I must admit I have been a rather hesitant to post this blog. However, after some consideration I have decided to bravely go where no WPI fellow has gone before… This is my third visit to the United States and I love this country. Well, most of it anyway. From the beauty of Ely and the tasty clam chowder in Boston, to the fashion bargains at Macy’s and the electric atmosphere of New York, the US has shown me that it truly is one of the coolest countries around. However, there are a few things that I find rather annoying, and perhaps I’m not the only one. Here they are in no particular order… 1. Peek a boo I see you Go to most public toilets and you will notice the dreaded gap between the toilet door and the frame. Gone is the privacy one would expect in a toilet. Not only do you have to juggle between not letting the bottom of your jeans touch the floor and making sure you don’t acquire any of the germs that exist in public toilets, but now you also have to glance at the gap just to make sure no one is peering inside. Geez, I wonder who came up with this idea! 2. Killing me softly The portions are huge, most things are deep fried, and you add cheese to almost everything. At one store in Minnesota, we paid $5 for a standard ice cream cone which we battled to finish. Healthy well balanced meals are scarce. Soda fountains are often cheaper than water. I wonder if it’s at all possible to sometimes halve the portions and halve the prices. It would also be great to have more healthy food options. That way we can eat without wasting food and dollars and take care of our bodies at the same time. 3. If it’s not squeaky, it’s not clean I’ve stayed at many hotels and apartments in the US and it really annoys me that the bathrooms aren’t cleaned every day. I strongly believe that if I’m paying for the day, the room should be cleaned for the day – particularly the bathroom. I’m not sure if it’s policy in some hotels to not wash the bathroom until the end of the guests visit, or whether the cleaners do a shoddy job, but there has only ever been one hotel I’ve stayed at where the shower was squeaky clean. I also thought it weird that an establishment in Iowa advertises the sign below in their elevator. Surely that is a pre-requisite for any hotel? Just wondering… 4. Coffee anyone? Now maybe I haven’t been keeping with the times, but a coffee machine in the bathroom? Yes, the machine, sachets, and cups all sat there politely on the counter, next to the toilet seat. I don’t know. Maybe some people enjoy preparing their favourite cup of coffee while …(taking a shower!) 5. Preservatives In South Africa your average loaf of bread lasts about 3-4 days. Here you have bread and bread rolls even pre-packed slices of cake that last 3-4 weeks! Even fruit that looks like it’s been freshly cut into blocks has actually been poured out of large packets of preservatives. I lot of the bread and rolls I’ve bought smell weird and have put me off eating them completely. Now it’s great to have so much time to finish the stuff, but whatever happened to good old fashioned freshness? I feel there should be more of that. A chocolate muffin made today tastes much better than one wrapped in a packet made to last 3 weeks. 6. Super America Yes we know you are Super, but do you really have to rub it in? I’m sure it’s a real confidence booster to any American who drives into a Super America gas station. 7. Bubbly blues Now I’m sure this is true of many other countries as well, but I’ve found that many Americans live in a bubble. They have their opinions and sometimes very strong views on the rest of the world but more often than not haven’t taken the time to do their research. I don’t think it’s fair to make a judgment call on what’s going on in South Africa for example without you having a fair idea of the dynamics on the ground at the moment – and not simply a mindset of a country that has conquered apartheid. Yes there are those who take a genuine interest in developing a world view, but they seem to be in the minority. Many American’s also don’t realize how lucky they are to enjoy the freedom and access to information that comes with living in the US. 8. Tax It would really be nice for the tax to be included in the price of everything from food to clothing rather than finding out the final bill at the till. Sure, my maths skills have improved since I got here, but I always find tax to be a nasty surprise. 9. Pay up or else… The cost of health insurance is terribly high. On the plan the World Press Institute fellows are on, we will have to pay a non-refundable $100 if we need to see the doctor. That excludes other costs that may be involved. So we are doing all we can to make sure we don’t catch any bugs, and of course trying out best not to get hit by a bus. The drinks are also being kept to a minimum because even if we’re sitting happily on the bar counter sipping cocktails and a truck veers of the road and hits us, we may not be covered. It’s a tough life. 10. Americans hate criticism I love my country but am the first to acknowledge that there is lots of room for improvement. Not so with many Americans. Out of curiosity I wanted to check what annoyed other people travelling to the US. So I googled it. One look at the responses was enough to make me think twice about posting this blog. So, I gather I’m going to be told that I should go back to South Africa if I’m not happy here, that I haven’t visited the right cities or hotels and that I should brush up on my Maths skills. It’s ok, I’ve decided to take a chance and post this anyway! Well, that’s it for now folks. Please note that these are my reflections based purely on my experience in the US having travelled to New York, Washington, Boston, Minnesota, Iowa and Charlotte. Rest assured, my list of Top 15 Things that Amaze me about the US will be coming soon to a blog near you!