Wednesday, June 06, 2007

An Englishman in Orlando

Yesterday's escapades really caused the culture shock to be felt for me. The only thing I've found that is the same over here is the language, mostly. I've had to repeat myself a few times but maybe that's because I mumble.

Even the toilets flush differently. UK toilets just pile lots of water to force whatever you've done down the drain. Here it seems to suck everything out the bowl then fill with water again. The way over here is far less primitive than the UK way, but US toilets have so much more water in the bowl. Makes the end result look a whole lot worse...

You have to manually flush urinals. Now, this could be a water saving feature if it were not for the fact that urinals over here have standing water in them. So after you've relieved yourself you can see it. You wouldn't have to flush them if your business just went down the drain like in the UK.

And sales tax! Want to buy that $9.99 piece of plastic as a souvenir and only have a $10 bill? You'd like to think you could buy it, but you can't unless you have enough money to cover the 6.5% sales tax tacked onto seemingly everything.

We have sales tax in the UK, but the sticker price includes it. Why not over here? Don't some people pay tax? Is the sales tax optional for some retailers?

So many questions. Didn't think I had to do any homework before coming here after watching 100s maybe even 1000s of films based in the US. I was wrong about that one.

Pedestrian crossings are another thing. In the UK you press a button at the side of the road, wait for a green man to show and when he does you can cross, safe in the knowledge that the traffic is waiting at the red lights.

Not here, and speaking to a man from California that I met, not there either, so it's not just an Orlando thing. Here you press a button and wait for the signal to cross. That signal doesn't mean it's safe to cross, just that its safer.

Say you're at a crossroad, and you just want to cross one road. You press the button and wait. Eventually red lights will show along one stretch and you get the signal to cross. But the traffic on the other road isn't stopped, and you're left figuring out whether you've got right of way over the cars turning into the road you're crossing.

The man from California said that pedestrians do have priority, but that's not what I've seen.

Cars are king over here. Everything is laid out to be car friendly so much that there is little to no consideration for pedestrians. On yesterday's ill-fated walk back from the mall at least half of it had no pavement.... sorry, sidewalk. Well actually "sidewalk" is more appropriate as it's very descriptive. You have to walk at the side of the road--there's rarely a raised pavement to follow outside of the new, artificial roads around the hotels and Convention Center.

You can't walk anywhere really, everything is just too far away for it in this heat (and rain--the heavens have opened here, and I no longer wonder where all the lakes come from). You need a car, or a taxi, or a bus. But cars need to be hired (and I wouldn't dream of driving over here, even in someone else's car), taxis aren't easily hail-able, and bus stops don't have timetables or route maps on them.

How visitors are expected to get around is beyond me.

Coming back to traffic--red lights? You stop at them right? Surely you're supposed to, that's why they're there above the lane you're in. But people just inch forward through red lights when they want to turn left at a crossroad. I've seen it so many times I'm wondering if it they're actually allowed to do it and the red light is just a signal to give way (or "yield") to traffic already on the road.

So many differences, and US TV is too. Shows seem to go in this pattern:

  • When the credits begin to roll at the end of a show the screen will split, and the starting credits of the next show will show in the other half.
  • When the credits have done (or the intro and credits have done in the case of CSI, NCIS, and Law and Order: SVU) they'll go to an ad break.
  • The show comes back and goes into numerous breaks along the way.
  • The credits will roll, screen will split and the pattern repeats.
This annoys me a great deal. It assumes I was either watching the show before the one I want to see, or that I know what will be on at that time. If I switch on the TV on the hour chances are I will see ads, but expect to see a show coming up. As the intro has already run I don't always know what the show is I'm watching.

Needless to say I haven't watched much TV. Baseball is the only thing I've watched for any duration, but that's only because I find it quite intriguing. Seems like rounders with spitting and lots of hand signals.

1 comment:

Kevin Pearman said...

If the lights are Red and you are turning right then you are allowed to turn if there are no cars coming and no pedestrians crossing, this is why you see cars coming while you're crossing says "WALK". It's a real strange concept but you kind of get used to it.

Look forward to hearing about all these new ideas when you get back!