So, what do I miss about the States?

This post has sat in my ‘drafts’ section for quite a while, and I found it today while looking through old posts. Since I’ve just moved into my own place and it’s the 14th anniversary today of me working for HPI (the company that moved me from Texas to California), I figured what the hell, I’ll update it and see if it’s all still true, and correct what isn’t.

Well I’ve been in the UK for nearly 8 years now, quite a long time, really. I was in Southern California for 7 years, so now I’ve here for longer than I was in SoCal, which is really weird, because I really feel I connected with and loved a lot about SoCal.

Still, I was in Texas for 16 years before I moved to California, so there’s still some time to go before I reach that milestone.

But I was having an online conversation with a friend a while back and he was laughing that I have to pay for my RC car parts now (we work for the same radio control model car company, but at different branches), and I said yeah, also I live in a much smaller place, get paid less and pay 3 times as much for gas/petrol than I did before.

However, there are certain trade-offs, like easy access to Europe (not to mention the rest of the UK, much of which is lovely), country lane driving, eons of human history to explore and touch, that sort of thing. There’s certain things about the States I don’t miss either, but to be honest there’s a lot of culture creep in the UK because of US TV shows, movies, shared corporations and the like. That sort of thing is different to different people, the average American expat in the UK is fairly liberal and doesn’t miss Hummer H2’s, soccer moms, Giant Gulps and Real Housewives of Orange County, if you get my meaning.

Anyway, back on topic: What Do I Miss About the US?

  1. Texas smoke pit BBQ (specifically, Bob’s Pit BBQ in San Antonio)
  2. Sunday barbacoa (Mexican specialty, it’s called something else in SoCal but it’s basically a cow’s head cooked in a metal garbage can buried in the ground for about 16 hours)
  3. Road trips – oh you do road trips in the UK and Europe, but every few hours you hit a new country. In the States you could be on the I-10 in Texas or the I-5 in California for, like, 12, 16 hours, and still not cross the next border. Plus, you get the ‘real Americana’ on the roads and highways – weird tourist attractions like a snake farm or old cars stuck in the ground like Car Henge, and other strange road sightings like that.
  4. Being able to talk your way out of a speeding ticket – here it’s speed cameras ahoy. You just have to know when to slow down, or keep your eyes open for different types of camera boxes. If you didn’t slow down enough you have to wait a few nervous weeks for a letter from a local council. If your letter slot stays ticket-free, rejoice! You got away with it. Otherwise…it’s a few points on your licence.
  5. Outdoor malls  – I’m not so much into ‘retail nirvana’ any more, but it is very cool to be able to stroll from store to store in bright sunshine, sipping a soda or holding an ice cream, deciding on the next food court to hit or next item of clothing to look for. Strip malls are one thing, and America is absolutely infested with them, but the mall I’m really thinking about is the Spectrum in Irvine, California. I used to live just minutes from there…and it. was. amazing. Nothing like the shopping streets in the UK!
  6. Properly outfitted movie theaters – it’s all a game of keeping up with the Joneses with movie theaters, having to upgrade to stadium seating, rocking chairs, wider screens, digital distribution and 3D, but at least for metropolitan areas with lots of moviegoers, the cinemas seem to have stayed with the curve. Not that movie theaters in the UK are all crap, but you really have to be near a decent-sized city to get a really big screen and all the amenities – although there’s a cinema in Derby (UK) that lets you order food and drinks to be delivered halfway through the show!
  7. Big honking cars and trucks – OK, yeah, sometimes I do miss them and their clueless drivers. But then I visit the US and realize…no, I didn’t really miss them that much.
  8. Big posh neighborhoods – I grew up watching loads of John Hughes movies, and movies that copied his style, like Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, that sort of thing. Where everyone lived in massive 2-story, 10-bedroom houses with huge front yards and gigantic back yards with every suburban luxury you could dream of. Well I used to like driving through these neighborhoods and just…drive. It helped when I used to deliver pizza to some of these houses, because then I could find the nicest houses as drove past and just daydream. For whatever reason those kinds of neighborhoods are hard to find in the UK, or just don’t exist. It seems most of the housing estates (except new build areas) are left over from the old mining and industrial days and you’ll have rows and rows of terrace/rowhouses, overlooked by a few large houses where the overseers/owners lived. Not better or worse to me, just different.
  9. Immigrant neighborhoods and funky foods – Not that these are hard to find in the UK or Europe, but these sorts of areas in the US just have a different feel to them. I don’t know if it’s the relative lack of outright racism (which you do get in the UK from a vocal minority) or what, but it’s…just a different feel. It’s been so long since I’ve been in an area like this in the States that it’s hard for me to describe it actually.
  10. Crazy loner people – Everyone must know some desert rat or some person living as a hermit in a cabin in the woods or something, I used to know a bunch like this in California. Living out in the desert must either require a lack of some sanity, or it must slowly drive you crazy, because most of the people I’ve met from these sorts of places seemed like the jumped right out of a Mad Max movie or something. Mountain hermits must be the same way. There’s just so much land in the US it’s relatively easy to do this sort of thing, building landships and digging your own septic tank system. In the UK there are laws and health & safety regs and all this BS hoops you have to go through to get anything at all done, it’s amazing anything gets completed.

I think that’s about it, I had to stretch a little but I think this post is finally done 🙂 There’s probably some bits I’m missing, too, and more I could expound on but there’s a life to live off the computer!