Having watched a fair amount of American TV, I had previously been a little concerned about how many American teenagers seemed to live in their parents' basement. What cruel parents, I thought, back when my only experience of a basement was the cellar in my old home in Wales where steep and slippery slate steps led down to a tiny room with a low beamed ceiling, cobwebs everywhere and a dirt floor.
Who knew there could be a whole other home down there - and a well decorated one with natural light and a bathroom and everything? So now I get basements. I even wish I had one for my teenager to live in.
Americans all think Brits have bad teeth, and Brits all think that Americans all have unnaturally shiny white teeth. The mystery of where this idea came about was solved when I bought some American whitening toothpaste. The instructions included the line "If accidentally swallowed seek immediate advice at a Poison Control Center" (sic). My British whitening toothpaste says nothing of the kind - apparently it's perfectly safe to swallow it. A little research later, and it seems that the FDA has approved the use of bleaches and ingredients far stronger than those the UK goverment will permit in toothpaste. Result - American teeth are whiter. But I reject the notion that all Brits have bad teeth. As I may have said before, both my teeth are in perfectly servicable condition.
While I was in America, several people commented that drinks in the US were served cold, and they understood that Brits liked their soft drinks served at room temperature. Not true! But I think this idea grew up because most British people don't have the facility to keep drinks cold. British homes are far smaller than most American homes simply because we are a small overcrowded country and don't have the space to build big houses, so, like most of my countrymen we have a small fridge which fits under the kitchen counter in our little kitchen. It isn't big enough to keep even one two-litre bottle of fizzy pop in, and it doesn't have the facilty to make ice. Hence until we bought our "spare" fridge (which has to live in the utility room) we had to drink all our drinks warm too. We didn't like it that way. (We're very lucky to have a utility room. Most British homes have the washing machine in the kitchen too, under the counter, and no clothes dryer at all.)
Americans are far more political than we Brits. You may (possibly) have heard that we're having a General Election tomorrow and may have a shiny new government, and a new PM, by Friday. I found out about this election only a month ago, in Utah, and had to be told about it by an American. Ironic. We have a law which only allows politicians to campaign for a month, you see, so the election date is announced exactly one month before it happens. I suspect that's because it is considered terribly bad form to talk about politics or express any kind of political opinion unless (or perhaps especially if) you're a politician. And yet in America everyone quite freely makes their political leanings public knowledge.
You have a better quality and standard of life than we do. More space, more opportunities, more choice - but you do pay for it. Exchange rate notwithstanding, we were horrified at the price of food in the shops. Soon after we arrived Roderic drove me to a supermarket to buy a pizza, a loaf of bread and some mixed salad, and gave me a $10 note to pay for it. At home, that would have worked out like this:
- Pizza - 79p for a Sainsbury's basics pizza ($1.19)
- Mixed leaf bagged salad - £1.50 at Sainsbury's ($2.25)
- Loaf of bread - 49p (74 cents)
- Total - £3.03 ($4.18)
I still have the receipt, and can tell you that I wasn't able to do all of it. The pizzas alone were almost $10. I ended up buying French Bread pizza at $4.99 and we had to make do without salad. Most things cost about twice what they do here. I'm sure it wasn't that expensive last time we were over. Have prices risen a lot in the last three years?
Anyway, we had a wonderful time, and can't wait to come back. Thanks to everyone for making us feel so welcome. The full account is at http://www.annahitsamerica.blogspot.com/.
Finally, the funniest thing that happened was that two people asked me (in English) what language we were speaking...