America the really fucking weird.

Pandagon just had an article about overdraft fees, and this inspired me to list all the things I discovered when moving to the US which I found really weird, annoying and often primitive:

1)To pay your rent and utility bills, you actually have to go to their offices, or those special bill-pay stations in grocery stores. (automatic bill pay from your banking account is NOW the big new thing Wells Fargo is trying to get me to sign me up for)

2)Checks. Probably in existence because of 1), and because there’s no such thing as bank-to-bank transfer.

3)On cellphones, you pay for incoming calls, too.

4)All prices are given without the tax, so being able to calculate percentages in your head (and remembering what gets taxed and what doesn’t, and at what rate) is essential when shopping on a budget.

5)Credit. As in: you need to already be in debt in order to be able to get even deeper into debt; or even do something basic like getting a phone with a contract, rather than a pre-paid.

6)Salespeople on commission; they’re like a pest, especially when you’re a girl in an electronics store; and they STILL don’t actually know shit about the stuff they’re selling.

7)Restaurant service that verges on harassment at times

8)Sporks. Though, I now like sporks for camping; especially those ultimate sporks that also include a knife. They’re like little swiss army knifes, but for eating with.

9)three different kinds of artificial sweetener. everywhere.

10)Liquor stores; especially those with very limited opening hours.

11)Toploading washing machines with like three washing options (cold, warm, hot)

12)Upright Vacuums.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

There’s also a handful of things I liked more about being over here, but they didn’t cause the same level of culture shock :-p

1)At restaurants, being actually able to complain if there’s something wrong with the food; also, the ability to take leftovers home with me.

2)ATM’s everywhere. Whenever I get back to Europe, finding a way to get at my money is always a big pain in the ass. But maybe I’m just not looking in the right spots…

3)grocery stores that are open 24/7

4)Better format for university courses/degrees

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16 comments on “America the really fucking weird.

  1. Helen Krummenacker says:

    Hi, followed your name here from PZ’s blog, because of your question about black beads. Have you tried Rings N Things selection of hematite? (You have to have a retailer’s number to shop there, though.) They have massive selection of man-made hematite, including moons, stars, hexagons, etc as well as normal spheres, cylinders, cubes, etc. I’d have answered you on site but I could never get the registration to work, forcing me to lurk.
    Other than that, there’s glass, of course; blackstone; and more expensively black onyx or jet.

    Oh, I thought your name was familiar– I’m Samantha Vimes on Pandagon.

  2. David Marjanović says:

    To pay your rent and utility bills, you actually have to go to their offices, or those special bill-pay stations in grocery stores. (automatic bill pay from your banking account is NOW the big new thing Wells Fargo is trying to get me to sign me up for)

    :-o

    In France, checks still exist and are used a lot*, but even there, most places let you pay your rent by bank transfer, and the same holds for most or all utility providers.

    * There are even people who use checks to pay for their groceries. Takes forever, is scarily common, doubles the length of the queue, but nobody complains…

    Credit. As in: you need to already be in debt in order to be able to get even deeper into debt; or even do something basic like getting a phone with a contract, rather than a pre-paid.

    Scary.

    They’re like little swiss army knifes, but for eating with.

    There are, in fact, Swiss army knives with a spoon and a fork in them. We have one :-)

    three different kinds of artificial sweetener. everywhere.

    In the EU, artificial sweeteners are approved for pig fattening. I’m just saying.

    The mechanism is that mammals (unlike insects) crank up their metabolism as soon as they taste sweet; when the promised calories don’t come because it isn’t sugar, the result is a hunger attack.

    And of course, the only thing I can imagine being done about this is what Walton would call “coercive action”, which isn’t going to happen unless Obama miraculously does turn into a socialist. For people to vote with their wallets, that requires them to know enough about the issue, and then it requires at least one company that offers food without such sweeteners…

    11)Toploading washing machines with like three washing options (cold, warm, hot)

    12)Upright Vacuums.

    These are two of the cases where an invention was made and popularized in the USA before it spread elsewhere. As a result, the rest of the world started at 2.0 or 3.0, while the US is still stuck with 1.0 (because you don’t change a running system, especially if it’s cheaper to produce than the upgraded version). Another example is color TV and the reason why the Simpsons are yellow.

    ATM’s everywhere. Whenever I get back to Europe, finding a way to get at my money is always a big pain in the ass. But maybe I’m just not looking in the right spots…

    That must be it, because I see them everywhere. Every bank has one or three, usually (though not always) on the outside of the building and thus accessible 24/7; some big stores have one; some stand around in other public places, for example there’s one in the train station in Katowice… The biggest trouble I ever had finding one was in Brussels (a disorganized city where I had never been before), and even there the problem was just to find a bank that didn’t happen to have its lunch break just then.

    Better format for university courses/degrees

    What does that mean?

  3. Paul says:

    1)

    Must be a ND thing? Never seen that in California.

    In France, checks still exist and are used a lot*, but even there, most places let you pay your rent by bank transfer, and the same holds for most or all utility providers.

    I wouldn’t want to authorize a landlord to withdraw money from my bank account directly. Are people in Europe that trusting?

    Credit. As in: you need to already be in debt in order to be able to get even deeper into debt; or even do something basic like getting a phone with a contract, rather than a pre-paid.

    Scary.

    Using credit is not (necessarily) synonymous with being in debt (although many people do use it that way). I have a good credit rating and I’ve never bought anything that I didn’t at the time have sufficient funds to pay for (it’s a rule I’ve always held myself to). You do, however, need to actually use credit to improve your credit.

    6)Salespeople on commission; they’re like a pest, especially when you’re a girl in an electronics store; and they STILL don’t actually know shit about the stuff they’re selling.

    I know it’s awfully rude, but I just ignore them completely. If I don’t have a good idea of what I want before I go to the store, I’m not ready to purchase anything and would just be wasting their time anyway.

    For people to vote with their wallets, that requires them to know enough about the issue, and then it requires at least one company that offers food without such sweeteners…

    I believe Jadehawk is referring to packets of sweeteners, which people generally use in drinks. There’s yellow, blue, and pink (sometimes white for actual sugar). At least, that’s what came to mind for me. These are also used in diet sodas and such, of course (although the only two I can name off the top of my head are Splenda and aspartame).

  4. Jadehawk says:

    “I wouldn’t want to authorize a landlord to withdraw money from my bank account directly. Are people in Europe that trusting?

    has nothing to do with trust. they can’t just randomly withdraw money; it’s a set up bill that you pay directly from your bank account. SO much more convenient than the American way, where you physically have to hand your physical landlord physical payment. In Germany, all this stuff (rent, electricity etc.) was automatically withdrawn from your checking account. American banks are finally starting to offer that, too, btw.

    oh, and that reminds me of a different thing that annoyed me: the huge effort it takes to set up direct deposit for your paycheck. the ridiculousness of having to physically go to your job on your day off to pick up physical payment is so 19th century :-p

    And the thing where you have to go and pay your bills is something I discovered in California, so it can’t be just a ND thing.

    “I believe Jadehawk is referring to packets of sweeteners, which people generally use in drinks. There’s yellow, blue, and pink (sometimes white for actual sugar).”

    yup, that’s what I meant.

  5. Jadehawk says:

    “What does that mean?”

    do you remember the “extra credit” discussion on The Thread…?

  6. Jadehawk says:

    oh! on the issue of artificial sweeteners in food though, Pepsi has now this “Throwback” thing going, where they boldly advertise on the packaging that it’s made with REAL sugar. so there’s at least some very limited market pressure to get HFCS out of food. Probably prompted by the popularity of Mexican Coke and such companies like Jones Soda.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    I wouldn’t want to authorize a landlord to withdraw money from my bank account directly. Are people in Europe that trusting?

    As Jadehawk said, it’s more like the other way around: by signing the rent contract, I tell the bank to send a fixed sum of money to the landlord’s account at regular intervals… that’s not exactly how it works, strictly speaking, but any attempt to withdraw more than that would be a way too obvious crime. After all, I’m informed of all activities of my bank account.

    These are also used in diet sodas and such, of course

    That’s normal, diet Coke and diet Pepsi are literally sold around the world except in North Korea. :-)

    the ridiculousness of having to physically go to your job on your day off to pick up physical payment

    :-D :-D :-D

    do you remember the “extra credit” discussion on The Thread…?

    Strangely, no. Link, please.

    they boldly advertise on the packaging that it’s made with REAL sugar

    :-D

    Completely off-topic: check your e-mail.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    packets of sweeteners, which people generally use in drinks

    OIC.

    What’s the difference in format of university courses/degrees?

  9. Jadehawk says:

    e-mail checked.

    I’ll look for the link to the extra credit conversation later… no time now.

    but the short answer to your question is that I feel American universities are far more flexible and interactive than European ones.

  10. David Marjanović says:

    the short answer to your question is that I feel American universities are far more flexible and interactive than European ones.

    That probably depends a lot on the country. In Austria university is flexible to the point of being disorganized; in France it’s highschool 2.0, completely straitjacketed…

  11. Jadehawk says:

    well, if I’m ever going back to Europe to study, I know where I’m going ;-)

    I was specifically comparing it to the British system btw, wince that’s the one I have the most direct and indirect experience with.

  12. Jadehawk says:

    wince, since, whatever. bedtime, methinks.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    British? Direct experience? You’ve studied in the UK???

    Different topic: by the time you’ll wake up, this will be gone from the “latest posts from ResearchBlogging” widget at ScienceBlogs, so I’m posting the link here. It’s about the corporatocracy… I haven’t followed the links in it, but it all sounds intriguing.

  14. Jadehawk says:

    “British? Direct experience? You’ve studied in the UK???”

    not physically in the UK. This is the internet-age, remember? No, I’ve taken a couple of these, and various comments from British students seem to indicate that my experience with them corresponds pretty well with what they experience in more traditional settings :-p

  15. Katrina says:

    I/we’ve had direct deposit for first my, and now my husband’s paycheck since the early ’90s. Maybe it’s just the military, but as I recall, direct deposit was “strongly encouraged” back then and is probably mandatory now.

    I pay all my bills online, through my bank. It uses CheckFree Corporation’s system, so that even businesses/people who aren’t set up to handle electronic transfer can get paid. CheckFree will cut them a check and mail it to them, at no extra charge to me.

    The only times when I’ve had to hand carry payments were when I lived overseas. In Japan, the phone and hmm, something else – can’t remember anymore – I had to pay at the local Spar Tree. All our other bills had to be taken to the telephone office on the base.

    In Italy, our only bill was the house phone. Again, Telecom Italia had a “receiving” office on the base, where we had to bring payments. Check only: the “cashiers” weren’t allowed to handle cash, and they wouldn’t take credit cards.

    Never had a problem finding ATMs. Except in Istanbul, and Tunisia.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve taken a couple of these

    Oho! Interesting!

    I just found an e-mail that had ended up in my spam folder. It’s from the ISP I had in France. They regret to inform me that they lack the capability to do bank transfers (!!!), so I’ll receive the check that pays my caution back within two months.

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