Come and see American wonder, come and see American wonder! ~ Anon
This post was delayed by a combination of jet lag, COVID and lousiness but finally, here we are. I could have captioned it “How To Migrate To America” or one of the numerous Hows to get hits but naaah, that has never been my style because I write for a special audience. Yes, a growing community of friends, writers and other creatives who appreciate my versatility and not-too-recent transition from political opinions to texts that add real value. So American Wonder will be a multi-part treatise that offers information, tips and resources on migrating to God’s own country.
If you grew up in the nostalgic 80s Nigeria like I did you will be familiar with my opening verse which is a song commonly recited by journeymen while performing tricks. It was so popular that the audience would often sing along as they watched and those who witnessed American wonder often turned out to be streetwise.
I think we should seek out the originator of this song and give the person a befitting chieftaincy title because America is indeed the land of plenty. Oh yes, it is so vast and rich that a single state can match countless nations in size and GDP. Little wonder the average American is usually confident and willing to tread where eagles dare without trepidation. In global competitions, their athletes howl and bark with authority as if the trophy is already in the kitty. A friend joked that it is so because they already feel like winners since national tournaments like the baseball championship are referred to as the World Series.
You can’t possibly enumerate the things that are different and unique to Americans. From the light switch to the confusing date order and non-metric measurements. There are drive-thru restaurants everywhere, and then you have huge coffee/soda cups and endless refills. The iconic yellow school buses are kings of the road, don’t mess with them. And then you have the annoying but cheaper price tags that are exclusive of taxes. Why not just include the damn taxes?!
From the expansive George Bush Intercontinental Airport to Dallas and Las Vegas, 9 out of 10 vehicles are trucks. With a population of about 332 million, America has almost 300 million registered vehicles as of 2021. These people practically drive to the restroom! It is no wonder President Bush Jnr once declared that “America is addicted to oil”. Yet they have oil. And in abundance too. States like Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas have some of the cheapest gasoline prices in the Western world.
But the sweetest thing about the country is the Americans. They are hospitable and incredibly friendly to strangers. And not just that, they are boisterous about it. It seems more like a rule than a deliberate innocuous attempt to make eye contact when they say hi or good day. At the shops, cashiers strike a conversation with new faces like they are regulars and the person next to you in a queue will likely ask how your day is going as if you are the next-door local. It is too palpable to miss and curious as always I asked a cashier at the Ross branch in Richmond if her pleasant demeanour is a part of her or the job.
Her reply: “I would say both, you ain’t gon get hired in this country with a straight face”.
At Sugar Land Texas, I sauntered into my hotel lobby after jogging in the morning and was disappointed to discover that breakfast was already over by 9.30 am. I asked the young man seated in the dining hall if I could get a few bites for my family upstairs. He replied that he was an applicant waiting for an interview. Casually dressed in a jumper, denim and trainers, I thought he was inappropriately dressed for the occasion. To my amazement, the beautiful and exceedingly nice receptionist beckoned him over to a corner and immediately started the interview. I overheard everything, and the guy performed excellently. I would later ask the receptionist if the dress code isn’t a consideration for such an exercise, to which she replied “It is, you can appear casual or formal, but we are trained to focus more on what’s inside.” Profound!
At Main Event Grand Prairie, the barista requested my ID and I was mirthfully asked if my grey beard didn’t count for something.
“Sir, you coulda walked in here with a cane and I would still ask for an ID, it’s the law”, she replied with a very warm smile.
Again I had to ask if the courteous manner came with the job or her upbringing.
“Of course, it’s part of the job but out there you are likely to see me smiling a lot more”, she said this time with a throaty chortle.
Yet in another instance, I was told not to worry as I reached for my wallet to pay for filling my tyres.
“It’s just air, you don’t have to pay for it”, he said.
It’s not that I don’t get free air at gas stations back in Ireland, but this guy particularly reminded me that the best things in life like air should be free.
A lady who sells drinks at the iconic Welcome To The Fabulous Las Vegas park offers a free snack for each drink and repeatedly announces that the peanuts shouldn’t be missed. I politely refused mine because I had a cough. Minutes later my daughter who savoured hers went back to buy another pack and she told her “You can have your daddy’s pack, it’s still free”. For her candour, I felt I should tip her as we left the place. Her daughter informed me that she was on a call in her car. I looked and saw her in a hybrid Hyundai. Surprised that this woman who hawked drinks in a park owns such a nice car I could have left with the belief that she doesn’t need the money. But a tip is a tip regardless, so when she finished her call I offered the 20 dollar bill which she refused instantly.
“Nooo mehn, y’all are visitors. We should be giving you. And besides you have such a beautiful family. Go on and have a great time in Vegas!”
Frankly, I’ve not been wowed like that in a long time. People are warm and willing to assist you in public places. The winks, thumbs up and “y’all have a nice day” sign-offs were unending while the serendipity of all these seemingly tempered the scorching heat. Not even the Indians are this friendly.
A number of reasons have been adduced for the friendly disposition of Americans. Moira Delgado, an Outreach Specialist for Services for International Students and Scholars suggests that being a mobile people who moved around a lot, they “needed to make connections quickly”. Another study “points out that an increase in individualism and urbanization may be the biggest reason” behind this. But a Quora commentary by Emily Rizzo was more elaborate and succinctly captured it thus: “It’s embedded into our culture. From a very early age, we are taught to be nice to each other, to be friendly and respectful. We are taught that having a bright and cheerful disposition is an admirable quality to have. A large segment of our population also works in customer service positions that deal with the public so we see it as a sense of obligation too. But the most likely reason is that being friendly and sociable makes interacting with others easier. As the expression goes “It is easier to catch a bear if you use honey.”
It may well be a combination of reasons, but I also think that Americans are friendly and perhaps even disconcertingly friendly because the ‘continent’ is a land of plenty. Why sulk when there is so much to go around the populace?
Practically every retail outlet we visited had the “We Are Hiring” sign boldly stationed at the entrance porch. As I wrote in a previous post, all the ingenuity I see in the Western world is down to productivity. The economy in much of the developed world is anchored on production and consumption. In America, it is Production + Consumption + Population = Largest GDP in the world.
Certainly more than other Western countries, America will reward your hard work better and exalt you if you add some resourcefulness to it. That is why many are embracing the burgeoning creator economy. Regular workers, politicians, athletes, actors and even educationists are on social media platforms creating value and raking in huge returns. The opportunities are endless but firstly you have to get there, and legally too. That is what we will explore soon enough in the second instalment coming up next week. Stay with me because I have some practical pathways and contacts that will definitely help…
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