Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Small Differences

Friends often ask me for my experiences about living in the US. What I tell them is: it really is how you see it in the movies. When I walk around on campus, cheerleaders are jumping and shouting on the grass, people bleach their teeth until almost transparent, and there's about nothing you don't find as a drive thru, from diners over pharmacies, banks to churches.

Now that I am about to leave, I can further humor you by summarizing the biggest mistakes I made when I came here:
  1. Assuming the social security number is about social security.
  2. Believing someone who says This is not possible.
  3. Believing anything that is Guaranteed, 100% or No problem at all.
  4. Arguing with a border post. About the expiration date of my visa. (Resulting in an immediate expiration of said visa, and the sentence Congratulations, you have successfully left the United States.)
  5. Thinking the international system of units is indeed international.
  6. Thinking international is worldwide.
  7. Thinking the number to be dialed before the city code is 0. Then finding out, it is 1. Using the same recipe for the country code to Germany (+1149). Using this to call Germany, from a motel, after dialing 9 to get a free line. Shouting Yes, I DO! and hanging up when someone asks me (in English) whether I have a problem.
  8. Thinking a dinner invitation is, well, a dinner invitation.
  9. Finding it funny that some people paint sidewalks in red.
  10. Trying to explain function and use of a dowel without using the word. To three male employees in a hardware store.


  1. Fart in Homeland Severity's general direction as you pass through. You are privileged to turn your back on the decline and fall of America.

    Donald Rumsfeld personifies Bushist "character" - a stout core of loyal goodthought incompetence dripping homespun Christ within a thin shiny veneer. Bush the Lesser is a Fundamentalist Christian disaster. Sycophants’ adorations and affirmations incessantly baste his 80 IQ mind. Test of faith, test of faith, test of faith… reward! Someday.

    There is historical precedent: Nicholas II (Nikolai Alexandrovitch Romanov, 1868-1918) Emperor of all Russia, 1894-1917. Russians ended up with interminably lethal military conflicts, socialized medicine, pandemic government-subsidized poverty, mandated elevation of the meanest most ignorant peasants to positions of adminstrative power, massive imprisonment of the population... and airports demanding internal passports and inflicting warrantless seach and seizure upon all citizens.

    Does any of this sound familiar?

    I'll say this for Canukistan: Potato salad at the U/Manitoba servery is absolutely world class. It beat 90% of anything sold in New York delicatessans. All the servery meals there were rip-roaring excellent at an unbeatably low price. Most of the rest of the People's Republic of Canada is best kept deep frozen.

  2. Thank you for sharing that experience. At least you had the courage to admit it. But all this time I never came to accept my silliness the first time I came to the states. Ha ha...I was walking down the street when the traffic light changed from red to green. I was slowly walking when suddenly a car honked right behind me. Guess I was too slow to cross and he opened his window and yelled at me" Get out of the way you fat ass bitch!"... I never encountered such humiliation in my entire life!

  3. I moved to the United States over 4 years ago, but feets and gallons still drive me insane.

  4. Bee, Ten out of ten, for number 10
    Did you get what you wanted??? lol!

    So you wanna see Supernovae more often. Are you sure your real vocation isn't pyrotecnics and fireworks displays.

    You would have the accelerator of great bug collider in the sky working twenty four seven

  5. Dear Quasar,

    I always get what I want...

    In this case I also got an English-German dictionary.

    Yeah, some more supernovae would be nice, the statistics on neutrinos from supernovae is kind of weak. Matter goes through such extreme conditions in a SN explosion, that one could learn really a lot. Just that waiting some ten thousand years is kind of annoying.

    btw, do you know the probably slowest experiment there is, waiting for pitch to drop to measure the viscosity...

    The Pitch Drop Experiment

    Best regards,


  6. Hi Bee,

    That's hilarious about the dowel! LOL Have a nice weekend,

    PS This is really funny. My word verification is "orgiskvk".

  7. Hi Bee,
    thanks for that link
    I may well use it on a future post.
    How did you guess my fascination with viscosity, or just pure powers of logic and deduction.

    PS - 10,000 years waiting for a supernova??? we'll have to see if we cannot arrange something a little sooner to keep you interested.

  8. PS - Have you heard the recent US announcements on Space.
    I just got the tail end, about replacing the shuttle with new launches, building another space station, revisiting(?) the Moon, and Mars by 2020?

  9. I should have measured heffers bookstore opposite Trinity College gates in Cambridge, and Waterstones the bookstore, but they don't really classify as 'small' bookstores.

    But a tip for anyone in Cambridge Galloway & Porter has some great give aways for £1.00, they clear out old stock, but you find some real beauties.

    And of course the Market -
    where there is a boostall with some excellent old books, and newer textbooks secondhand.

  10. pt 7 is hilarious. accitentally dial 911, shouting you have a problem and hang up! what's the emergency no in Europe?

  11. The emegency services number in the parts of europe I've been to is 999.

    I'm not sure how many more calls from small children this results in. :-)

  12. 09 06 06

    Bee funny perspectives. I wonder what you meant about the dinner invitation. My parents are old fashioned and said that when you invite someone out you pay for their share or vise versa. Did you discover going dutch was the usual or something? Cuz it seems to be now!

  13. I wonder what you meant about the dinner invitation. My parents are old fashioned and said that when you invite someone out you pay for their share or vise versa.

    No, I meant the guy considered that to be a date and was kind of pissed off when he learned I wasn't interested in anything but dinner. But he payed ;-)


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