No matter where you come from, America will be different. Sometimes just a little, other times it’ll be a difference like night and day. Same with certain habits that you will start noticing after you’ve lived here for a while. These are things that will either shock you or make you join right in. Here are a few things that I keep noticing every day with comments from both perspectives.
Idling your car
One thing that I noticed very soon are how many cars are standing on a parking lot with idling engines. Sometimes there aren’t even people inside and the driver just runs a quick errand or is dropping off kids at daycare.
Pro: It’s difficult for me to find a good pro here, but I could see it being a convenience to always maintain a good temperature in the car, especially if you need to finish a phone call before heading to the office on a hot day. Nobody will think of you as somebody who pollutes the air for nothing, because many people are doing the same.
Con: While it doesn’t generate as much emissions as when you’re driving, it still burns gas and pollutes the air while you’re usually just sitting in your car eating, reading or playing with your phone. I’ve noticed this to be such a common habit, that people spend their lunch break in their idling cars with closed windows when it’s a perfectly nice day outside with decent temperatures. For some people the AC just has to run 24/7, so they idle their cars while parking or running quick errands to come back to a perfectly air conditioned car. It gets worse in the winter when people start their cars remotely from the breakfast table, so that it’ll be nice and cozy once they get in.
Drive thru convenience
There are drive thru opportunities everywhere. Fast food chains, banks, pharmacies, parking lot booths, pick up lanes at school. Sometimes you don’t ever have to get out of your car. Even the mailboxes are placed right at the street, so that you can empty it on your way home without getting out of your car. I for example like the short walk to the mailbox in the evening, because I sit all day at work. Of course the mailboxes are actually right at the street for the postal service to be more efficient, but residents are also using it to their convenience.
Pro: Just like I mentioned in 8 Reasons Why I Love Living in America, some of these drive thrus are actually really good time savers when you’re in a hurry and you don’t have to find a parking spot first. On rainy days they keep you dry, because they usually come with a roof.
Con: You shut yourself out and choose the way of the least human contact. Sometimes you meet very interesting people when you’re standing in line in a bank or restaurant. Another con is the lack of exercise, because people just stay in their cars, instead of getting up every once in a while to stretch their legs and burn some calories.
Bringing infants to the movies
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was going to the movies for the first time in America and saw a couple with some popcorn (one of the 5 American Guilty Pleasures)and an almost newborn walking in. The baby was maybe 2 months old and the parents probably just wanted to show him off. I have to mention that we were not going to watch The Little Mermaid, but a pretty fast paced, scary thriller. Great environment for a newborn, especially with the preview of a horror movie! Unfortunately this is very common in American theatres and even though movies are rated, kids of all ages can get in as long as they are accompanied by an adult.
Pro: From the parents perspective, you don’t have to pay for a baby sitter and can enjoy yourself at the movies. The infant probably sleeps through the movie anyways.
Con: Theatres are full of germs, loud noise and potentially scary pictures and sounds, depending on the movie. Not something I would want to expose my infant to. On top of that it is disrespectful to the other people in the theatre, who are trying to enjoy the movie, if the baby wakes up crying because of all the noise.
Some grocery stores and pharmacies are open 24 hours. I’m not sure if that makes the most economical sense and if there are really enough customers who shop at 3:30 at night, or if this is just a publicity thing to show customer that the doors are open at any time – literally.
Pro: Customers don’t have to plan their day around going grocery shopping, which is a lot less stressful than having to rush to the store after work before it closes like in other countries. For pharmaceutical needs it is good to know that you can get some over-the-counter meds in the middle of the night, if your beloved ones are feeling miserable.
Con: Every store that is open 24/7 also needs employees who work these crazy hours. Some might like it, but the majority is just used to normal sleep hours. And your shift goes by a lot faster when there are a lot of customers rather than a handful every few hours at night.
Credit Card Mania
There’s a reason America is in deep debt. It starts with its people and the easy access to credit. Once you established your credit history, there are very attractive, money saving credit card offers everywhere. And it’s not even difficult to get approved for these cards. You’re getting bribed with incentives like 10% off your first purchase, thousands of frequent flyer miles and even cash up to $500, if you spend x amount of dollars within the first few months. A little less cash just for signing up. Easy money! Not to mention the rewards you get when you pay with credit cards. And you don’t even have to go somewhere to get these offers. You’ll get them mailed directly to your house. Sometimes I wonder where these banks got my address from.
Pro: If you never carry a balance on your card and always pay in full each month, credit cards can play to your advantage. You’ll get 1–5% cash back on every purchase that you make depending on card and type of purchase. If you pay cash or with a debit card, you get nothing. A lot of cards also don’t charge annual fees, so it can be wise to take advantage of the sign up bonuses for a couple cards and use them for all your everyday purchases to get some cash rewards.
Con: The drawback is definitely that some people lose control over their spending and fall into the debt trap, especially when they spend more than they earn a month. Interest rates can easily be 20%, if you forget to pay on time. So the vicious cycle begins…
Waste of Resources
Energy is just too cheap in the USA. Gas prices are still very low compared to other countries, so is water and electricity. One example is leaving the lights on 24/7, and I’m not talking about a grocery store. No, homes of people, who are at work, are having the porch light and sometimes even the interior lights on all day. Somebody once told me that he doesn’t like to come home to a dark house, so he just leaves the lights on all day. Others just forget to turn off the porch light, because they left it on at night to make it harder for burglars to hide.
Pro: (Sorry people, I’m drawing a blank here.)
Con: Be it gas, water or electricity, if resources are being offered for cheap, people are not going to make a big enough efford to save it. Convenience always comes first.
I hope I didn’t offend anybody, but all the examples mentioned above are true and not made up. Obviously, these examples do not apply to all people who live in America and there are both Americans and internationals who unfortunately are being less mindful about certain things than others. All of the habits above are the result of convenience and having everything available at all times for little money.
Photo credit: © michael langley – Fotolia.com