I’ve been in America since 1989. For most intents and purposes, I’m American. At least, that’s how most non-American people see me. I grew up in this land and I have the same love-hate moments that anyone has with this country. There was a time when I thought I would return to the motherland, but the more I visited, the more I realised how far I’ve grown from where I started. Still, I suppose this doesn’t mean that I’ve adapted completely. There are still some things that make me double take when it comes to Americans.
1. “How Are You?”
This happens a lot in the office. Whether you work with someone closely or are just passers by at the coffee station, I always hear the question, “How are you?” There are variations, of course. This sounds like it’s hardly confusing, I know. But watch as most people ask this question. They ask it as they are walking away, not even pausing to hear your answer. This leaves most of us to default to the reply of “good!” or its variations. Really, don’t even ask if you don’t really care. I don’t mind that you don’t care. I mind that the question is posed so nonchalantly. Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to. It’s rude, time wasting, and just quite strange. Stop using it as a greeting that almost dares to ridicule an honest reply.
2. The Imperial System
I work a lot with overseas companies. Companies that probably wish we would switch to the metric system. I do, too! We would probably communicate better that way. While I still need to research the validity of this, I recall Jon Oliver saying that America was one of very few (three, was it?) countries that still do not use the metric system. I listen to old time radio podcasts who maintain the original sponsor ads where I’ve heard them pushing for the metric system. What happened, America? Why do we do this to ourselves? We’ve been trying to switch for so long… We can do it!
Granted, I know America isn’t the only place that has tipping in its culture. It’s just the debate over it. Many people see it as mandatory, proper, and inexcusable to avoid. I see the bill as such, and tipping is optional. I do tip regularly and I have had my years of service in the food industry. I’m not without experience as a wait staff and its pay. It’s a bad system continually enforced by society through shaming. I do not find chasing after paying guests demanding that they did not tip enough to be acceptable practice. I am sorry that some patrons are just cheap and/or ungrateful, but they paid for their meal. That’s all they’re required to do. Your employer should be the one you face up to and demand your hard work’s worth.
I may never get used to these things. None of the above really get to me much, but they’ve always confused me with their existence. It doesn’t make me lose sight that America had its hand in raising me and I’m grateful for it. That a whole other list for another time.