It’s the Fourth of July. It reminds me that I’m home. My mother is upstairs making food for a picnic and fireworks later, I don’t have to go to work because it’s a holiday, people are (for the most part) posting statuses all over Facebook about how great it is to be American.
And despite the country’s flaws, it is. I have been here just over two weeks and I have settled in pretty well. I don’t have to walk everywhere anymore, and I haven’t had any problems driving on the right side of the road. I know that you always tip 20% (and the waiters always come to check to make sure your food is okay), I know to bus my own stuff in cafes, and I know that it’s not weird to hug most people I know almost every time I see them. In fact, my hug deficiency is growing less every day. I have been cooking for myself–and I am even using flavorful ingredients (including salt!). I have not touched a potato since I have been home (that will change, I am sure). My freezer is well-stocked with my favorite popsicles.
There are little moments when I realize I am back here. When I went out to eat lunch with my coworkers yesterday, my boss threw a fit when the buffet we went to added a gratuity to the tip. The group has been there many times and it has never happened. Honestly, she would have put down a larger tip if she hadn’t been forced to pay one. The idea that someone was forcing her to pay a tip (for very minimal service) outraged her. It was all a little silly to me, but it reminds me of the fact that oftentimes Americans can get very worked up over very small things — the British don’t. I don’t think I ever saw a Brit fly into a rage and request to see a manager over anything, let alone something that really didn’t need to be a big deal (although, it was not written on any sign or menu that such a gratuity would be added). The fact is, in America, we tip. But apparently some of us get angry when we are demanded to do something. I’m not sure the British like being told what to do either, but they certainly wouldn’t get upset over it. It’s true that customer service in America is completely different. We expect everyone to bend over backwards to make us happy if we are giving them our money. And customer service always does so, because that’s just how it goes.
I also forgot how everyone is always in a rush to get somewhere, to meet with someone, to do something. Time is perhaps a more valuable commodity than any other here. Oxford could be similar because it was filled with busy students. But here everyone is multitasking all the time because everyone has a thousand things to get done. As an intern, it can be intimidating to go check with my bosses to see if they have something for me to do because I don’t want to interrupt whatever they’re doing, even if I know that if they do have something for me, I’ll be saving them time by getting it done.
Despite the demanding nature of Americans as well as their propensity to be in a rush, I am happy to be here. I do miss running into the cats on Norham Gardens. I miss my friends, the Saturday night pub outings, my favorite cider, the open schedule (even if it was filled with work), the walk through the parks into town. I made a lot of great memories in England, and I’m happy I get to keep them. Perhaps someday I’ll go back.
But today, I get to hang around and enjoy family, friends and fireworks. And popsicles. I love popsicles.