Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American Customer Service vs. British Maternity Services

I haven't blogged about the differences between Britain and America for a while - probably because it's such a minefield - but wanted to put down some of my thoughts about what is better each side of the Atlantic. Nothing to do with books or writing, of course - normal service will be resumed shortly.

It's a long list. British chocolate is better but American meat is better. Tesco and Sainsbury's have budget brands, but Wal-Mart has a bigger variety of stock. American roads are better and petrol is cheaper, but British roads are (apparently) safer - I have no idea why you're twice as likely to die in a road accident in the US than the UK.

Today, though, I'm going to just focus on one thing from each country.

America is better at serving the consumer. It's not just friendly and smiling "servers" who want you to have a nice day, and shop assistants who bag your groceries for you. The thing I'm most jealous of is the drive-through. OK, so we have drive-throughs at McDonald's and KFC (American brands, note) but America has drive through banks - wow! And post offices! When I have a parcel to post I have to drive to the post office and hope that one of the six parking spaces outside is free, then get out of the car and trudge through the rain (it's always raining) when all I need to do is put my pre-paid parcel on the counter.

And if I have some cheques to pay into the bank or need to get some cash out of the hole in the wall I have to pay 60p to park for an hour in the council car park even though my errand only takes five minutes. It's very frustrating.

So what does Britain do better? Maternity services, I have recently learned. A British friend who had her first baby in America told me her experience, so I was able to compare and contrast with mine.

During my pregnancies I was cared for entirely by my community midwife who called on me at home with increasing frequency as I got closer to my due date. She delivered my babies too and I was able to use gas-and-air (entonox) for pain relief and choose any position I found comfortable for the delivery. (Yeah, right. Comfortable?!?)

When I had my first baby I was in hospital with her for a few days because she had some feeding problems, but she was in a little wheeled cradle by my side the whole time. Despite the fact that she was tagged at birth on her wrist and ankle, I was not allowed to be apart from her - I even had to trundle her along with me when I went to the loo. When I had Ceri (my third) I went home an hour after giving birth, but then she was supposed to be a home delivery anyway.

My friend giving birth in America (admittedly 14 years ago - things may have changed since) was attended by a male doctor (argh!) and a flock of gowned and masked nurses, and required to lie flat on her back with her feet in stirrups. (Entonox isn't available in the US and apparently 70% of American women have an epidural - a major medical procedure.) Her son was then taken to the nursery with all the other babies. Her mother-in-law put her under pressure to have him circumcised. In the UK, circumcision of an infant is illegal unless it's for religious reasons or deemed medically necessary.

Having said all this, I buy grocieries and go to the post office rather more often than I have babies, so I think America wins hands down.

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