I’ve just returned from 10 months in America. It was the most amazing 10 months of my life. I met literally hundreds of incredible people, had more wild nights than in the entirety of my life before entering the USA, and had experiences I never even dreamed about.
I knew I would miss the people I’d met and reminisce endlessly about the times we shared and places we travelled, but I never really considered the most obvious thing of all – that I would miss the actual place I spent almost a year of my life. For a long time, I had this almost subconscious idea that I would have had just the same amount of fun and the same experiences had me and my friends just been picked up and transplanted in any other random corner of the world. It sounds ridiculous, but I never really considered how much actually being in America influenced my time on exchange.
I’ve been home for five weeks, and in order, I’ve missed my friends, the freedom, spending entire days sitting and drinking because we had nothing better to do, and the weather (seriously, Albert Hammond was right, it never rains in southern California). But with Fourth of July, my Facebook and Instagram was flooded with my American friends doing exactly what Americans do on the Fourth of July – party, drink, BBQ, eat, laugh, light fireworks, party, swim, sunbake, party, use their flag in creative ways, and party. And it made me realise how much I actually loved America. And by that, I mean not only how much I loved my own personal experience in America, but also how much I just goddamn rootin’ darn tootin’ you betcha golly love America the country.
Now, getting into the radical generalisations section of what-is-now-turning-into-an-essay, Americans are a funny bunch. The world, and that includes myself, see America as this negative paranoid conservative “dey tuk er jerbs” hotbed of Fox news-quoting, rifle-toting Old Testament zealots. And some are, no doubt. I met some terrible people in my time there. But on the overwhelming whole, Americans are some of the most positive people on the planet.
Everyone I met, no matter whether I liked them or not, seemed to almost emanate this curious combination of pride, confidence and cockiness. Of all the adjectives I could broadly apply to the Americans I met, ‘shy’ or ‘withdrawn’ was not one. To be honest, I’m struggling to think of even one American I met who wasn’t hugely outgoing and happy to chat. While the world seems to justify placing ‘Americans’ as the butt of any jokes on stupidity or ignorance, not one person I met there was embarassed, apologetic or shrinking away from their nationality. Every single one, without a single exception, was damn proud to be from the Yoo Ess of Ay. And I loved that.
I never felt unwelcome in America. I never felt unwanted. I never felt left out, I never felt awkward, I never felt uncomfortable in the presence of Americans, because they did everything in their power to be good hosts, to be open and friendly, to be welcoming and warm; and that’s not just based on things that directly happened to me. It’s the kind of place where people chat to strangers on the bus. It’s a place where guys wander the Metro system, playing instruments, singing songs, dropping raps and beats in the middle of the train and walking up the aisle cap in hand asking for just a coin in thanks. People in the most menial of jobs, the fast food clerks and janitors and the guys who are paid $6 an hour to stand on the sidewalk in baking heat wearing a 40-pound rubber suit and spinning a sign advertising a bar or finance company, will be some of the happiest and most outgoing people you’ll ever meet. Everyone is happy to be where they are, even if where they are isn’t necessarily something to be happy about. If you look even remotely lost on the street, pedestrians will give you a smile and offer assistance. Store assistants will genuinely be interested in striking a conversation with you.
These are some of the things I miss most about the country. Here’s a bunch more:
– $1 beer
– Panama Joe’s
– California palm trees
– California sunsets
– California weather
– Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles
– Las Vegas
– the Grand Canyon
– and a million more
Americans rule. Happy (belated) Fourth of July, y’all.