Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

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Now that the end of my stay is drawing nigh, I figure it would be in its place for me to summarize my stay here. I’ve been continuously reporting facts and anecdotes here on the blog, so perhaps it would be better to just express my opinions, now that (nearly) all is said and done.  After all, the blog posts aren’t really representative of daily life, so what are the things that have consistently pleased/displeased me during my stay? Without further ado, I present to you:

The best things about America (during my stay here)

  1. Options. More things to buy: My friend wanted to build his own jungle gym out of PVC piping, as he’d read about online, but the pipes turned out to be unavailable or prohibitively expensive in Sweden. Not so in America. More things to eat: New York pizza, Texas ribs, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Mexican tamales, Blue cheese & bacon burgers, Lucky Charms. More things to see, more things to do. Jobs at the hottest companies, or venture capitalists to start your own. Best universities in the world. Anything you want.
  2. Openness. Sit down in a bar and the bartender will come and talk to you. Stay a while and the guy next to you will too. Strike up a conversation with your neighbor, or someone you meet in the street. Not something you do in Denmark… And it’s not just formalities either, Americans are happy to pour out their life story. I’ve had 3 people tell me within 10 minutes of conversation that they sell drugs, or used to.
  3. Natural wonders. I guess my road trip pictures will be the best way to document this, so suffice to say that the great outdoors in Denmark doesn’t hold a candle to what you get over here. Giant redwoods, scorching deserts, grand canyons, palmy beaches… even the sunsets seem deeper here.

But of course it’s not all milk and honey, so here are:

The worst things about America (similar disclaimer):

  1. Quantity over quality. There a lot of options, but most of them are shit. You can go to a huge mall and find two dozen stores all selling the same uninspired polos and Ed Hardy sneakers. Go to the supermarket and buy a bag of cookies for a dollar, but they’re bland and the chocolate tastes like cocoa lard. Go to Walmart and get anything you want, but it’ll be ugly, unhealthy and probably break in a month or two. Like I always say, America is a place where you can get a lot for a little, but it’s not very good. This wouldn’t be so bad if the Americans hadn’t embraced it wholeheartedly, to the extent that it’s pretty near impossible to find anything worthwhile. Pretty on the outside, shitty on the inside.
  2. Excess. Goes hand in hand with #1, and is probably the most common stereotype about Americans. Sadly, there’s more than a grain of truth in it. America is the land of driving around in big cars, of driving to the other side of the mall parking lot to go to a different store. Of shopping to make pizzas and then throwing away all the leftover pepperoni and tomato sauce. Of buying two to get two more for free. Sad but true, and sadder still: it’s contagious.
  3. Work mentality. This one is more specific to my time here, but it’s probably going to affect anyone coming here to work, and certainly everyone who lives here. More hours spent at work is unequivocally better. Work longer hours, work weekends, work when you’re not working. Quantity over quality. The result is that you spend a lot of time at work not working, a lot of time at home kind of working. A lot of time being inefficient. It’s given me a newfound respect for cutting the cord when you’re going to relax. Work hard, play hard.

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Written by Martin

2010/12/18 at 17:28

Posted in Uncategorized

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