Having been in America for one full year since living abroad, I have observed and come to appreciate the small things. Free ketchup with my fries, ice in every drink, water at no cost. But it’s not just the food that differs. No, it was a great adjustment preparing to live in America once more. In honor of one year at home, let’s celebrate the things America got right and what we could be doing better.
We nailed it!
Pulling over for an ambulance
It was one of the most amazing sights. Walking down a small, Italian alley I hear the unmistakable wail of the European ambulance. “Wow,” I think to myself, “that sounds important.” Though it seems I was the only one who thought that as the drivers seemed to pay no attention to the vehicle holding what could very well be a dying person inside. More concerned with making the red light than stopping or moving over, I was amazed to see the ambulance stuck in traffic, just like the sea of scooters and mini cars before it. But it’s not just European countries that can’t seem to grasp this concept. I think the worst case of “Oh, is that an ambulance? Hope they’re not in a hurry” syndrome comes from Korea, where I’m sure I witnessed a human or two cling to life, perhaps lose it, as drivers were unwilling to move over and ambulance drivers seemed just as unconcerned.
Child seat safety
Five people. Five. That is the most people I saw on one scooter during my travels. Keep in mind, three of those people were children. At the beginning of my travels, I was absolutely appalled when I would see children without a car seat. By the end of my travels while backpacking through Laos and Cambodia, it was quite common to see children sitting in the front seat, unbuckled, riding on a scooter with 3 siblings with no helmet, or even driving. And we thought nothing of it.
Coming home, I must say I appreciate America’s control, or attempt to control, how much alcohol we consume. Sure, it may be a pain waiting until 21 to drink, another argument for another post. However, I really must say that the “Ma’am, you’re cut off” or “Sir, I’m not serving you another drink” rule is a fantastic one. I cannot tell you how many grown men, very grown men I witness passed out drunk on the street from one too many drinks. When the weather was warm, I was sure to see at least a handful of people on my walk home taking what seemed to be a peaceful nap right there on the street corner. It’s so prevalent in Korea that there’s even a website dedicated to the craft of finding and capturing photos of adult men, and on the rare occasion women, knocked out in public.
We missed it
Let’s face it. No one wants to hear you sing another rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart, no matter how good you sound. Karaoke is really only enjoyable when you’re in a big city at a famous karaoke bar with the local karaoke celebrity; it’s only natural to want to hear people who sing well. At most karaoke nights, however, we’re subjected to a drunk trio clumsily rapping Gin and Juice or missing the high note in I Will Always Love You by an octave or two. No, most Asian countries got it right when they created karaoke rooms. In Korea, they’re called noraebongs, which translates to singing room. And they’re genius, really. You gather a group of friends and go to a private (private, being the key word) room where you have a binder full of songs to shuffle through until you just can’t sing another note. Pick a song and it comes up automatically, no waiting in line to hear your song or tipping the DJ to bump you up the list. Beer and snacks are ordered with the press of a button. Perhaps most importantly, strangers won’t recognize you the next day as the person who butchered that one Elton John song.
Fast food delivery
One word: McDelivery.
I know, we didn’t get America’s pastime right? Well, we did, but not all of it. There’s nothing better than October for a baseball fan. The rivalry, the competition, the prospect of winning it all. If you’ve been to a baseball game, however, you know that it can get pretty boring at times. Whenever someone says they don’t like baseball they usually claim it’s because the games are too long or the sport just really isn’t that exciting. Agreed. While we shouldn’t change the way the game’s played, I do think we should change the way we cheer for it. Going to games in Korea, I have never seen fans more passionate or involved in the game. Forget walk up songs. Every player has an individual chant that nearly every person in the stadium will sing and scream while he walks up to bat. Not only that, they have team chants that will start up throughout the game, usually to tunes we’re familiar with. But best of all? Cheerleaders.