I have now lived in three countries. The U.S., Japan, and the U.K. I prefer the U.K. because having grown up in the American Midwest, I identify with the U.K.'s "no-can-do" spirit. The U.K. is also a nice middle ground for me culturally and geographically speaking. There is a real sense of community here but no one is ever compelled to tell me exactly what they are thinking, feeling or going through.
In the States, I watched a pimply 16-year old cashier at Walmart ask the middle-aged customer in front of me, "How are you today?" as he scanned her first item. "Not too good. My sister's just been diagnosed with cancer." she replied. The cashier froze for a second and a half as his eyes tried to decide on a focal point then said, "I'm sorry to hear that...Would you like to pay cash or credit?" She seemed disappointed in his response. I don't know if she was expecting a family cancer discount but whatever she was looking for, she didn't find it at Walmart.
In Japan, an American friend of mine arrived at an acquaintance's home and got yelled at when he knocked on the door.
"What are you doing at my home?"
"You invited me to come over."
"I was just being being polite!"
"But you gave me you're address, set a date and time?!"
I was being VERY VERY VERY polite."
In London, one Monday morning I was on a bus when a short lady in her mid-50's sat next to me in a huff though she couldn't have weighted more that 100 pounds so it was more of a puff.
Half angry, half bewildered, she turned to me. "I've just come from the bus in front of this one. The driver is driving so slowly, I'll never get to work." "Did you tell the driver?" I asked. " No! I didn't want to be rude." she explained.
So she got on another bus behind the slow bus and started complaining to a complete stranger. Rude!
I wanted to be polite so I didn't say anything...to her. I got off the bus and bitched to a Starbucks barista who just ginned tightly at me and asked if I American. I'm pretty sure he spit in my coffee. I love it here.
I’m Spring Day (real name, hippie parents)
Moving back to the United States after having lived in Japan and traveling the world for 16 years has been a bit of a head fuck, especially since I now work in the U.K. My blog “The United States of Shock!” is where I give my brilliant and bitter two cents, pence, yen and euro on my experience with culture shock and current events. If you have any questions you would like to have answered in a snit, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org