I am in San Diego for work. I've been here since just over a week ago, after getting summoned here at short notice, and I fly back to England in a couple of days. It's my first time in America so it's been quite an interesting experience, although I can't make too many judgements about the country as a whole having only seen the southwestern tip of it.
- Apart from the body scanner, American airport security was no more troublesome than UK airport security. Having to see me naked on their security screens is a punishment for them more than for me so I can't say that bothered me too much.
- Years ago, I was told by American friends I met online that everybody makes eye contact and says hi when you pass, which I found unusual because in the UK that's a lot rarer because people are more reserved. The vibe I actually got from people here in San Diego, is that they all do make eye contact and say hi, but somewhat reluctantly. It's as if it's done not because they want to, but because the other person is going to do it and they don't want to be the rude one by not reciprocating. Perhaps the 2 cultures are very similar but they resolved the same social dilemma in 2 opposite ways.
- Pretty much every road out of town and in the suburbs is as wide or wider than a UK motorway. 6 lanes in each direction is common for the big roads, 3 or 4 in each direction is common for the smaller ones.
- Their traffic lights change much less frequently than UK ones do. You can typically expect to wait 2 or 3 minutes to get through.
- The 'Fresh and Easy' shops here are owned by Tesco, which I knew. What I didn't know is that they have exactly the same software on the self-checkouts, except for a dollar sign here and there and an American voice giving you the instructions.
- There is a common policy to ID anybody buying alcohol if they look under the age of 50. This is a country where beers are sometimes denied to 49 year olds but rifles are marketed at children.
- It's hot - but not universally so. Mornings have been typically 15C, it goes up to 25-30C for the early afternoon, and it's back down to 15C by early evening. The days are shorter here than in England at this time of year due to the latitude so if you're in work all day you actually miss most of the blistering heat.
- Food prices are weird. Not high, not low, just weird. You can get a large piece of good steak for $2.00. But then their cheapest loaf of bread is also $2.00.
- Microwave meals here have less sauce than their British equivalents. I do not know why.
- They're more into ale than the English are. Most of it is pretty poor, but I've been to about 10 different food establishments over the last week and I think the only one that didn't serve an ale of some sort was the Thai place. Most offer several. I wonder if this just reflects a British failure to promote its own products adequately, given that we have hundreds of good breweries yet they often only seem to stock local pubs. The few English ales that are actually bottled seem to fill the shelves here.
- No generic pharmaceuticals available in the supermarkets. You want painkillers, you're buying the named brands at the typical high prices.
- Prefabricated pavements. They don't lay down strips of tarmac, but instead put down square blocks of concrete and arrange them in a line.
- They have 2 kinds of music here; stuff from the 80s, and stuff from this year. Nothing in between. (A slight exaggeration: I heard a couple of early 90s tracks on the radio, but that's it.)
- The stereotype of the brash, outgoing American doesn't extend as far as their tech industry; for the most part, programmers here are the same as programmers back in England.
- On the other hand, some stereotypes hold true. I've seen middle-aged men with serious paunches wearing t-shirts espousing some sort of "armed and ready to defend our rights" slogan.
- I finally got to try root beer, and it's like Fisherman's Friend in liquid form. (But not the alcoholic equivalent which we had at Wacken a few years back.)
I would post some pictures, but apparently Livejournal still doesn't have a way for me to upload and include pictures in one action, so I can't be bothered. This would be a good jumping-off point for talking about why the business model for internet companies inevitably ends up with site development slowing to a crawl and users deserting in droves, but I'll save that for next time. If I remember.