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Saturday, June 22, 2024
Laterally SpeakingAmerican Imports

American Imports

As the UK slowly wriggles away from Europe, it’s time to consider new trading opportunities as we turn and look westwards across the Atlantic. Last month I wrote about some nice European things that we’ll be leaving behind, so this month I’m writing about a few of the positive benefits in having the USA as a potential trading partner. Please note, this does not include unwelcome items such as chlorinated chicken, force-fed religion or yet more American TV (we get quite enough of that already). And you’ll be relieved to know I’m not suggesting we import any member of the Trump family! Having lived in Los Angeles for seven years before I moved to Dorset, here’s my top ten list of things the USA does particularly well.

1)  Fridges & Ice: American kitchens tend to be larger (they’ve got more space than we have), so their fridges are massively wonderful. Everything goes in them—including stuff that doesn’t really need to be there at all such as jam (sorry jelly), pet food, eggs, milk and bread, medicines and mouthwash and plasters, plus half a ton of yoghurts and ten school lunches. Many Americans think they must always be ready for Armageddon, so their fridges are packed with every consumable item and quite a few non-consumables such as batteries. Yes, batteries in a fridge—don’t ask me why. And most of them also have ice machines. Just insert your glass and plop, plop, thump—it’s full of ice cubes. Heaven! Yes, you can get US style fridges in the UK but you need a second mortgage to buy them. I’m not sure all this power consumption is actually better (and it’s certainly not better for the environment) but it’s definitely bigger. That’s America for you—it’s just bigger. But not necessarily better…

2)  Longer shopping hours: In the UK, the shopping world (except for supermarkets) comes to a stop at about 6pm. In the States I could buy a shirt or a car and have my teeth fixed up to about 9pm. Of course, in Las Vegas everything’s open 24/7, but that’s because nobody has time to sleep.

3)  Soft drinks: Why is it that in a British pub, a diet coke costs virtually the same as a glass of wine or a beer? In the USA, soft drinks are always roughly half the cost of their alcoholic equivalent which reflects the true price if you buy them in a shop. And in so many restaurants, you get free refills too! And then there’s root beer and grape soda—great fizzy drinks that are so common in the USA but so hard to find over here…

4)  Hot dogs: We used to have these in the UK, but they seem to have vanished. I really love a genuine wiener hot dog with bright green relish in a long bun. Currently I put a Tesco frankfurter into a roll but it’s not the same. Perhaps I’ll be able to import them direct from the USA in a post-Brexit world…

5)  Good Mexican food: I know, I know… we’ve got Wahaca and other chains like Chiquito which are certainly better than what we used to get in the UK. But where can you find essential Mexican goodies like frijoles charros or hot tamales? And I’m not talking ‘Taco Bell’ here…

6)  American Sports: I love my UK footie and cricket and rugby, but American Football and Baseball are pretty cool too. And Ice Hockey is amazing on TV (that’s if you can follow it because the little black puck thing whizzes by so fast). The only bits I can occasionally catch here are at 3am on channel something or other when I am asleep. Probably the best thing about sporting USA are college sports. The city comes to a standstill when Oregon plays Ohio State—fan mania and hysteria but at a grassroots level! In the UK, college sport means the Oxford vs Cambridge boat race (daftly elitist) or University Challenge on TV and, no matter what you may say, a college quiz is not as exciting as a 40 yard touch-down!

7)  Pickup trucks:  So useful—just a covered cab and an open space behind to carry everything. Put anything in it—your furniture, a couple of trees, dogs, comfy chair, grandparents, whatever… a bit like an American fridge.

8)  Mountains in general: Ben Nevis is just over four thousand measly feet high. This is merely a gentle hill compared to the USA which has nearly 200 mountains at over 12,000 feet. It might be difficult to import them directly as they wouldn’t fit easily onto a pick-up truck but I told you earlier that American things tend to be bigger than ours.

9)  Genuine friendliness towards complete strangers: Hard to beat. Over here we tend to wait until we’ve been officially introduced or at least shaken hands. In the USA, generous hospitality is a nice habit. Perhaps we could import it to here.

10)  Cheap gasoline: Yes, UK petrol is nearly double the money. But UK walkers and bicyclists beware. There’s almost no provision for cycle lanes in most American cities and when I lived in L.A., we had few pavements (sorry sidewalks). Walking is something you do to take exercise like at the gym. Going for a walk gets funny looks. You are not expected to go anywhere unless you go by car.

And there are other negatives I wouldn’t want to import like American chocolate (much too sickly sweet), the lack of bookshops (Americans don’t read as much as we do) plus widespread obesity (although the UK is catching up fast). And there’s nothing like the NHS over there – I’d have to take out a bank loan to get US health insurance now. Yes, there are some things we wouldn’t want to get from the USA. Getting shot is another…

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