Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Contrasting cultures

As I continue my pedal-powered journey across North America with only my own wandering thoughts in my head, I often make comparisons to back home in Scotland.

If you were to ask me sum up America in a few words I would say it is a can-do country. As just one example, a few days ago we rolled into the small town of Spencer in mid Wisconsin, exhausted and overheated. We had just completed 45 miles in a temperature of 95ºF and a humidity of 90% and had nowhere to camp for the night. Without any persuasion at all a local councillor called Gerry allowed us to set up camp on the village square. If this was not generous enough the local policeman Keith then allowed us to use the police station shower. My point is I am hard pushed to believe that this would have been so easy and so welcoming back in Scotland.

Today I was running around in 80º heat filming a Fourth of July parade. I asked one of the organisers for permission and without any questions was given free reign to go anywhere and film anything. I wandered all over the roads, in amongst the floats and interviewed families. From a professional viewpoint I know for certain that I could never have done this so easily in the UK.

The extremes of weather is a concern though. The most recent thunderstorm hit us late at night for just 15 minutes but the violent winds flattened tents and lightning flashed every second with mighty thunderclaps. Thankfully Scotland’s weather, though wet a lot of the time, never reaches this extreme.

I love the service here too. Back home people will talk of it not being genuine but I have not found this to be the case. In Scotland I seek out good service and frequent the places that do well at it, such as Browns in George Street. But here in the US I cannot think of a single place where the service has not been genuinely helpful, be it a gas station or restaurant.

Politeness is very striking as well. Everyone, from young to old, will address me as sir and if someone should bump into you then there is an immediate apology and smile. Everyone we meet is also very interested in what we are doing and they get right into the spirit of the thing. In Scotland people tend not to be so interested in anything anyone else is doing.

Above all else I am constantly being surprised by the generosity of the people. I arrived in Eau Claire on the 3 July with two broken spokes and a buckled wheel. I made an appointment for after the 4th July holiday to take the bike into a repair shop at 9am on the Tuesday. However, while we were out enjoying the parade the bike shop came to me. I returned to find my wheel fixed and a little note from Terry of Eau Claire Bike & Sport wishing us well on our journey. And no charge.

All of this restores ones faith in human nature.

You may be thinking I don't like Scotland, but that is so far from the truth. I love Scotland. I really do. It is an astonishingly beautiful country. But I will be taking back valuable lessons from my time in the US. Above all it is so easy to be kind to each other. It is so easy to lend a hand to someone in need. So easy to smile and brighten someones day.

So easy to love our fellow man.


Roosterruler said...

Beautiful post --- and much appreciated. I left America for a while for Switzerland and came back with an odd loathing for my homeland. It took me leaving again and coming back to recognize that the true heart of America, in the people, was what made it easier for me to call this place home.

Best of luck on your journey and maybe I'll see in you Seattle (or even Scotland - I sing in Scot Gaelic once a week with a music group and hope to make it there someday).

Graham Kitchener said...

Please follow the link to our website Sleepless 'til Seattle and go to the movie link. There you can register your interest in the movie. This is a secure page and is the best way for you to send us your email address. We may just look you up in Seattle at the end of September! Please remind me in your contact who you were, ie leaving a message on the blog.
Thank you