Monday, May 7, 2018

Why America is awesome (and also not so awesome)

America is quite possibly the greatest country in the world. Here's what I love about it:

- The weather is incredible. OK, maybe not in New York or Alaska, but in Las Vegas and LA it's amazing. You just feel so much happier when the sky's a deep cloudless blue and the sun makes everything look beautiful. I genuinely think people in the UK would be happier if the weather were like it is in America. Which brings me to...

- The people: they're friendlier Stateside. They actually want to talk to you. Yes, some of it might be motivated by wanting tips, but I'm sure a lot of people in the UK want tips too, and they're still grunty and miserable. When I got married in Vegas, dozens of strangers congratulated us in the street. I can't imagine that happening in the UK. People would just stare.

- People are also more upbeat and cheery. Whereas in Britain, if you ask someone 'How are you?' they'll reply in the negative, saying 'Not bad' or 'Can't complain, mustn't  grumble', an American is likely to say 'Awesome!' This optimism is infectious, and being around it made me happy.

- There's no class system. Anyone can go from poor to Oprah and no one will be sniffy about it and use the term 'nouveau riche', like snobs do in the UK. The American dream may be unattainable for most, but it gives a lot of people hope. Social mobility just feels more possible over there. It's called the land of opportunity for a reason.

- The food is delicious. I didn't have one duff meal while I was over there, and there were scores and scores of vegan restaurants everywhere we went (though not one called Viva Las Vegan, strangely, so they missed a trick. Maybe I should open one?) And the portions, though not as big as I'd been led to believe, are certainly on the generous side.

- If the US had a slogan, it might be America: We Do It Better. In pretty much every category, including films, hip-hop, pop music, novels, sport... you name it, America is the world leader, or at least up there with the best. Most of the music on my Spotify playlists is American, as are most of my favourite movies, and a lot of the architecture and interior design photos I have are from the States. It makes me proud to be American.

- Americans are cool. Just compare US rap to British rap and you'll see what I mean.

And here's the stuff I don't like:

- Its history. It's horrific pretty much all the way back. I know you can't blame people for the actions of their ancestors (my ancestors too) but it's kind of miserable to think that the country was built off the backs of enslaved, marginalised and disenfranchised people. And when you see white policemen shooting black people, you kind of think things haven't changed that much, sadly.

- Gun crime. OK, so I didn't see anyone shoot anyone, and most of the time I didn't think about guns (except at the airports, which always have guards carrying them) but a mass US shooting makes the international news almost every month and makes me shudder. It's the kind of thing I'd find difficult about living there - it's scary to think you could get in an argument with someone and they could pull a gun on you.

- Healthcare. Lack of health insurance is literally killing people, and this shouldn't be the case in the most advanced nation on the planet. My brother's girlfriend says she spends a third of her SALARY  on health insurance, which is just insane compared to my £12 a month on drugs on the NHS. Also: I can't go and live over there right now, because my three psychotropic drugs will cost thousands a year.

- Its lack of care for the environment. I'm not sure I saw a recycling bin the whole time I was there.

- It's extremely expensive, though houses are a lot cheaper, so maybe it evens out.

- The current administration. I know it's a relatively temporary thing, but it's off-putting.

- Its lack of employment rights.

I could go on and on about the pluses and minuses of America, but I do love it, and I'd really like to live there someday - if they sort out some of the above. I guess we'll see.