Author Topic: 16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America Until They Moved Here  (Read 44674 times)

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Psychopoesie

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For those talking about differences in country size, you can overlay different countries and states to get a better idea of size and distance here http://overlapmaps.com/ It's fun to play with.  :)


Although Canada and US are larger, Australia is built on a similar scale (6th largest country).

Oh Joy

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Re: 16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America
« Reply #46 on: November 16, 2013, 05:37:12 PM »
DH's family is continually amazed at how warm people are here.  Much of their surprise is based on regional misperceptions about Americans, but things that prompt admiration or discussion include:
*  How strangers passing on a park trail or an office building will make eye contact and greet each other.  They finally stopped asking 'Do you know them?'
*  How cashiers will make small talk.
*  The graciousness of employees (the highlight of MIL's visit this spring was my taking her to the hair salon, where she reigned supreme) even with foreigners.
*  The amount of time our extended family members spend together because we like each other (very contrary to the anti-family image we have over there).

Elfmama

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I remember when Jamie Oliver did his programme over there he said it was cheaper for low income families to eat junk in fast food places 7 nights a week than it is to buy food to cook at home and I found that a bit staggering.
I would not agree with Mr. Oliver.  DH was in the military for many years, and eating at fast food places was a rare treat.  I could feed 4 people on home-cooked hamburgers and fries for the same price as a Big Mac meal.  Still can, as a matter of fact.

But that people BELIEVE that it's cheaper to eat at McD's, yes. Or that actually cooking is "too hard" and should be left to professionals. Last time we donated to the food bank, the staffers told us not to bother donating flour and sugar, even for holiday meal baskets.  No one will take them, because they don't know what to do with them.  And that they'll take oatmeal only if it's instant, and only then if there is no other cereal available.

Some years ago one of the governors of a large west coast state was astonished to find that the food stamp allotment was $21 per week.  To prove that point, he took a camera crew to a supermarket and bought random foodstuffs like steak and eggplants, then pointed to "how little" you could get for $21.

When someone on another forum declared that the gov had a point, I took that as a challenge.  He didn't buy food for MEALS. Starting from the premise that I had NOTHING in my cabinets, not even salt, I took an imaginary $21 to the local supermarket and came out with the makings for a week's meals.  And I posted it, with prices and recipes, on the forum.  (OK, I cheated a bit.  I would have had to spend 3 cents over the allotment.)  I even had food "left over" at the end of the week, if you can consider having more salt and rice and flour and sugar than I needed to be "leftovers" instead of "staples."   Yes, there was oatmeal on the menu for every breakfast, and yes, leftovers from previous meals were scheduled on two different days, and yes, I would have baked my own bread from actual flour instead of buying it, but it WAS possible, even in a high-priced area of the country like Maryland.

But you do have to be willing to actually cook stuff from scratch instead of just heating stuff up.
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MommyPenguin

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Wow, Elfmama, I'm in NoVA... will you come help me figure out how to cook for a week for $21?  I already make my own bread, so surely I'm partway there?  I'm very impressed with your mad skills.  :)

I agree, too, that it's definitely cheaper to eat at home than eat out, but it's going to depend on what you're making and such.  But you certainly *can* cook for cheaper at home.  It costs us about $10 at a minimum to get fast food for the whole family, and that's with all the kids sharing a 20-pack of chicken nuggets and no drinks.  Getting drinks and fries and happy meals would probably make it more like $20.  Even a meal of chicken with a very basic seasoning (not an expensive packet, just a multi-use jar of "chicken seasoning" or something really basic like that), frozen veggies, and rice would be less than $10 for our family of six (depending on how much chicken we made, it could cost more than $10 but make two meals).  And, of course, meals without meat are cheaper.  Macaroni and cheese or spaghetti would be a cheap, simple option a few times a week. 

We had the BSA collecting for a food bank a few weeks ago, and I had a bag with some mac & cheese, angelhair, and spaghetti sauce, but unfortunately I forgot to put my bag out in time.  But I figured those were reasonably easy meals to make even if you weren't much for cooking.

kherbert05

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Stilted houses are used along the Gulf coast so that storm surges can flow under the house, hopefully saving the house in a storm. The small storage place under the house is made to breakaway. The stilts are much stronger than you would think. If the ground is left under the house the house can often be saved.

http://thumbs.trulia-cdn.com/pictures/thumbs_3/ps.57/8/e/9/9/picture-uh=f9803c238ff59e4cfdc3af796cce8e29-ps=8e99d2f2f5f979c4f25abbcb3fc1dc6.jpg

Wooden houses also called balloon framing has airspace between the inner and outer falls that is filled with insulation. THis picture shows the foam insulation between the studs. Sheetrock will be placed over the studs.
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ue7ph6OhSrs/TooK44M_XbI/AAAAAAAAAQQ/HtzWa2tJiMM/s1600/DSCN8747.JPG


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Peppergirl

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I second MommyPenguin!  I'd very much like ElfMama to teach a class for us on how to stretch our food dollars! :)

MrsJWine

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I love to cook, and I am pretty good at planning the week's meals for cheap, but I have the luxuries of time, a spouse, and easy transportation. I think it's completely possible to stretch a very thin budget to allow for a healthy diet, and to do it much more inexpensively than a McDonald's diet would cost.

But there are many factors involved. The first is that a some poverty-stricken people are working full time or more than full time, with more than one job, just to get by. Then they have to come home and be parents. I know that if I had only one hour with my kids per day, I probably wouldn't want to spend it cooking.

The other was brought up in this thread already: with poor transportation, many people only have the option of shopping at the local convenience store, where the healthier foods are incredibly overpriced. I have a vehicle. It's old and ugly, but it gets me from point A to B whenever I want it to, and I don't have to pay extra for parking. In the US, good food just doesn't tend to be within walking or biking distance of residences, especially in urban areas.

There's also marital status (or live-in partner). If I can shop while my husband watches the kids, I won't have to hire a babysitter while I go shopping after they're in bed. I won't have to drag them with me, either. Or I can ask my husband to pick things up on the way home.

So, all else being equal, I think it is fairly easy to maintain a healthy or at least semi-healthy diet on a thin budget. However, all else is not equal most of the time. Sure, it's possible, but there's much more to it than just making a meal plan and sticking to it.


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Utah

Katana_Geldar

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We're some people not taught basic cooking then? That's rather sad.

I remember reading one of a certain politicians memoirs where he lived in a major US city and he said mothers thought it was healthy to fed their kids potato chips.  ???

MrsJWine

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We're some people not taught basic cooking then? That's rather sad.

I remember reading one of a certain politicians memoirs where he lived in a major US city and he said mothers thought it was healthy to fed their kids potato chips.  ???

I took a home ec class in middle school. It was every other day for half a school year. We learned how to cook maybe two things, and I think they were out of boxes. It was a joke. I was the youngest of five children, and my parents were kind of poor. Because of where we lived, they were able to feed us very well (out in the country for the poorest of those years, space for a garden, lots of canning, etc), but my mom hated it; it was a ton of work. By the time I was old enough to learn, she was probably just DONE with it and tired. And then she went to nursing school.

She or my dad cooked a decent meal just about every night, but it wasn't the sort of thing where they had time or energy to also teach a kid how to do it. I learned some very basic things, but otherwise they spent their energy on other things with us. I don't fault them for that at all. They did the best they could with what time and energy they had. In fact, I think they went above and beyond in a lot of ways.

I taught myself how to cook when I got married, and I didn't really learn how to cook well-rounded meals every single day until our first child was old enough to eat solid foods (so, about 5 years ago). Now I'm pretty good at it, but I kind of had to claw my way up to that level of knowledge and ability.

But, here's the thing. I grew up in a stable family. We ate dinner together nearly every night. There was always at least one vegetable. I may not have learned how to cook, but I ate a well-rounded diet. I knew, more or less, what was healthy and what was not, and my palate was accustomed to that. I was extremely lucky; despite my parents' situation, they did a great job feeding us well. That's something that isn't totally normal. Poor diet is just as self-perpetuating as poverty can be. Combine that with other things (how spread out US cities can be, how terrible public transit usually is, etc), and it's not all that surprising that some people think the best they can do is McDonald's every night.


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Utah

Katana_Geldar

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You think it starts with parents? I learned to cook from my parents as it meant they could have the help if myself and my sisters or even have me making the meals myself.

I think all children need to learn how to cook before they leave home. And how to do laundry.

perpetua

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The other was brought up in this thread already: with poor transportation, many people only have the option of shopping at the local convenience store, where the healthier foods are incredibly overpriced. I have a vehicle. It's old and ugly, but it gets me from point A to B whenever I want it to, and I don't have to pay extra for parking. In the US, good food just doesn't tend to be within walking or biking distance of residences, especially in urban areas.



*nods* - If I recall correctly, this particular place that Jamie Oliver was visiting was also a place that had a 'supermarket drought', as I think he termed it - the kind of place where businesses who sell fresh healthy food just hadn't moved into because there's no money to be made there. The majority of the businesses in the area were junk food merchants who sold burgers for a dollar, so people there thought it was cheaper to just go and do that, with predictable results.

The overwhelming impression I have of the US from my very limited knowledge from TV/reading - but also from the posts I read here - is that generally, it just isn't 'set up' very well. That it isn't at all… practical? Local communities often seem not to have access to shops, transport etc in their local area, and if you don't have a car, you're stuffed because of the 'can't walk anywhere, there's no pavements' issue. I gotta wonder what the town planners were on when they came up with that; it kinda boggles my mind.

That can be an issue here in the UK too, but generally only for people who live in very rural areas that might have one overpriced (and small) village shop, a pub and a post office. I live in a fairly low-rent area of a big city,  not the kind of place that well-to-do shops would move into, but even so, I have access to everything I could possibly need on my local high street a couple of minutes away, and if you lived in a town you'd have all these facilities and more generally within walking or bussing distance.

Peppergirl

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We're some people not taught basic cooking then? That's rather sad.



I have great parents, but they both worked full time and we ate a lot of simple meals.  I never truly learned to cook.

In a serious role reversal, my ex husband was a GREAT cook, so I did everything else around the house and he did that.

I was really in a quandary when, at age 34, we divorced and I had to cook for my kids.  I was so embarrassed that I didn't really know how. 

I do okay now and my kids are grown and gone, but I still don't care for it. :-[

iridaceae

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You think it starts with parents? I learned to cook from my parents as it meant they could have the help if myself and my sisters or even have me making the meals myself.

I think all children need to learn how to cook before they leave home. And how to do laundry.

If you come from a very poor background you may well have been living with no working fridge or freezer (or it is a dorm fridge or maybe barely works) and maybe one burner on the stove. Slumlords still exist and they will resist fixing appliances. And if you complain too much you get evicted and have to find another place to live as cheaply.


GlitterisMyDrug you must live in the Southwest ; the roadside cross memorials are mainly found there. (Also Central and South America- kids didn't believe me when I described them after coming back from Venezuela as a kid).


camlan

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The overwhelming impression I have of the US from my very limited knowledge from TV/reading - but also from the posts I read here - is that generally, it just isn't 'set up' very well. That it isn't at all… practical? Local communities often seem not to have access to shops, transport etc in their local area, and if you don't have a car, you're stuffed because of the 'can't walk anywhere, there's no pavements' issue. I gotta wonder what the town planners were on when they came up with that; it kinda boggles my mind.

That can be an issue here in the UK too, but generally only for people who live in very rural areas that might have one overpriced (and small) village shop, a pub and a post office. I live in a fairly low-rent area of a big city,  not the kind of place that well-to-do shops would move into, but even so, I have access to everything I could possibly need on my local high street a couple of minutes away, and if you lived in a town you'd have all these facilities and more generally within walking or bussing distance.

The town or city or suburb planners just assume everyone has a car. Because most people do have cars. It is simply a different model of planning than what is used in Europe.

The older cities and towns used to have a center where you could find most basic services--grocery stores and the like. But because we have a car-centric culture, those stores have moved to the outskirts of the cities where there is room for more parking and the stores can be larger.

In places like Boston and the surrounding towns and cities, just finding enough land that can be purchased for a large supermarket is difficult. And large supermarkets are what people what. And they make more money than a small shop. Add in the difficulty of also finding enough land for parking adjacent to the supermarket, and you can see why the larger stores have migrated to the suburbs or outskirts of a city.

Cities like Boston and New York can still be lived in without a car. If you can't buy it and walk home with it, many places will deliver, for a fee, large and heavy purchases. But you pay higher prices for the same item because of the higher overhead costs of running a store in a city.

While some people like to shop in small, locally-owned stores, most people also want access to the large big-box stores like WalMart, Target, Home Depot, TJ Max and the like. The business model for those stores requires lots of land. And you just aren't going to find lots of land available in the center of town.

So in my city, which is fairly old by US standards, the small grocery stores and mom-and-pop drug stores and clothing stores and the book store that also carried newspapers from all over, which at one time were all up and down Main Street, have closed and in their place are small greeting card shops and jewelery stores and artsy boutiques. There's a bakery that's been there for 75 years and probably isn't going anywhere. But most people do their necessary shopping a couple of miles away on a road that crosses the border of the next town and which has all the big-box stores you could want. Thirty years ago, that road was surrounded by open country.

There's a plan and it makes sense. It's just that it makes sense only if you have a car. But since most people have cars . . . , well, you end up with planners who allow for the cars and not pedestrians.
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Oh Joy

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Re: 16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America
« Reply #59 on: November 17, 2013, 07:24:49 AM »
GlitterisMyDrug you must live in the Southwest ; the roadside cross memorials are mainly found there. (Also Central and South America- kids didn't believe me when I described them after coming back from Venezuela as a kid).

We see them plenty here in the Midwest.  Crosses, artificial flowers, balloons, etc.  It can be a sensitive issue as the city/county/state must decide how long to leave the memorial up.