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Welcome to America – Just Kidding


I’ve a bit of a cold and thus I’m crankier than normal. (What is a normal level of crankiness for a semi-rational human being these days? Smiley-face? Mildly cranky? Really pissed-off? Requires intravenous chocolate and a set of blinders?) So, being cranky, I reckoned I’d continue with more kvetching about local customs.
I figure I’d be joining in a long tradition of English-language writers traveling to foreign countries and pointing out the quaint and infuriating in local habits. Somewhere there has to be a whole shelf of books by early 20th century English travelers to Italy tittering at the locals using olive oil on everything instead of proper butter for their bread.
A foreigner traveling to the U.S. these days would unfortunately have to write a not-so-funny book about our local customs, like requiring new passports from other countries and the shoeless shuffle at security checkpoints, not to mention the English-speaking entry official who really isn’t there to give out tourist tips. It can be quite unpleasant for even the most blameless foreign visitor these days to cross U.S. borders – and that’s if they’re allowed to cross them. I was reminded of this by a ticket taker at a museum last week, who had a major beef with Americans, having just returned from a U.S. visit where he said he was treated like a criminal when he entered the country.
Don’t think potential visitors haven’t noticed what it’s like. Stories like the ticket taker’s are not uncommon, and, at least in Spain and certainly other countries, a lot of would-be visitors feel that entering the U.S. is too much of a hassle and can be a nasty or even scary experience. (In February, the travel industry finally got some recognition from the Bush administration that beefed up border control since the Sept. 11 attacks has kept away millions of travelers.)
And on the other hand, in Madrid at least, according to this article in a Spanish newspaper, U.S. visitors are down almost 20 percent since 2001. OK, maybe now that good Spanish ham is being exported to the U.S. it’s not quite as necessary to visit back and forth, but still, if people aren’t meeting each other it’s hard to make friends. And you do want to make friends, don’t you? Sharing is also good, by the way.
Hmm. Maybe I’ll save my complaints. After all, if you don’t have anything nice to say‚Ķ (yeah, I know – come sit by me). But some following of basic playground etiquette (like, say, be polite to your guests) is not such a bad thing.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 12:53 PM | Permalink

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