the real america

I mean, we haven’t talked about Sarah Palin for awhile. SIKE.

An easy conversation piece for someone who meets me here is about where they have travelled to in the United States. This goes for British, South Africans, Australians, Kiwis, Europeans from the Continent… Of course people like to hear where I’m from and then want to say where they have been in my homeland.

I would say 9 out of 10 have not been to New York or LA. Many have just been to Florida. I am always surprised. I don’t know why. For a country the size of England, it makes sense that almost every tourist spends at least some time in London. In a country with the population of Australia, it makes sense that most visitors would have stopped in Sydney.

But where is the must-go-to location in the U.S.? I would have thought New York for its iconic buildings and landmarks, famous food and name cache. But after 5 1/2 years there, even I knew it was no more “American” than an Atlanta suburb. In some ways, it’s less I guess. Depending on one’s view of “America”.

A colleague here told me this week he is taking his girfriend to the U.S. for two weeks- her first ever visit. I was excited to hear this and asked where they would be going. He told me Texas. Texas, that’s all? Yep. Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. Hmmm, I thought. I have been to most of those places. They’re great. But Texas only?? Is that American enough?  Okay, silly question. I know someone is going to strangle me while I sleep with a Lone Star flag and then choke me with some barbecue pork. Yummy.

If I had my way, I would make sure someone spent a day in Washington, DC, a drive through New England, had a meal in the deep South, saw the sites in NYC, people-watched on a beach in LA and the South Beach strip in Miami, attended a Little League game in a suburb in the Midwest followed by a potluck and football on tv at someone’s house, drove up the California Coast and visited at least one National Park out west and then a Target. And of course the list barely scratches the surface.

But most Americans have been to few of these places. Certainly not all. It’s not even abnormal for me to meet someone who never really left the East Coast, except maybe for a weekend in Las Vegas. Does that count? I don’t know.

I feel so torn when these Europeans and Antipodeans, who are known to be among the world’s best-travelled, tell me then have only been to Florida. I always smile and say “oh that’s great, Florida is great. I do hope you’re able to come back and see another state sometime though.” Doubtful. They’re on to their next country. America is crossed off the list. So I really hope Orlando is living up to its responsibility. Represent, Orlando, represent hard.

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15 Comments

Filed under culture clash, travel

15 responses to “the real america

  1. Joe

    Poor, poor Yael. This post is so well-put but you get one thing very, very wrong. It’s not bar-b-que pork we’re famous for in Texas. It’s bar-b-que beef, honey. Beef. You know. The whole Oprah Winfrey getting sued by beef folks. That kind of thing. While we certainly serve it up in TX, bar-b-que pork is Alabama’s claim to fame.

  2. yael

    Omg, you’re right. Now someone from Alabama is going to send me hate mail with poisoned peanuts and un-spun balls of cotton. Wait, is cotton Mississippi? I give up.

  3. Joe

    I hear you, sister. I’m most concerned with those beef guys who love a good shot at a lawsuit. I think you’ll be able to hold your own.

  4. Doesn’t surprise me that so many Brits have been to Florida. Charter flights and cheap package tours make it easy. New York is ‘scary’ and pretty much anywhere else you’d have to drive.

    Most Americans I meet who say they’ve been to Britain mean they’ve been to London. Most never get out of London. The few who have were on a package tour. Very, very, few would be brave enough to rent a car.

    I was surprised when I taught at the college level to meet students who had never left their home state! And this is in New England, where the next state is always less than an hour away! Oh, and there were really and truly students I taught who had NO IDEA that Canada is a separate country and actually ARGUED about it with me!

    Do Americans who’ve been to DisneyWorld think they’ve had a real experience of other countries I wonder?

  5. Well, from what I understand, they only come to sample our pancakes. Our delicious, fluffy. mouth-watering, syrup-laden pancakes (at least according to the post with the most traffic so far on my blog).

    I’m from Texas, by the way, and even I am shocked that they would ONLY go to Texas. I love my home state and all, but seriously…

    I’m with you. What about NY, San Francisco, Chicago, or my favorite, Charleston?

  6. NYC Litigator

    I’ve just been retained by “Eat My Beef, Inc.”, a beef farming corp. run from Laredo TX. We will be filing a claim for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress (after reading your blog post, the cows are so upset, they won’t eat!).

  7. jenny

    What’s wrong with Florida? There’s more than Orlando… Miami is as close to visiting South America as you can get… Roosters, Santeria, etc.

  8. yael

    Oh Miami is spectacular- roosters, thongs and all. I just suspect that more foreigners spend their time in Orlando than anywhere else in the state. Genius whoever made the tourist mecca on a peninsula-shaped state to be right in the middle and land-locked.

  9. Kerry

    Dearest Yael,
    Lauren got me glued to your blog and it is like traveling back in time a little — I just had to say no one from Alabama will send you hate mail because this state is full of Suthern Hawspitality (and you must say that with a draaawwl.) P.S. Our bumps might share a birthday…mine is 23 weeks big.

  10. We Brits just love sunshine when we’re on holiday, so Florida fits that bill.

    I wonder if I started up a tourist hotspot here in the midwest offering Little League games and potluck dinners, I could make a million. What do you think?

  11. A little league game in the midwest? Ugh, we have so much more to offer than that! Even sunshine and gorgeous outdoors in the summer!

  12. Josh

    Kansas City has some really good BBQ

  13. yael

    Oh boy, where to begin…

    First off, apologies to the cows in Texas. Please know you are superior to the ones in Scotland.

    People, people in the midwest: build it and they will come. Little League with jello salad on the side. Next!

    Kansas City, don’t be mad at me either. And don’t be mad that you’re actually located in Missouri even though behind your back we all just think that’s weird.

  14. NeyNey

    You just reminded me about all the people I’ve met who say “Oh, I just love Mexico,” and when I ask where in Mexico they have been, they reply “Cancun.” Now I’m depressed all over again.

  15. Drives me mad too. I’ve heard the same vowel sound used in Stephaaan pecaaaan, iraaaan and don’t even ask about Parmesan!

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