Saturday, December 20, 2008

Seven Weird Things About America

The US of A can be a pretty weird place for a desi as far as first impressions go. For those who've been here before, you'll totally know what I'm getting at. The fact is, this place is a another world in it's own and no wonder Americans are generally found wanting when it comes to not-knowing-shit about the rest of the world. Some real weird / uncommon / stupid / strange things I've noticed in the time I've been here so far are listed here. Oh, and for those who may get the impression that this is somehow a lame attempt at poking fun at our goray overlords, let me state it very clearly - it's not! kapish?

1. Confederate flags

I'm in North Carolina, a southern state. You'd think that since the North won the civil war, there'd be more of a support for North or remembrance for what North stood for, right? Heck no! Imagine my surprise when I saw a blue-cross confederate flag on car bumpers, rooftops, outside homes etc. etc. It's crazy! It's amazing that some people still choose to wave that flag, after all that South stood for.

2. They use Fahrenheit

I think this is probably the only place in the world still sticking to a temperature scale that makes no sense. Why use it when the whole freaking world runs on centigrade? A 0-100 scale is intuitive; water freezes at zero, boils at hundred. How much simpler can it get?

3. "Zee"

The alphabet Z is pronounced "Zee" as opposed to "Zed". You would think that's pretty straight-forward and, to be honest, it is ... it's just that I can't tell you how many times I've ended up saying "Zed" out loud when spelling out my name at banks, university, shops etc. only to realize later when I noticed the bewilderment on the face of the person on the opposite side of the counter!

4. Stupid commercials

I thought some of our commercials were bad, but wait till you see some of the ones they show here. I mean you could tell they didn't cost much to make but concept-wise, they suck. I'll try and find some of them on youtube or something to show you guys.

5. Fans can run in either direction

This is actually kinda cool. There's a button on a ceiling fan which can make the fan run in opposite direction. An awesome thing for a place which gets lots of summer and winter both.

6. Obsession with trucks

Everywhere you see, there are trucks - freaking huge ones at that. Perhaps this obsession is now taking a back seat to smaller, fuel-efficient cars with the rising gas prices, but you could easily spot trucks more often than nought no matter where you are in the US.

7. Difference with UK English Vocabulary

Americans like to be different. They play different sports, use different temperature scales, use different terminologies to address things, drive on the different side of the road (to name a couple of things). Pubs are bars, biscuits are cookies, petrol is gasoline, current accounts are checking accounts, torches are flashlights ... the list is endless!

So, my friends, while it is a great experience to come here and explore their culture, it does take some getting used to due to the radical differences that exist between our cultures. Diversity is another important thing you get to notice over here. When I went to say my Eid prayers, I was standing in line with people from Africa, India, Middle East and of course Pakistan. It felt great especially when I got to view the universal nature of our great religion first hand. Traveling around the world and meeting new people really helps broaden one's horizons and gives you a new perspective about the world and it's ever-so-different people. That is why, I would love to travel to more places across the globe, if I ever get that chance. It also helps develop a new respect and appreciation for your own homeland, cuz there's no place like it, and it really is something we all should treasure for as long as we live.


Zubair Sheikh said...

Exactly, the list goes very long. let me narrate an event here. We in pakistan usually use the word "Double" to dscribe a repition of a same letter in a word e.g letter will be spelled orally like L.E.double T.E.R. In US, they are used to pronounce the repeating letter, i.e. they will not use the word "double" while spelling the word, instead they will spell L.E.T.T.E.R. Once spelling my first name(Muhammad) i used the word double and the person (bank teller) was bewildered and i was like what happened and i realized my mistake and speeled my name in american style.

Anonymous said...

In the U.S., to table a proposal means to abandon it, whereas in Pakistan it means the opposite.

The accent variations within the U.S. can be so dramatic as to make it impossible for someone from the Southeast or Northern New England to be understood by people elsewhere in the U.S.

The diversity and the mixing of communities is remarkable from a non-U.S. perspective. Among young professionals, it is not uncommon to see solid friendship groups consisting of people from Lahore, for example, mixing with Punjabis from India, Hindus from South India, and the odd person who grew up in the Gulf and could be from any community.

Among non-professionals the mixing can be even more dramatic, with some lunch rooms looking like a miniature United Nations—but with people not sticking to their own communities. The U.S. is really a melting pot.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post! The thing about fans is quite cool. The use of Fahrenheit sucks though. Similarly here in UK, these people use miles for distance, which I'm so NOT used to. Why have SI units when you stick to those old ones? :D

Anonymous said...

Americans do like to be different and we found it at work also where the Americans use a completely different system as compared to the whole other world for the same thing...

CRAZY...didnt get the FANS one though...

Tazeen said...

in short ...

everything is different from the rest of the world. The dont call it American way of life for nothing.
By the way, i did not know about the confederate flag thingie, but then I have not been to a Southern state.

Anonymous said...

And wait till you live a little longer you will come to c that the kids that are born here to desi parents live a double live almost all of , drink , sex e.t.c e.t.c and at home they are wat we call "ALLAH MIAN KI GAYAY". its sad because these people represent their mother land and islam to alot of people who have no clue.
its a shame.

Anonymous said...

Those are not weired things at all and I dont understand why would you call those weired things. Every where people have their own way of doing things and that is what it is.

Unknown said...

I've gotten away with saying "double" a couple of times since I have two 6s in my phone number, but I do notice a slight pause in understanding after I've just said that. Thanks for bringing it up. I had no idea about it till now tbh. Oh, and welcome to the blog! :)

You're right! It is just that - a melting pot - and all credit to them to the way they've made it work over here.

Thanks dude! I thought they used kilometers in UK. I guess I was wrong.

In Pakistan, fans are only used to provision of cooler air during summers. If you make them run in the opposite direction, they suck air upward when the heating is on thereby, resulting in warmer temperature in the room which is useful for places that have a serious winter.

The south is pretty different alright. Life is relatively peaceful, people are nicer etc. etc.

I've seen better practicing Muslims here than in Pakistan. So the suggestion that all kids turn out like that is not true at all. There are, however, all kinds of people and I wouldn't be surprised if I do come across the kind of people you're referring to. But it all depends on the upbringing and the priorities people live their lives by IMO.

Ok, its my first time coming to a place so radically different from home ... so I found some stuff weird. And like I said, it wasn't an attempt at poking fun or anything like that.

Saadia said...

You forgot to mention left-hand drives, and driving on the other side of the road!

BiLo said...

One thing that really irritated me about the US was the voltage. Almost all the countries use 220V except for US, they have 110V. I have never understood the idea behind it.
Also the electrical socket points are different. The live and earth points are two-ended, where as the neutral is round. Pretty weird huh!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Oh hey, you moved there? and of all the places you went to NC :P Will have to read further to find out what you are doing there.

Anyway, I agree that they have to do things their own way, but, the student life over there is really cool. Enjoy it while you can :)

Anonymous said...

Nice post !!
I am also these weird things now a days. I'm still unable to figure out why they call their rugby like game "American football". The whole world is fan of the original football but they call it soccer. Ridiculous !!

Anonymous said...

Man, it's not Americans who are different. It's just that the whole world is so different from them.

Don't know if I should be excited or worried about my going to America after reading that.

Sana said...

Nice spending some time of ur life in a place where u can find so much to xplore. And the comparison r hilarious but true ;)

Unknown said...

Actually, I did mention that in the post :P. But even then, everyone knows about it and it's not really a surprise once you get to see it. This post was more about the personal experience I've had in the past couple of months I've been and generally about things that I did not know about these guys.

The voltage thing used to be a real pain couple of years ago. Thankfully, now they have electronic devices that work on both 110 and 220 volts. As for the sockets, I think they made it that way for safety since children or any other person cannot accidentally or intentionally put their fingers in em.

Yes, I arrived here in August. NC is a cool place dude. It's no New York, but it ain't bad.

Couldn't agree more dude.

Dude, they changed the way they do things just to be "different". They invented new sports for one thing. Can't blame em for that can we? It just looks weird sometimes ... that's all :)

Anonymous said...

LOL, yeah!

Anonymous said...

You know i was thinking about similiar things just recently.
It is interesting that they use farenheit for climate temperature but always use celsius in the hospital setting. just the opposite of what we did in pakistan.
the thing about fans is also very interesting.

Eric said...

Born in America. I think it's funny when people use km instead of a Mile. Mile's are easy, Quarter of a Mile, Half a Mile. I think one mile is 1.5 Kilometer. I don't get what Stones are when you measure someones wieght. Driving on the left side of the road and having the steering wheel on the right side of the seems ass backwards to me. I'll give you one thing America does love it's trucks. America is different from the rest of the world. Not the other way around. If that's a positive or negative thing is up to the individual. I'm mean i've been reading some of this British slang and i don't know how half of these terms came to be. Oh well america is home sweet home and where ever you come from will always be home to you.

Unknown said...

Interesting, it is. I might do a follow-up sometime later based on more observations :)

Thanks for dropping by. Kilometers are used where I come from too, it's one of the few common units I found being uses here otherwise it's lbs (pounds) instead of kilograms, gallons instead of liters, fahrenheit etc. etc. I don't think it's good or bad either, you just gotta get used to it. Sure, it would've been fun if all places in the world had exactly the same system ... maybe one day we will.

Abbey Road Rage said...

I love going places. 'Cause I'm from California and it always seems that when I meet people with accents (I know that's wrong to say), I tend to stress certain things. I get in the mindset of a stereotypical Californian, almost like a monologue. "'Cause like, totally dude surfing is rad and there's like no waaaay other stuff is more, like, stellar." I end up sounding like Spicoli...from fast times at Ridgemont high...Sean should like watch it. Dudes and dudettes. Watching peoples clueless faces is cool beans. Wow that sentence was hella grammatically incorrect.

Anonymous said...

America is an amazing country. No matter how weird. If you chose to be ethnocentric more power to you. But, there are more important matters to discuss

Anonymous said...

I live in Missouri, and there are quite a few folks who keep the Confederate flag on their trucks.

I think you misunderstand the reason why most folks keep that flag (even though I personally don't fly it).

For a very long time, from the start of the country up to and past the Civil War (which I assume you are referring to when you say 'what the South stood for') the Northern part of the US and the Southern part were quite different and at time oppositional. I think most folks who fly the flag don't do it as a sign to bring back slavery or anything like that, but more as a symbol of who they are and how they were raised. Homegrown, I guess. I don't know... I cannot explain it. But very cool list

Anonymous said...

We Americans are becoming more and more bizarre as the days go by. I'm seeing very bizarre behavior all around me, something that is usually reserved for animals in the jungles of Africa.

Anonymous said...

I live in America and I never knew what celsius really was, well how it measured however haha, it really is easier to understand than Fahrenheit... But I wouldn't know what the temperatures would feel like. For example if it's 40° F I know it's going to be chilly.

And I've ruined many ceiling fans by switching what way they go while it's on high haha

By the way most Americans don't take kindly to any type of constructive criticism ......they think they can never be wrong -_- haha big egos I tell you

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