What can I say about the American way of life, except that I love it. Americans are generally very friendly to foreigners and if you can speak English, you’ve won most of the battle. I’ve never had problems interacting with Americans during my stay in the US, because I live by a simple maxim—if you’re friendly to people, they will respond in kind.
The transition to American culture wasn’t a shocker for me, since I’d spent almost 3 years in England prior to crossing the big pond. Take dressing, for example. On campus, you can wear anything you want, except for your birthday suit (I’d bet the campus police would pounce on you in seconds!) You could dress in a penguin suit (you know what I mean) or a grubby T-shirt and shorts for class, and no one would bat an eyelid. I’ve seen girls wearing the skimpiest outfits to classes—isn’t nature wonderful (bear in mind that the weather in Arizona can be unbearably hot) I confess I used to gawk during the first few months, but as they say, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
Americans are vocal and passionate in what they believe in. There were a lot of organizations on campus; perhaps the most vocal one was the pro and anti-abortion organizations. There would be some pretty heated debates occurring throughout the semester (no, I didn’t get involved—I was too busy studying, honest) There was an International Student’s Association, but somehow I only joined that during my Senior year, can’t remember why. However, it was fun to attend one of their potluck dinners and to introduce myself as a Senior to the many Freshman students attending.
Americans also love to party, especially students! Yeah, I did attend a dorm party or two, but like my British days, I never drank beer (I hate that stuff) so I’d always be having a Coke or Dr. Pepper. Or a shot of Baileys Irish Cream or Jack Daniels. Rock & Roll music was the music then, so there would always be somebody with a record/cassette player (the CD had yet to make its appearance) coupled with humongous speakers blasting the whole dorm off. This was the only time when the quiet hours rule was not enforced. If I wasn’t keen on the party thing, I’d head over to the Music department to practice, or to the Main Library, which was open until 3 AM in the morning. Come to think of it, I spent many a morning in the Library, cramming for exams and quizzes.
Food wise, I was fine, since I wasn’t too particular about that. I was spoilt for choice because there were so many eating joints in and close to the university. I remember visiting Wendy’s very often, since it was just across the street from the Music building. I remember Friday mornings when I would be there with my friend Leisa, for coffee and French fries smothered with tomato ketchup. And I would have a Triple burger if my stomach was growling—dunno how I maintained my trim figure while I was gorging so much, must be my high metabolic rate. Spanish food, particularly tacos and chimichangas went down well with me. Loyal readers of my blog would recall my love for Domino’s Pizza, the fact that they offered discount coupons practically every week made it very irresistible. Another favorite of mine was Arby’s Roast Beef sandwiches—absolute heaven! I used to go there once in a while with my roommate Paul, since Arby’s was quite a distance from the university and he had his car.
Speaking of cars, Americans drive on the right side of the road while everybody else drives on the wrong side (go ahead and laugh) Yes, it did feel a little strange to me the first time I drove Paul’s car (I must thank Paul for his trust in me). I just had to remember not to exceed the speed limit, and thought I was doing pretty well, until I saw the red and blue lights flashing behind me. Uh oh—I dutifully stop at the roadside and this officer comes over and asks to see my license and registration. He asked me whether I knew why I had been stopped, and I very honestly told him that it was my first time on the road. He told me that I hadn’t bothered to signal before I made a right turn—I apologized and fortunately he let me off with a warning. After that, I was extra careful and that was the first and last time I’d been stopped by a police officer in the US!
Can’t talk about American culture without mentioning about the opposite sex, aka girls. Well I was 21, what do you expect? I did the dating thing once in a while—I remember this one particular date when I took a very nice girl to watch Superman 2 at the Gallagher Theater on campus; I was so nervous but I was a perfect gentleman. It went rather well, and we’re still good friends. And there was nothing unusual with friends of the opposite sex hugging me (or me hugging them) with the occasional peck on the cheek—I recall attending a concert where a friend of mine was performing the lead role. After the performance, I went backstage to congratulate her on her sterling performance. I shook her hand, and she very naturally said, “Philip, aren’t you forgetting something?” Oh yes, I give her a hug. Then she points a finger at her cheek. Oops, sorry, I forgot, silly me.
These are some of my thoughts about American culture. And I miss it.Tags: America, Tucson, University of Arizona