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Pak Tea House » Blogroll, Citizens, culture, Economy, Education, History, Imperialism, Multinational Corporations, USA » Thumbs Down Part I

Thumbs Down Part I

I was in the United States for one month on an exchange program for youth leaders from Pakistan. Apart from innumerable things that I liked while I was there, some aspects of American life did not appeal to me as much as the rest of them. Following are some of those snippets of Daily American Life that I noticed and was not too pleased about.

Extravagance
United States, unlike Pakistan, has abundance of many things, including food and electricity. There is plenty of cheap food available and no load-shedding, unless there are extenuating circumstances like Super Storm Sandy. This abundance manifests itself in form of a lot of left-over food and lack of concern regarding switching the lights off. I belong to a country where I get a maximum of 14 hours electricity, that too on a good day. I was exasperated on observing that very few shops chose to switch off their lights, even when they were supposed to be closed.! This affliction was not limited to the posh areas of Manhattan but was present around the country. Similarly, the food portions were so big that it was almost impossible for one person to finish the whole portion. Despite that much left-over food, millions of Americans remain without adequate food.

Smoke on the streets
It was a pleasure to note that smoking is banned inside most buildings in the U.S. The fallout though is that people smoke on the streets. The streets of New York especially were full of smokers, puffing away on their cigarettes. For a country that prides itself on the value of ‘personal space’, something should be done to restrict the smoke in the open. In some parts of Europe, and at some International airports around the world, designated spots for smokers are present, a model that can be used in the U.S as well. According to Center for Disease Control(CDC), 443,000 Americans die of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke each year(As a comparison, about 100,000 people die annually from diseases caused by use of tobacco in Pakistan).

Too much plastic?

It was my last day in San Francisco and I didn’t have a printed copy of my train ticket. I went to the hotel business center and asked for instructions. I was told to use my credit card. I did not possess a credit card so I tried using a debit card. It was of no use. I went to the information desk, concierge and the reception office, only to be told at each of those places that unless I use a credit card, there is not much they can do about it. A friend of mine later said, Cash is preferred by only two types of people here. Those who are trying to evade tax and those doing some shady bussiness. I belonged to none of these, but found it strange that amid so much advancement, there is no backup plan.!! What if the credit card system stops working for one day? That, as I can verify from experience, would be the true Doomsday experience for Americans.

Sugar without sweetness?

For a chai/coffee addict like myself, appropriate amount of sweetness in the beverage is crucial. The packs of sugar available at most coffee shops were simply NOT sweet enough. Normally, I prefer low sugar in my chai/coffee but even 3 packs of those sugar packs were not sweet enough at times. Someone along the way pointed out that artificial sweeteners(the ones without Calories) are the solution to my particular problem. They were. And the best thing was their ready availability.

Consumerism

Consumerism means “the pre occupation of a society with buying goods”. I have a lot of qualms with this idea, the details of which I don’t want to divulge. I was in the U.S during the height of this maniacal pre occupation with buying things, i.e. on Black Friday. Shops remain closed on Thanksgiving day until late at night. People start lining up outside major retail stores, to be able to buy stuff at discounted prices(This year, a woman set shop outside a store 5 days before Black Friday). As soon as the shops re-open on thanksgiving night, all hell breaks loose. Shopping malls, retail stores, branded shops, electronic retailers’ shops, all of them are filled to capacity with over eager customers. I heard some overtly ridiculous Ads on Radio for products. At the few shopping places that I unwillingly had to visit on Black Friday, the quality of discounted items was mostly pathetic. It was freezing cold with sub zero temperature and strong winds, which didn’t deter the shoppers one bit, it was a matter of life and death for them.  The best deals were on electronic items, although the discounts were marginal(e.g. A 16GB iPod Nano’s price was 150 dollars before sale, on Black Friday it was being sold for 140 dollars.). I left those stores a happy person, my convictions getting reinforced.

Nothing in life is free
This important lesson was reinforced during my time in the Capitalist Heaven that is the United States. In different cities, even the shopping bags were charged, at different prices. At a few places, we had to pay for ketchup along with the chips that we got. There were very few places with Free Wi-Fi service, unlike in Pakistan where plenty of people are still living off their neighbors’ Wi-Fi. The tipping system at restaurants initially baffled us, because we had almost never calculated the Tip with such measure back in Pakistan. Even the costumed characters on Times Square asked for ‘Tips’ if you got a picture or two with them.

 

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27 Responses to "Thumbs Down Part I"

  1. kaalchakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    :)

    Had you seen the place with mine or Rex’s eyes we would have shown you many more things wrong, but I forgive you :)

    Glad to know you were here on an exchange program. Wonder if you got to travel around. For a place to have so much wrong with it it has to be a pretty big place.

  2. M Ali Khan Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    #FirstWorldProblems

  3. Mohan United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Strange that writer was loking for Pakistan in USA.

  4. Anwar United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    I am glad you did not have to endure this country more than Sayyid Qutb.. who wrote “The America that I Have Seen.” after staying here for two years. You are young and ripe to start a Brotherhood chapter in Pakistan. Good luck.

  5. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    THE WRITER SEEMS TO HAVE HAD SUFFERED FROM ‘CULTURAL SHOCK” DURING HIS VISIT TO AMERICA. HE IS RIGHT BUT AS KC REMARKED THERE ARE MANY MANY MORE ILLTHS IN THE AMERICAN SOCIETY, THE WORST BEING THAT WOMEN ARE TREATED OR MISTREATED LIKE BITHCES!! SURE YOU CAN’T GET A LUNCH FOR FREE BUT GETTING A BITCH IS ALMOST FREE!!! THAT IS THE BIGGEST INSULT TO WOMEN AND HUMANITY!! YOU MIGHT KNOW 40 % OF AMERICANS ARE BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK …IE SINGLE MOTHERS. AS THE AMERICANS GET OLDER THEY TURN TO ‘RELIGION’ OR THE SO CALLED ‘SPIRITUALISM’……THAT MOST OF THE YOUNG GENERATION WILL MOST PROBABLY NEVER BE ABLE TO BUY THEMSELVES A HOUSE FOR THEMSELVES. CONSEQUENTLY MOST OF THE BOYS LIVE IN THEIR PARENT’S HOUSE….
    IT WOULD BE DOOMSDAY FOR THE AMERICANS AND MANY WESTERN COUNTRIES IF MEDICAL AND SOCIAL SECURITY GETS DENIED TO THEM….THERE IS ALEADY HUE AND CRY OVER THE CRUNCH ON MEDICAL BY OBAMA GOVT….ETC
    VISIT ANY AMERICAN OR CANADIAN SOCIAL BLOG OR WEB SITE YOU WILL FIND WOMEN MADLY CRAVING FOR FREEBIES THROUGH COLLECTING POINTS!!

  6. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    @ ANWAR

    THE YOUNG CHAP OBVIOUSLY SUFFERED A CULTURAL SHOCK..BUT IT IS TRUE CASH CARRYING PEOPLE ARE EITHER THOUGHT TO BE VERY RICH OR CREEPY!!
    CARRYING CASH TO BIG DEPARTMENTAL STORES IN MANHATTAN WAS QUITE ENOUGH TO IMPRESS THE ENVIOUS AMERICAN GALS WHO FELT AWED UPON SEEING ME PRESENT THE $100 BILL AT THE CASH COUNTER!!
    SHOP LIFTING IS ALSO QUITE COMMON IN AMERICA ….

  7. AM Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    @Anwar
    I didn’t have similar experience as Mr Qutb and I have no intention/inclination to join/start any kind of Islamist party

  8. Anwar United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    AM, it is becoming amusing by hours and minutes.. AKB can certainly help you start the moral majority movement. Anyway, here is something from my very personal experience.. We often host international graduate students and what I notice among the Pakistani students is that during every conversation they unnecessarily compare Pakistan with US and sing songs of greatness while belittling everything this country has to offer to them (including the graduate assistantships). In a semester time, the bravado is replaced with humility that continues to grow and in a year or so they spill all ills of their native land followed by concerns of how to get job, H-1 visa,green card etc. after graduation. Having seen this behavior repeated over and over, I do not even bother to correct them in their initial stages.. they come to senses. So, after spending only a month, (subtract the travel and acclamation time)- you had hardly enough time to even know the people around and you come up with stunning conclusions that are immature and idiotic.
    So be thankful that Uncle Sam foot the bill of your failed adventure and count your blessings instead. I bet, not in a very distant future you will be standing in long lines desperately seeking visa for this bad and immoral country.

  9. kaalchakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Anwer, my suspicion is that people are misunderstanding AM. He probably shares more with your pov than with mine – since I believe that America, now lacking a true moral foundation – having abandoned its Euro Christian heritage and fallen prey to the world-wide machinations of the Jews – is a doomed nation. AM does not appear to see that quite as clearly.

  10. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    AMA,
    As kaal says you do not have much to complain about. What surprised me is that you talk about united states and not about the towns you visited so that one can guess about the sort of reception you have had. The New yorkers are quite different than the californians or the folks from florida or chicago. The credit cards are status symbols indicatig that the card holder is trust worthy for paying his bills.

    I came across people whom I recognised as arab shopkeepers, filipino bar tenders and cuban and coloured taxi drivers, all claiming to be americans. This was a shock to me though later I learned that they all ha one thing in common friendly an generous. they would not accept my credit card and offered me free refreshing drinks in the bar at the airport, while I waited for the connecting domestic flight.

    Rex Minor

  11. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    Kaal,
    what you said is not usualy felt by those who are travelling the first time in the great land. This one comes across in the second trip when one has a couple of weeks living with the locals, who do not speak either mexican or hispanic dialect and at the same time starts complaining about everything.

    Rex Minor

  12. kaalchakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Rex, it has never ceased to amaze me – how easily otherwise intelligent people are taken in by the simplest of appearances. What greater evidence do we need to see that extremely foolish, absurd, and even downright evil ideas can quickly preponderate and be endlessly perpetuated when some people are willing to articulate them with a straight face.

  13. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    All here…

    Just loosen the administrative and legal control in America and you will be shocked to see most Americans doing worse than the Talibans!!
    Nothing but the chains of good administration, excellent organization and the rule of law makes them behave…….which unfortunately is lacking in poor countries. As regards Morals…yeah! It’s the ubiquitous pleasure of sex…doesn’t matter if it is illegal!!
    .

  14. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    here again….

    .
    If you happen to find a house with bad neighbor your life would end up in hell!! American make most intolerant and brutal neighbors. So, when in America make strong fences…
    ,
    AMA has not told us whether he went to see the ‘peep shows’ at the 42nd street or the nude shows around most of the streets where young chics please you in the nude for a few dimes…whole weekend as well as some working days!!Dico;s are mad houses of drunken and doped swines and bitches….and cacophony of bands will burst your ears(unless you too were drunk and semi conscious!))

    ,

    But the good thing I like about Americans that they WORK and give good output….

  15. NDelhi Singapore Internet Explorer Windows says:

    “Just loosen the administrative and legal control in America and you will be shocked to see most Americans doing worse than the Talibans!!”

    This is a strange sentence or rather claim. They haven’t reached this stage thru some divine dictates , as a society they developed those checks and balances over time and stuck to it. They do not preach morals to others and as arule provide equal human rights to sex worker also …. you muslims need to grow to even understand the concept of equality may be some day when you guys can use more than 18% of your brain probably!!

  16. Dronacharya Saudi Arabia Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    DO NOT BEG.DO NOT TAKE LOANS. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS. Once you start begging/living off loans, you have to mortgage your ‘freedom’ as collateral. Remember that always.

    IF people’s faith in the system (Leaders) goes to dogs., the system in SE Asia (Indo-Pak-Bangla) will collapse. People will break the law of the land (as they are doing presently. Shivsena/Modi are supra-Constitutional !). The system would crumble. Result is Anarchy.

    Hindu Anarchy in India – Muslim Anarchy in Pakistan. It would become a no-man’s land or a free-fall !

    Ram Singh and Yogesh + his 6 friends have raped a girl (probably Muslim) in a moving Bus in New Delhi. Now these criminals will get out on bail (Rs. 5000/-) and the case will drag on for 45 yrs. Maybe the victim will die (or is already dead – but they are not disclosing !). I have a gut feeling, the victim is a “muslim” girl.

  17. kaalchakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    NDelhi

    The point being made is that American ‘morality’ is based on social fear; it has not been internalized. I too think that in absence of an internalized code of conduct, given half a chance, Americans would behave like RAM LAL of RSS who brutally raped the poor Muslim girl in the moving Delhi bus.

  18. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    NDelhi,

    AKB has a point, though by and large I find Americans with European ancestory dynamics, very friendly, hospitable and generous and very good neighbours.

    It is also prudent not to deny the reality and remain informed of what is happening in ones own backyard. India has now been declared the worst country among the G20 for a woman to be born in. BJP is proposing to introduce sharia to curb this plague of gang rapes.

    Equaly, there are parts in the USA where the 7th century sharia is practiced: Alcohal is prohibited; one can shoot down the next if one feels threatened, with the approval of the law. There are places where even Obama will get discriminated and is likely to be refused a drink despite his claim of Irish/Kenyan/muslim/american ancestory. I have spent vacations where the coloureds were not allowed to cross over the bridge after darkess. Everything which glitters is not gold. The Amish people and the Mormons are unique homosapiens in the world; both communities reside in USA. There are more home bugalaries in the UK than in USA, since most Brits do not have a gun in their houses,whereas there is practicaly none in the USA without a load of weapons at home. The taliban country is the most peaceful one since their operations are usualy outside their territory whereas the yanks start their rampage on home grounds before they spread it to their community istitutions.

    We in Europe have come a long way before we abondoned violence and opted for peace and thank heavens for that though there are still lunatics around and they do strike all of a sudden.

    Rex Minor

  19. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    Kaal,

    Well said, but let us not forget that the american lawmen have taken more people off the roads and put them away in Prisons than any other coutry in the world. The third largest employer in the USA is the Prison establishment. This country is heading to become one day as the largest African and Hispanic territory on earth. Most of my friends have left the land and now live in Australia, which is more or less the country which America was in good old days. The country with its everglades and two seas which protects the land are no more reliable; a earth tremmor in california and tropical storms one day are going to turn Pacific into an active ocean meeting the roaring Atlatic and make the wonderland into an udersea citadel.

    Rex Minor

  20. AbdulMajeedAbid Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @Rex

    I visited NYC, Washington DC, Atlanta, San Fransisco, St Louis and Chicago. Apart from the east coast-west coast difference, I didn’t find anything separating the Americans that I met. One of the most truthful people I met was in Atlanta, he was the son of one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s drivers. He was of the opinion that the Democracy in U.S is not exactly a democracy, the number of African Americans in Jails and the biases continue to be part of the American Psyche. I have been reading a book ‘Islam in America’ by Prof Akbar Ahmad for the last few days and by reading the history of the ‘American Identity’, a lot of my questions have been answered.
    The crime rate is definitely high there, particularly in the DC Area, which was something that perturbed me. Personally, I observed that most of the people in service industry(working behind the counters at fast food chains and working as doormen/guards at monuments) were African Americans.

    @Anwar
    You can criticize my nit-picking, I have not stated anywhere that I HATED the U.S, I have simply written down some of the observations that I made during the visit. You can’t have any place that is perfect(or at least that is what i think). btw I agree with your observation about Pakistani students bitching about everything initially and later dreaming of living in the US forever later.

  21. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    Remember All the Children, Mr. President
    by BILL QUIGLEY

    Remember the 20 children who died in Newton Connecticut.

    Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments.

    Remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006.

    Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year.

    Remember the 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year.

    Remember the 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq.

    Remember the 1,770 US children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment.

    Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.

    These tragedies must end.

    Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

  22. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    AKB,

    You said it! It woud seem that some one has written an article in NY times that the suicide commandoes have a lot common in their psyche with those who undertake mass murders of schol children. I agree with him and in one of my comments in Express Tribune have challenged that the same commonality of psyche exists with that of Barack Obama and Ehud Barak(who has since resigned). let the American Brain specialists and Psychologists research the DNA and gene analysis of the three to identify the common anamoly and this could provide the medical treatment for the three.

    Rex Minor

  23. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    AMA,
    Martin Luther King JR was a womaniser an so was JFKennedy! The kkk and FBI under Hoover had no liking for womanisers! Just a piece of history.

    Rex Minor

  24. Anwar United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    AMA – just a friendly advice – instead of wasting time on S. Akbar Ahmed, read Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville to understand this country. Regarding crimes, I do not think you personally experienced any – someone just told you not to go to South or West side of the town for gang violence – this is true in many parts of large Pakistani cities also. I never said you hated this country – how could you? This is your future – isn’t it?
    Regarding most African Americans doing low wage jobs – I bet you are very sensitive – can you explain why and how all sweepers and cleaning people hired by municipal committees and/or city dwellers in Pakistan somehow are so called “low class” people? – Christians, to be more honest! Visit their slums in the capital or Lahore.
    Grow up!

  25. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    Anwar,

    I would not take AMA observatios too criticaly; it was his first impression which may be different from others or when he travels next. It is always interestig to know how peoples mind react to what they see and observe the first time. He has seen too many afros in service industry, this is good and probably due to the afro President. I have seen them hanging around without any jobs, waiting to pounce on some innocent passers by or a tourist. I have seen them in Detroit and then in Miami where people of dark skins make street walks unsafe while across in Canada a very peaceful world. I have seen people being allowed to carry weapons while shopping in the blue grass country, and hardly an afro in service industry. America is a large cuntry made up of many Nations.

    Rex Minor

  26. [...] (Read Part I Here) I was in the United States for one month on an exchange program for youth leaders from Pakistan. Apart from innumerable things that I liked while I was there, some aspects of American life did not appeal to me as much as the rest of them. Following are some of those snippets of Daily American Life that I noticed and was not too pleased about. [...]

  27. mohan United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Iran Army downs two RQ drones: Iran cmdr.

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