First thoughts – 1st November
To say the US are different from Europe is not exactly breaking news. I knew a lot of things would be very different and feel very peculiar and I do not think I’m done yet with finding out more (for the best or the worse), so I have started listing what I’ve observed so far, over our first five days this side of the pond.
Love babies: People seem to LOVE babies. I do not meant that in Europe we do not like babies, I’m sure we love them equally, but we’re certainly not as vocal or open about it. A lot of friendly “Hello Baby!” have been shout at us (well, at Louise), people of all ages and both genders have been waving and smiling to Louise wherever we go, and she’s even been picked up by our waitress the other night while we were having dinner, to be given her own tour of the kitchens as well as to visit other tables to “help” take orders.
Supermarket trap: As expected, food shopping is a real headache. It’s thrown me back years ago, when British supermarkets seemed so exotic to me. Walking up and down the aisles and looking at all these unknown brands and products in Sainsbury’s was one of my favourite hobbies back in Summer 2003 in Manchester (yes, it was a lonely summer). It’s not going to be any different here. Everything seems different and for the first time of my life I’ve ended up buying Kerrygold butter JUST because it’s also sold in the UK (although we suspect there is an American recipe different from the British one as it’s the saltiest butter we’ve ever tasted). There are weird looking products we’ve never seen before and lots of stuff we would expect to find that do not seem to exist. I had a mini breakdown back in September while in the Baby food aisle in Walmart. So far I have decided to survive on organic food as it feels to be the safest option. We all know food laws and regulations are different from the EU (I love EU regulations and am everyday grateful to be protected by them. And yes, I think Brexit is the biggest cock up in modern history) and that the Yanks can be a bit more relaxed with what goes into manufactured food.
Motown: Well, Detroit is not the car city for nothing. This is the direct opposite of London in a way. You are nothing without a car and public transports are close to non-existent. The only bus I’ve seen so far looks like it first went into service when the US were still fighting a war in Vietnam. None of our look-at-the-new-double-deck-design frivolity! Although the flat we’re renting for the next weeks is walking distance from downtown Royal Oak, I need a car to do most things. Even to buy some milk! Walking seems to be a very odd hobby and I’ve noticed a few drivers giving me puzzled looks. Needless to say I often have the pavement all to myself. No more slaloming around people… I do miss my busy and bumpy Tooting pavement!
Street lights: I remember reading about how London (and any other city for that matters) had very dangerous areas back in the 19th century and how street lighting or the absence of it made things better or worse. Well, no wonder the US created so many scary movies: so many opportunities to jump on someone in the dark as there is no street lighting! None on the main roads (I assume they think all these cars lights are enough to lit up the way), none in residential areas. I know understand why our landlord left a couple of torches in the flat; I had first assumed it was in case the electrical system got a bit faulty. They are actually there in case we forget something in our car and wish to retrieve it after 6pm!
A mile here is not a mile in London: back in Blighty, driving anywhere was sure to take us a minimum of one hour. We would never really look at the distance but at the time it would take us to get from A to B. And taking the car always felt a bit like a chore to be honest. Totally different story in Metro Detroit. “Oh, it’s only a 10mn drive” here takes you further than one hour in your car in London! I’ve been discounting places to visit based on the distance, just to find out that it would be a matter of minutes to get there. Everything is so spread and there is so much space around, that roads can afford to be massive (four double lanes for Woodward, our closest big road) – nothing like the narrow and painfully slow southern circular. I’m not even carsick anymore!
American TV is weird. There seems to be thousands of channels, all with very weird names one cannot remember and which sound like cheap sororities. I’ve just not turned the TV back on and am waiting to move in our own place so I just can get jump straight to Netflix.
I’m sure there is more to come and to add to my list…