The Lowdown

6th October '11

team

Gaz ‘Does’ America

I believe it was Douglas Adams who wrote “The thing about space is that it’s big… really big.”

Well, it’s not quite on the same magnitude, but as a “filthy Limey” visiting the States, that’s definitely the impression that you get when making your way around the most powerful nation on Earth.

Everything is colossal compared to their British equivalents. I’m not in the least bit sure what the widest motorway is in the UK, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the vast majority of the freeways in the US are wider. But it isn’t just freeways, many of the standard roads that I drove down are wider than ours – I always used to think it was stupid that Americans had a law that prevented you from crossing the street unless at a designated crossing, but frankly I’m amazed that anyone would be able to cross one without killing themselves.

McDonalds restaurants in the UK are usually a relatively small affair, whereas some of the ones I saw on my most recent trip Stateside have car parks to rival those of our largest supermarkets.

It doesn’t just stop at man-made structures, either. The sheer size of the US means that practically everything is incredibly spaced out (I don’t mean drugged up, either – although to even entertain the idea of crossing the US without the aid of air travel, I think you’d probably have to be.) Farms and smallholdings are large enough that in the UK they would probably be bought up within months for conversion into “affordable housing.”

Hotel rooms are bigger too. The hotel I was staying at (the really quite swish Waldorf Astoria in Park City, Utah) was, from the outside at least, larger than Buckingham Palace. The hotel I stayed at during my layover in Atlanta (the almost- but-not-quite-as-swish Renaissance Hotel by Atlanta International Airport) very nearly instilled a fear of heights into me – looking down to the lobby from the top floor walkways made me wonder if suicide jumpers ever look over the edge and think “Actually, you know, this isn’t that good an idea.”

Portion sizes at restaurants are larger too. Oh, and before anybody says something like, “LOL, that’s why Americans are all fatties!” I should say that I didn’t see much evidence of this during my stay. Sure, there was the occasional wobble bottom, but no more than you’d probably find in any major English city.

I’ve experienced larger portions before (as the actress said to the bishop) on a trip to New York City in 2008, where I ordered some pancakes and syrup for breakfast one morning, expecting there to be two or three on the plate. What arrived could only be described as a veritable pancake feast, with at least 8 of them sitting there taunting me, safe in the knowledge that my tiny British stomach just wouldn’t be able to take the strain.

About the only thing I found that wasn’t larger during my stay, were petrol prices. But that’s not entirely unsurprising, the sheer distance between… well, pretty much anything, means that if petrol prices were as high in the US as they are over here, the entire country would be bankrupt within a month. Of course, it doesn’t help that many Americans drive massive trucks and 4x4s that drink more than Johnny Vegas, but then if I had to drive 600 miles to see my family I’d probably want something big to sleep in too.