.
    • subpoint: The interstate is a highway that goes between states I think. Can a freeway be an interstate? Or vice versa? I don’t know. In Canada, we just have highways.
  • Many layovers with CNN on in the background has taught me that Americans don’t have news programs. They have shows where someone tells you that unless you agree with them, you are un-American. Also, Iran having nuclear weapons is Barack Obama’s fault.
  • food:
    • Canadians seem friendly than Americans. And we say please and thank you more. We’re only beat by the wide variety of cheery Latino fast-food workers.
    • There is a restaurant called In-and-Out Burger. It has four items on the menu: Hamburger, Cheeseburger, French Fries, Milkshake. I ate there. I don’t know if describing your food as in-and-out is that great a marketing strategy. Something inside me died when we went there.
    • There is a “Mexican” chain called Rubio’s that makes fish tacos. With the fish deep fried. And from Alaska. I’m not sure where the Mexican comes in here.
    • Food is cheap. Americans complain that it isn’t, but it is. In-and-Out was $2 per hamburger (again, why did I eat there?). But then Americans eat a lot. People, in general, seemed wider, probably because they are ignoring all their beautiful sidewalks that only me and the gardeners are using and driving around on their freeways/interstates.
  • The not-nice parts of La Jolla are rundown stucco with these purple flowers (hydrangeas?) everywhere, just like Addis. But everyone, including me, is ferenj.

I went to my conference. It got worse before it got better, but now it is over and I can go back to pretending that I am doing a half-way decent job at work. I would say that I hope I don’t have to go to any more conferences, but I have to go to one in December (in Baltimore, one of the most violent cities in America this time!) so I can’t even say hope. I just have to go. But now I am home and now I am going to go to sleep.

4 thoughts on “reflections on a trip to the united states of america

  1. California is weird. After two weeks in DC (which I loved), three weeks in California was just a bit too much weird for me. Especially San Diego.

  2. Here is my comparison of my observations, having lived south of the border for a while now, and been around a bunch.

    I’m pretty sure not talking about the weather is a california thing. Here they talk about the weather all the time, and I’ve had californians note the difference. I think in california the weather is always the same, so they don’t talk about it. Here we had a high in the low thirties this week and todays is in the low teens. They don’t understand celsius, but then I don’t understand farenheit. They seem more shocked though, a couple days ago I used celsius and an american seemed to think I was crazy, despite the fact that they were the only american there, and hence the only one that preferred farenheit.

    You definitely tune out the accents more and more after a while, I’ve been down here long enough to start noticing canadian accents more when I’m home, and notice texan accents less. I do think anglo-canadians have generally less regional accent, and also less racially divided accent.

    Whether there are sidewalks and whether people walk seems to be regional, but I’ve only seen a very small number of places where people walk (New York, San Francisco). Undergrads here all have cars. I think their different classifications of highways might be like our 400 series highways vs. regular highways, but to be honest, I haven’t figured it out (not driving makes in less relevant to me)

    Yeah, that is about the shape of american news.

    I agree about the food being cheap and in large portions. I’ve never been to an in and out burger, but californians here talk about it all the time (positively). Chain mexican food is about a mexican as chain chinese food is chinese. California, New Mexico, and Texas all have their own styles of “mexican”

    Yeah, it is amazing how run down bad parts of the states are.

  3. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who found California a bit weird.

    Californians seem to really love In-and-Out Burger. Maybe if I ate there more I would appreciate it, but I don’t think it will happen. But on the first day of the conference, everyone was like “We’re going to in-and-out burger. You have to come!” and really, it was just a burger place no different than any other fast food burger place except for their secret menu which I didn’t really care about.

    I liked the run down bits a lot. They were less frightening than the ostentatious beach front houses along the coast. Those were more frightening.

  4. Fucking hell – secret menu tells me I could have gotten a veggie burger by asking for a veggie burger or a grilled cheese sandwich. I take back my not caring about the secret menu. I do care. I want to replace the rotting grade-B meat in my colon with textured vegetable protein and chemical flavouring.

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