America As Seen by Britons
(I = Interviewer S = Sheila B=Bob)
I. How long did you live in the States?
B. We were there for two and half years, in New York.
I. And did you enjoy it?
S. Oh. tremendously. We had a wonderful time.
B. Yes, what I liked best was that I could work and still lead a normal life. I mean, the shops are open till 10 o’clock.
I. All shops?
S. Yes, everything, food shops, chemist’s…
B. There’s a huge department store called Gimbles on 86th Street that was open till 9.00.
S. And some supermarkets are open twenty-four hours a day. Most shops don’t open as early in England, well they don’t open until about 10 or 11 in the morning.
B. Yes, that’s right.
S. Because they all work much later. And everything’s open on Sundays.
B. And the holidays, the public holidays are much shorter than here, and in the States only the banks are shut. Everything else stays open, so it makes life much easier. You could do what you liked when you liked.
S. And it was easier with the children, because I could wait till you got back and we did the shopping together, didn’t we?
B. Yes. I see. Do you think New York is as cosmopolitan as London?
S. Oh yes, but it’s not as mixed. Nationalities stay in their own areas; like there’s the Ukrainian section, the Russian section…
B. … the German section. We were in German Town, York Town, which is called German Town. And there was a row of German shops, all German-speaking.
B. But you didn’t find that anywhere else. And the Ukrainians were down on 14th and 2nd, and the Spanish kept to Spanish Harlem.
S. I think the major difference was the height of the place. Everything was up. We lived on the twenty-ninth floor.
B. And I worked on the sixty-third floor.
S. But I like heights. And of course everything is faster.
And the people are much ruder.
B. Which means of course that we’re much ruder ourselves now we’re back in Britain.
I. Oh, in what ways?
B. Well, pushing in the street.
S. Oh, Idon’t!
B. Fights about getting on the bus. No good old British queues.
I. But, are all Americans like that?
S. Oh yes. Well, all New Yorkers anyway. Not so much in other places. When we went to California it was very different. There weren’t the same pressures at all, were there?
B. I think we were aware that New York is quite a dangerous place. We never had any problems at all. but when there was a crime, it was horrendous.
S. Oh yes, the subways are unusable. They’re dirty, uncomfortable.
I. Did you make many friends?
S. Well, that’s what’s interesting really. We made more friends there than we have after two years of living here. I think Americans are more open, they. you know, they speak their minds, so if they don’t like something, they actually tell you directly. Not like the British, who might think one thing and say another. So I suppose you could say that the English are ruder than the Americans.
B. Or that they’re less honest.
B. Something else. We’re actually moving from here back into London to try to find the things we liked in New York, but I don’t suppose we’ll find them.