5.04.2016

'Merica!

The latest Cracked podcast is about how people from other countries view Americans. This kind of thing always interests me. As I've said before, when I travel abroad most people tell me I "can't" be American because I'm not loud enough, don't complain enough, etc. So I'm sort of embarrassed at this reputation my country has garnered.

There are things about America even I don't understand or subscribe to. For example, I've always had a lot of guy friends. On the podcast they go on and on about how that's normal for people in other countries but not here, and it's true that a lot of my female friends don't understand about my male friends. "Like, ex-boyfriends?" they ask. And I'm like, "No. Just friends. Like, you know? Friends?" We had a whole show about that, didn't we? It was a hit. But then again the natural progression of that show was that all the guy and girl friends would eventually get together, so . . . Yeah, Americans are weird about that. (Are my guy friends secretly hoping I'm into them? And no, they're not all gay. Only about half of them are.) Thanks, Cracked, for undermining my confidence and making me second-guess my healthy, happy friendships. You jackasses.

Another thing the podcast talks about is how even different parts of America are like different countries. And I can attest to this because I've lived in three very different parts of America myself. I grew up in the South (Louisiana and Texas), lived for 12 years in Massachusetts, and am now on the West Coast. So let's break that down.

Growing up in the South, we did that thing where people were Miss or Mister and then their first name. We were polite and usually warm, but even when we're giving someone the cold shoulder we sound friendly. We're the birthplace of backhanded compliments. We chat with people we don't know as if they're lifelong friends. We smile a lot.

Okay, so it was quite a shock when I then moved to Massachusetts. People do not smile there. They don't talk to you unless they absolutely have to. They're very tight knit and not welcoming. I lived there 12 years and was always an outsider. Between that and the snow, I really disliked it.

Visits home were tricky, too, because I'd forget I was back in the South and so I'd be thinking, Why the hell is that person smiling at me like that? before remembering where I was and relaxing.

So now I'm on the West Coast in California. It's more like the South in that it's friendlier, at least on the surface. But a lot of it is superficial. People here make promises they don't keep, which is something you can't get away with in the South or even in the Northeast (unless you're a politician). In California, though, everyone seems to be a politician of one kind or another. It's a game of who's who and personal leverage. And there's a simultaneous sense of being insanely busy and very laid back at the same time. Leisure is work and vice versa. It's so weird.

I knew I'd become sufficiently Cali when I got on a plane from SFO to LAX one day and I and everyone else on board kept our sunglasses on.

The Cracked podcast only touched on this, but I remember my friend Marieke from The Netherlands being amazed at the portion sizes in America. The Big Gulp in particular just astounded her.

And I thought it was interesting that one Cracked guest from Japan was perplexed by how we treat our pets like family members.

In all it was an interesting perspective.