The BBC's Guide to American Culture

Being the BBC's America correspondent, Kevin Connolly has a unique perspective on us Yanks. He graciously summed up his three years in the United States in this article, as a guide for foreigners to American culture:

Friendliness and hospitality
But there are, of course, irritations to living anywhere, and it is the job of the irritable to find them. Americans could make their public spaces a little quieter, for example, if they all took one step closer to the person they are talking to.

And they could speed up their journeys to work by not insisting
on holding every elevator for everyone who wants to catch it as though it was one of the last helicopters leaving the roof of the Saigon embassy in 1975. There will be another lift along in a minute.

And after three years of eating steaks the size of elephant's ears off plates bigger than satellite dishes, all of our crockery back in Europe now looks like it was borrowed from a doll's house. They may take some getting used to.

But America in one sense was exactly as I expected it to be: a place of gripping public theatre at election times, and a place of great private virtue nearly all the time.
I found that private virtue on the night I arrived three years ago on a much-delayed New Year's Eve flight, which slipped and stumbled through the icy skies over the choppy darkness of the cold prairies.

I chatted sporadically to the grandmotherly woman beside me about home, and family, although I cannot in truth remember much of what was said. But I do remember what happened once we landed. There were no taxis and my fellow passenger insisted, without checking with him, that her husband would happily drive me to my hotel.
It was a round trip for him in the Arctic midnight of a public holiday of perhaps two or three hours. I expected to detect at least a flicker of surprise on his face when this was first put to him, but there was none. "This is America son," he told me, "We help each other out."

Link (or you can listen to his podcast here)


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