Seasons greetings! From Florida, I might add.
I have to thank my beloved mother for making me being in Florida right now possible, otherwise I’d actually be back in England writing this from my own desktop. Which I kind of miss a little bit and I’m excited to see next year, but also I don’t miss it one single jot at the very same time. My Christmas present this year was extending an originally three week trip to Florida into a three month one, skirting just under the ninety days I get to stay in the USA without a visa thanks to the Visa Waiver programme in place.
I’ve been here since October and preparing for it for even longer, which is why you haven’t heard anything from me until now. I also pretty much abandoned all manner of gadgetry aside from my phone, for pictures, and sometimes the internet just to see how badly the world was or wasn’t on fire.
Spending three months in a different country is an interesting experience, though. Three months is, after all, an entire quarter of a year. Most vacations are never that long, so while you can get a hint of culture, you never really see it for very long or need to acclimate to it. It isn’t like I haven’t been to America before either; I’ve spent a total of two or so months in Texas across two different trips at different years, a couple of weeks in Michigan and I’ve been to Florida previously for three weeks, too. But being here for three months has made me realise just how different things can be… and often it’s the smallest differences that make me stare the longest.
Baggers. That’s a weird concept, right? Baggers. People that bag up your shopping for you at the grocery store – or actually at any bloody store down here – and who even offer to take it to your car. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty positive I’d have to be about ninety years old and actually look like I might be dying for somebody in Britain to offer to do that for me back in England. You know, like, borderline “If I carry this out for you, does that mean I have to avoid calling an ambulance?” kind of dying. But no, here in Florida that’s just a thing that they do. My partner even went so far as to point out the merits of bagging – and she wasn’t wrong – in that having baggers was a good way to employ those with special needs or was a way to get young people into some kind of employment between jobs.
But just the concept of a bagger is strange to me. Of course, you can tell a bagger “No thanks, I’ve got it” and carry it out to your car, but I haven’t put a single piece of shopping into a single fucking bag since I got here and I’m really conflicted on how I feel about that. On the one hand, as somebody inherently lazy, I think it’s great! On the other hand, as somebody who is very particular about what bit of shopping goes into what bag, it’s catastrophic and terrible. Either way, it’s very peculiar to me and my British upbringing is always trying to get me to insist that no, no that’s okay, I can do that myself. The same can be said for the guys that get employed to take shopping trolleys back into trolley bays in the car park – but in fairness, we get those in Engand too. I just feel bad for them because what kind of able-bodied savage doesn’t take their trolley back to a trolley bay?
The notion of “You can take a right turn even on a red light” is borderline distressing to me, a person who comes from a country that keeps rules simple for everybody by saying “RED MEANS STOP, DUMBASS.” I’m not a driver, so maybe that opinion doesn’t count for anything, but it just seems like common sense to keep road rules very clear and easy to understand, given the fact human beings seem to be genetically engineered to break rules all the time even if they’re travelling in a metal shell moving at sixty-fucking-five miles an hour or more. (Also yes, I’m aware that not all of the United States has this rule, but I’m still going to comment on it because Florida does and I am in Florida.)
Speaking of driving, the idea of being allowed to cruise in the middle lane on highways – the equivalent of a motorway for those not sure what road that translates to – infuriates me because I constantly get second-hand roadrage at anybody that cruises in the middle lane on motorways. That’s literally why the outside lane exists. I know it’s called the “slow” lane and your ego feels stabbed if you’re caught driving in it, but that is actually the lane you’re supposed to drive in when there’s nobody on the road to overtake. The fact that, in Florida, it is literally a slow lane, and then you have a cruise lane, which leaves just one lane for overtaking is batshit fucking insane. I can even prove this to you, because I have seen here in Florida something I have never seen in England before in my life: people that deliberately lane-hop at fifty miles an hour, without slowing down, between all three lanes so they can keep going fast.
You maybe wouldn’t have drivers doing that if drivers weren’t allowed to cruise in the middle of the fucking road, ya know.
There are other things I can think about that somewhat baffle me too, but those are the main things. And in the grandest scheme of things, they’re all incomprehensibly small differences that, you would think, have very little impact on me as a person. But… they do. They’re small differences, yet they’re easily the most glaring and confusing ones. Even after two months of being here, they constantly catch me up, every time. And much to my partner’s dismay, I still idly complain them.
As it happens, the worst offenders for cultural differences, are the smallest ones.