Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Best and the Worst about the Culture of the US

I believe I am meant to be the citizen of another country. While there are plenty of things to love about the US, I seem to click better with Europe and their public transportation, investment in the arts, free healthcare and affordable higher education, etc.

So I decided to interview my Irish citizen husband (who has seen several US cities that I haven’t like New Orleans or Denver) to get his opinion on the best and worst of the US.  I wanted to see what he viewed as pros and cons compared to what I think they are.You Can’t Talk about the US and not Mention Food

Traditional North Carolina plate of BBQ. Hush puppies are petal shaped instead of round balls.
Cinco de Mayo dinner of fajitas, chile-lime corn, and margaritas. Can’t get that in Ireland.

We’re a culture of borrowed and blended food histories.  What is the best of American food culture to my man?  Barbeque and ethnic food.  You can find a Chinese or Indian restaurant in Ireland, but the heat is all but non-existent.  Fajitas arrive with sweet chili sauce.  So to come to the US and experience Thai, Ethiopian (I am not a big fan), spicy Indian and other cuisines has been quite an education in the range of foods that are out there.  Barbeque might be its own food group for my husband.  We’ve sampled all the major styles and prefer a smoky, tomato based sauce to vinegar or mustard ones.  He’s a pulled pork fanatic, just add some hush puppies and Brunswick stew and he’s golden.

European Nestle chocolate is WAY different from American Nestle chocolate.



Worst of American food?  Our chocolate and candy selection.  To quote, it is “terrible”.  The chocolate has a weird mouth feel (due to vegetable wax instead of cocoa butter), the candy is super sweet because of corn syrup instead of sugar, and the prevalence of peanut butter and caramel make him run for the hills.  I get it. After living in Ireland for a semester, I don’t eat much American candy. Maybe a KitKat or a Twix every now and then.  Cadbury’s is so much better.

Driving in America: You Have to Do It

Objects in mirror are tackier than they appear.



I have to admit, I’m impressed that my husband gained most of his driving experience before getting his very first driver’s license in Atlanta of all places.  If you have ever lived there, you know how crazy the drivers are in the ATL.  So his best of driving in the US are the highway system and the wide roads.  Irish roads are generally narrow and curvy at best, heart attack inducing at worst.  Dublin’s roads are more recognizable to an American as a modern system, and there are some new motorways that mimic a highway system. But it’s not quite the same. Having a two way AND two lane road in the country is totally different from Irish roads.  Being able to hop on 440 to 65 to go north or south from Nashville and connect to other highways makes getting around by car a whole lot quicker than driving the same distance in Ireland.

Worst thing about driving in the US? The DMV. I laughed at this response as I would’ve said traffic or SUVs or construction.  But because of the special laws in different states, my husband has to renew his license much more often because he is a resident alien.  Which means he has to wait in line because it’s not a simple renewal you can do online.  And he needs like 88464875098 forms of ID every time.  I will say though that driving tests are much easier in the US than in Ireland. I just had to park, parallel park, and reverse into a parking spot for my test.

Contract Culture with Cell Phones

Can you hear me now? Oh right, even if you can’t, you’re still locked in for 2 years.



In the rest of the world, most people pay as they go and top up their phone credit. In the US, if you want a decent phone and decent service, you basically have to go the contract route.  He isn’t the biggest fan of this idea.  I get it.  It’s a pain to be locked in for two years at a time.  A basic plan is probably more a month than he would spend than just topping up credit as he went.  But I also appreciate having a concrete bill to plan for versus a constantly in flux phone budget. The whole SIM card thing would be nice for traveling. The US does need to get on that and stop charging outrageous international roaming fees or ridiculous travel plans that only work for business travel budgets.

Best Thing about the US Hands Down

Turner Field in Atlanta, GA.



My husband has a problem. He is addicted to baseball.  He became a Braves fan in Atlanta and has been hooked since.  The culture of sports in the US in unique. No one else is rabid about their college’s team.  The baseball and hockey seasons are crazy long with more opportunities to see your team play.  Football  (not the soccer kind) is a religion is certain parts on the country.  None of our fanaticism about sports is equivalent to the kind of fanaticism that soccer holds in the rest of the world.  Soccer is more about finesse than stats which is why my husband thinks it’s not popular. You can’t quantify an amazing soccer player like you can with a baseball player.  Baseball is all about numbers.  There are some moments of finesse, but you don’t need it to win per se.

Coming from an Irish citizen living as a resident alien, these are the qualities that he sees as some of the best and worst about the US.  Obviously, there are so many more things that we could have included, but we wanted to view things from a different angle.  What do you think?

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9 Responses to “The Best and the Worst about the Culture of the US”

  1. 1

    Sailor — August 17, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

    You have some good observations!

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  2. 2

    Erik Smith — August 18, 2011 @ 12:12 am

    Ugh… here in Michigan the DMV is known as the Secretary of State, but it's just the same kind of mess.

  3. 3

    Claire — August 18, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

    I used to live just up the street from Turner Field. Loved Atlanta! Except of course…..for the traffic. Hands down, worst traffic city I have ever encountered in the US.

  4. 4

    ehalvey — August 18, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

    Atlanta traffic is pretty…special. I couldn't get over the fact it took me 30 minutes to drive 4 miles to work.

  5. 5

    Tabitha — August 18, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    Ooh fun, I might have to do this. Will have to disagree about the ethnic food though (especially where Japanese, Thai or Chinese goes) because unless you live in a bigger city with a Chinatown, ethnic food leaves much to be desired. Especially in Nashville.

  6. 6

    ehalvey — August 18, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    True, ethnic food in Nashville isn't the greatest. But in Atlanta, there are so many ridiculously good spots and that's where he got his first taste of Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Mexican.

  7. 7

    Tabitha — August 18, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

    There's a place in Alpharetta (sp?!) that has Malaysian food!! So yes Atlanta trumps Nashville.

  8. 8

    Faith — August 23, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

    Interesting! I hate the cell phone contracts, too. It's awful.

  9. 9

    ehalvey — August 23, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    The cell contracts are the worst. I cracked up at the "deals" available for ATT people who wanted to bail for the new Verizon iPhone.

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