Life In The USA, Part 2
After all this ranting in the previous part, I guess I should balance things a bit.
Americans are the friendliest, nicest, most polite people you'll ever meet. Seriously. When I was still living in the Netherlands, I thought (as many Europeans do) that this attitude was just superficial and fake. Wrong. I can't stress this enough: Americans are genuinely nice and friendly, much more so than Europeans.
When I first came to the USA, I felt that all this being friendly and polite was a little over the top. It all depends on what you are used to, I guess. Now that I have lived here for almost nine years, I feel that the Dutch people are quite rude.
I know that the general feeling in the Netherlands is that things have gotten quite a bit worse when it comes to manners in general. This may be true, but I do know that even when I was still living in the Netherlands the Dutch had rather bad manners when compared to Americans.
Not just a song by Billy Joel. Americans are generally more honest than the Dutch. A few examples.
My son and I went to a baseball game recently. We both needed to take a bathroom break at a certain point. No problem, just left our bag on the seats. There was nothing valuable in there, but I could have left a camera in there. Naturally, everything was still there when we came back. I never thought twice about it.
You can just walk out of a supermarket without going through past the cashier. Shoplifting is apparently not a big problem when it comes to groceries. Try that in the Netherlands.
One curious exception, though. In the Netherlands, you weigh and price your own produce (vegetables), and are expected to do so honestly. In America, the cashier will weigh your produce and price it. I'm not sure if this is to prevent people from cheating, it may very well be that it is to not inconvenience customers.
Carpool lane. On the freeway. A concept that has been implemented in many countries. The idea is that only cars with two (sometimes three) or more occupants will use it. There is nothing to stop single occupant cars from using it, there is no barrier or anything like that. In the Netherlands, this would never work. People would just chuckle and use it anyway. Not so over here. At leat in my experience, there are very few people cheating, even when traffic is completely gridlocked. Yes, you risk a ticket if you cheat, but still, it seems that the honor system over here is working quite well.
Another curious contradiction, though: over here, there are signs posted along the freeway, encouraging people to report carpool lane violators. A toll free phone number is listed on the signs. That's also something that would never work in the Netherlands: if people break the rules, so be it, but most people would not call the police on others for such minor infractions.
Another example. Go to a shopping mall. Leave your bag (with your purse in it) somewhere where it's visible. In the Netherlands, it would take mere minutes for someone to take it. In America, you return after several hours and nobody has even touched it. Seriously.
Violent crime is a much more serious problem over here than in Europe, though. I don't know whether it is gun availibility that is causing this, or a more general problem like culture. Quite puzzling. Don't know.
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