Despite living five years in America’s Mid West, there are two aspects of US culture I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. They’re both so totally opposed to every grain of the Britishness that has permeated my body and soul over fifty odd years.
Just what is it about sitting out on the front porch that Americans find so all-embracingly attractive? Everywhere I go around town, Americans are out sunning themselves on the porch in full view of all passers-by. To say nothing of the cars, taxis, buses and trucks spewing out exhaust gases almost at their feet.
It’s so illogical to the British mind, flaunting oneself before the rest of the neighborhood. No, we like to sit outside, but in the back of our properties where privacy reigns supreme.
Which brings me neatly to a second facet of American life that is so utterly perplexing. Americans have a definite down on fences. Presently, there’s much ado in the halls of power about America’s borders. Politicians, sensing a plethora of extra votes come election time, are screaming out for fences running the length and breadth of the nation, to keep out those pesky Mexicans, Canadians, and other renegades desperate for an undeserved slice of the American Dream.
But, would an American ever dream of building a fence around his house? Not in a million years. Mid West America is just a series of grassy fields with houses dotted all about them. No boundaries; no fences; no privacy. It’s unlikely, in this pious section of the Bible Belt, that anyone would ever consider, even for the mere fraction of a second it takes to contemplate sin, sunbathing in the altogether. If they did – forget it! The result would be a rapid haul before the local judge, followed by a spell in the county jail for indecency. They would have stripped off before the world; bare, for all to see – from their unfenced back yard.
There is a saying in Britain: “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” What applies to family, is also true of neighbors. Move to a new neighborhood and the people round about may be wonderful, or they could be downright awful. Either way, we British don’t like the idea of having them imposed on us every time we step outside our door. That’s why we have six foot high fences or hedges all around our properties. It’s not that we’re antisocial, it’s just that there are times we don’t require sociability thrust upon us. Americans seem to need constant social contact. It’s perhaps why they organize such grand family gatherings at Thanksgiving, or other holidays.
Come to think of it, that’s another aspect of American life I find perplexing. What is this great need to have “the family” constantly around?
After all, as the saying goes – “You can’t choose your family……”
Perhaps we British are antisocial, after all.
Filed under: Weird habits