Ten things I could never get used to. Note that unlike most critics of the USA, I actually lived there for years and years. For what it’s worth.
- Religion a routine part of daily life rampant creationism, abstinence education, and belief in the impending End Times people who are offended if you say “damn.”
- Political conservatism no real Left, almost no unions poverty the fault of poor people.
- Social conservatism death penalty and early marriage fine, interracial dating still controversial feminists that nevertheless expected me to pay for everything on a date.
- A health care system at the mercy of insurance companies try not to get sick.
- Deep-seated federalism state’s rights a culture of decentralization and a suspicion of government locally-funded public schools half of America doesn’t know the Earth goes around the Sun once a year.
- Cheap gasoline urban sprawl, lack of public transportation and sidewalks, SUVs, and Texas a tendency to invade Iraq.
- Protestant work ethic one-hour commutes acceptable, fifteen-minute lunches eaten at your desk, ten days leave a year, and sometimes no sick leave or maternity leave at all.
- A food culture degraded by the drive for convenience flavorless produce bred only for looks and shipping, and processed foods laden with corn syrup ghastly industrial farming and entrenched protectionist agricultural subsidies Cool-Whip, Easy Cheese, and Twinkies
- Obsession with slavery and the Civil War (because nobody else in the world ever had slaves or a civil war) omnipresent racial politics lack of engagement with other racial problems, like genocide and immigration.
- American exceptionalism insularity educated people arguing that if everyone had a gun in their home we’d all be better off, despite evidence from the rest of the world that this might not be the case.
It’s interesting to note that a New Zealander in the US saying these things is accused (more than once) of “hating America” and told to go home. An expatriate American criticizing New Zealand would likely get rueful shrugs and sighs of agreement. OK, and then people would call him a wanker behind his back, but still.