A Happy New Year to all AICDP members. I hope the festive season was as enjoyable as possible and that you’re looking forward to 2024. For me, I ventured back to the motherland to be with family during the holidays and thought I’d give an impression of the good old U.S. of A.
The first thing that everyone gets wrong about the United States is that it is assumed that we’re all the same regardless of from which part of the U.S. we hail. I lost count of how many times whilst living in the UK that, when someone hears my accent and realises that I’m not a local boy, they say to me, “oh, I’ve been to America”. I say “great, which part ?”. Without fail, 95% of Brits respond “Florida”.
Oddly enough, this is where I spent the holiday season as my father retired to Florida 26 years ago (stereotypically American, I know). I’m not originally from Florida so visiting this state or any other is as much of a cultural experience as visiting anywhere in Europe. The only thing that unites Americans is the language (despite the differing accents and wide use of Spanish), the currency and the retail chains. It’s a bit like how Bill Bryson described the UK in his book, “Notes from a Small Island”; “ British towns are like a deck of cards that have been shuffled and endlessly redealt; same cards, different order.” Things are pretty much the same in the States when it comes to retail & food chains.
Also, in the UK & Europe in 2023 there was an enormous amount of news & discussion on the “cost of living crisis” but in the U.S. I didn’t see or hear any substantive media coverage nor did I see consumers being shy with their wallets. The main thing people moaned about was the cost of petrol (or “gas” in local vernacular) despite being lower than the prior 2 years. However, the prices at the supermarket and at restaurants was noticeably higher than my previous visits but that didn’t seem to dampen consumer spending or patronage.
The U.S. economy has proven to be extremely resilient. In 2023, more than 2.7m jobs were created and workers saw their hourly pay rise by 4.1 %; above headline inflation, which was 3.4% in the 12 months to December. They don’t really have much to complain about when it comes to the economy.
Also as in addition to the UK General Election which is expected to be held this year, there will be a U.S. Presidential election which is forecasted to be the most contentious and maliciously fought in history. In Europe, it is also widely expected that Ursula von der Leyen will seek a 2nd term as European Commission president so if you suffer from politicophobia you’re in for a rough ride !
On that note, as I was in a mainly Republican state, I was unlucky enough to encounter some ardent Trump supporters. They’re a proud bunch as demonstrated by their big red “MAGA” hats, t-shirts, bumper stickers and willingness to discuss their love for the man at every turn. They LOVE to talk about how great the country was under Trump and about how bad the country is under Biden. However (whatever your political views), overall, I didn’t see a country in a crisis. In fact, life seemed to carry on pretty much as it has always been. Granted, I was in a retirement community in the “Sunshine State” so that most likely had an impact on the overall mood of the populace.
Now, that I’m back to the “real world”, I am looking forward to 2024 as it is set to be a year like no other on both sides of “the pond”.
“When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.” – George Carlin