I'm an American--through and through. I studied politics in college and graduate school. I throw an awesome 4th of July party, and I love my country. That said, I live in Switzerland, which is also an awesome country. Right now I'm on week three of our four week trip to the United States, and I'm seeing things with different eyes.
The news is disturbing: Riots, attacks on police, police attacks on people, and the election is a mess. It can make it seem like everything is awful. But, it's not. Here are five things you probably don't think about much, even though you live in the US every day.
1. Awesome customer service.
Oh, yes, I've had some bad service over the years, and even a little in the past three weeks but the customer service here is overwhelmingly awesome. I wanted a phone with a US number and a US data plan, as using my Swiss phone was cost prohibitive. The electronics manager at the Bloomington, Utah, Walmart spent an hour with me, making sure I got the phone and plan I needed. He set it up and tested it to make sure Pokemon Go would work. (I had my 8-year-old son with me, and well, there are priorities.)
Every restaurant we've been too has offered free water, free refills, and attentive wait staff. Almost every store I've walked into has had employees who volunteered to help me find things. My husband bought new sunglasses at Sunglass Hut in Utah, broke them in Virginia, and a Sunglass Hut in Pennsylvania replaced them for free--even though their stated policy was 50 percent discount--because they were such new glasses. In Switzerland, if you drop your drink at a restaurant, they'll charge you for a new one. Here? Customer service is king.
Sure, there are some bad eggs, but overall, if you need help in this country someone will offer it.
2. Let's Talk Food.
We love food. Some people travel for culture: we travel to eat new dishes. Who has great food? The USA, of course. I've had amazing Mexican in Las Vegas, fantastic Ethiopian in Rochester, NY, awesome Middle Eastern in Virginia, and a delicious Blizzard at Dairy Queen. (You laugh, but a chocolate ice cream based Blizzard with Reese's Peanut Butter cups is perfection.) Where else can you get this variety?
Then, the grocery stores. In Arlington, VA, I visited my first Trader Joe's. While it had lots of things I don't need, it had a fascinating variety of food I hadn't encountered before. For less than $10 I made my family a dinner of goat cheese and sun-dried tomato ravioli.
And now? I'm at the center of the universe of grocery stores, with the Wegmans Flagship store 2.5 miles from where we are staying. (Yes, I mapped it.) If you've never been to a Wegmans, I feel sorry for you. If you have one by you, you understand the power of great food, great presentation, and great customer service.
3. The Smithsonian
We spent 4 days in Washington, DC, with most of our time at the Smithsonian--for free. Now, I know my tax dollars are paying for it, (and yes, one thing that thoroughly stinks about the United States is that it taxes its citizens abroad. Thanks, Congress!) but there was no fee at the door.
My purpose in going to Washington was to teach my American children about their country, and these museums were the perfect place to start. We saw and learned everything we could. The exhibits were pretty much perfect, and the staff was there to help us every step of the way.
Inc., of course, writes about innovation all the time, but we got to see a bit of it in other venues. We spent a few hours at the Corning Museum of Glass, where we not only saw amazing glass, but we learned about the invention of fiber optic wires and the increase in glass safety, making it so that a smashed windshield isn't deadly. The United States is full of people who work constantly to make our lives better.
5. A Culture of Service
The Corning Glass Museum had teen volunteers everywhere. Now, maybe they were getting school credit, or just doing this to put it on a college application, but they were enthusiastic and helpful.
Then, yesterday, we attended church. A young man, no more than 14, played the organ expertly as the congregation sang along. He's not getting paid. The bishop got up and announced that over the past three weeks this congregation had put in over 1000 hours of service time in helping with the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant. That's a ton of work.
At the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, I saw military veteran volunteers explaining the aircraft to groups, and pushing elderly veterans around in wheelchairs as they explained the history behind the exhibits. Volunteering is popular and makes a difference here.
Now, is everything in the US awesome? No. We have a lot of problems that need fixing, but take a moment to look around and you'll see that there is a whole lot of awesome going on here as well. Don't forget it.