You know that old saying “sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees”?  The rough translation is that sometimes we become so focused on whatever is right in front of us that we miss everything else that’s going on.  Our blinders get in the way.  It’s so true.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been so focused on reaching my destination that I’ve totally missed all the neat things to see along the way. 

I think the same kind of “filtering” applies to the United States.  We live here, and that means we live with the challenges – the traffic, the pollution, the 24-hour news cycle.  And maybe we forget all the great stuff we’ve got here.  As a Foreign Service Officer, I think I might be able to see and appreciate this more than most because I spend so much time overseas.  Although anyone who has spent a significant amount of time outside of the U.S. could do the same.  As much as I love traveling and living overseas – and I have had lots of fun – I think it’s made me love and appreciate the U.S. even more. 

I’m still feeling the Independence Day love, so consider this post my Top 10 List of Things I Luuurrrve About the United States!  (This list will not include stuff like democracy, rule of law, equal opportunity, etc. because – obviously).  And tell me what you love.

  1. American TV.  I love that there are channels devoted to golf, to home improvement, to WWII!  I may not watch all of these channels, but I love the fact that I could if I wanted to.  I love that if I’m feeling bored and lazy on a Sunday afternoon, I can scroll through the channel guide and find something to entertain me.  I love that we recognize that sometimes, other nationalities do it better, and that’s why we have BBC America and Univision and all of the other channels out there.  And I especially love that I can usually find an episode of “Law & Order” on some channel, somewhere.
  2. Big box stores.  I know they can be a pain sometimes, but you learn to appreciate them after you’ve spent three years going from little shop to little shop to buy your dinner:  fruits and vegetables here, dairy there, meat someplace else.  There are times when I really love the fact that I can buy apples, free weights, and motor oil all in one place.
  3. American consumerism.  I love that my grocery store is open until 10 or 11 PM, that Wendy’s is open late on weekends, and that it’s totally normal for stores to be open on Sunday.  You have no idea how many times I walked to the market in my Roman neighborhood on Sundays only to discover that it was closed.  (Because I’m a slow learner).  Don’t get me wrong – I also recognize that it might be better if we weren’t such a 24/7 culture, but I do appreciate it when I decide that I must have a bag of Funyuns on Sunday at 3PM.
  4. Online bill pay.  Love this.  This is so great for someone like me who is overseas a lot.  And it sucks to have to stand in line at the post office to pay your bills (I’m looking at you, Italy).
  5. Ethnic restaurants.  I bet that in almost every city in the U.S., you can find an ethnic restaurant.  In the DC area there are hundreds – if not thousands.  If I feel like eating Mexican today, my biggest problem is figuring out which Mexican restaurant (and I don’t mean Taco Bell).  America’s the land of immigrants, and it shows in our restaurants.  I love that.
  6. Washington, DC:  our nation’s capital.  I love this town and I feel really lucky to work here and live nearby.  It’s a great town, and I love the fact that there’s so much to do here that’s FREE.  You don’t have a lot of cash?  No worries – visit the Smithsonian Museums, go the National Zoo, have a seat in one of the parks and people-watch.  DC’s not perfect, but it’s still a great place to be. 
  7. I love American accents and idioms.  And I love that sometimes we can’t understand each other.  I love that we say “y’all” in the South and “youse guys” in NY and “you” someplace else.  I know accents aren’t unique to the United States, but I still love to hear ours:  from the southern drawl to the flats of the Midwest to the classic New York-speak.  I just love it. 
  8. American music.  I don’t think I appreciated it until I saw and heard the appreciation of non-Americans.  Think about it:  America is responsible for some really terrific sounds.  Jazz.  Bluegrass.  Country/Western.  Hip hop.  Rock.  And we keep innovating. 
  9. American order.  This might sound like a strange thing to appreciate, but I really do love the fact that (for the most part) Americans respect lines and lanes.  If you walk into a crowded Starbuck’s, rest assured there will be a line.  Lots of traffic on the road?  Every car will be in its lane.  You don’t always find this in other countries.
  10. Humor.  I think every culture has its own humor.  Sometimes it doesn’t translate well.  I’m a horrible joke-teller in English; imagine how much worse I am in another language and culture!  I love that, in the U.S., if I tell the story correctly, people will get my snark.  They may not think it’s especially witty, but they “get” it. 

So, notwithstanding the occasional rant about the Metro and my generally nomadic lifestyle, I really love this country. 

Now watch:  some jerk will cut in front of me at Starbuck’s and the love affair will be over.