Douwe Osinga's Blog: The land of the brave and the free (and the uniform)

Monday, April 19, 2004

This morning I returned from a trip to the US. We flew into San Francisco and worked our way downto Las Vegas, which took about 10 days. A great trip in a great country.

Compared to Europe, the US is the same, same but different, like the Cambodians say. What stroke me most, is the appearant uniformity of the US. I'm not saying there are no differences between the West and East or North and South, because obviously there are; they are just amazlingly small.

Take dialects. You can hear if somebody is from the South or has a thick New Yorkian accent, but usually they are still quite understandable. If you compare that with the Netherlands or for that matter probably any European country, you'll find that if somebody from the south appears on TV, he will be subtitled when speaking his dialect, otherwise viewers wouldn't be able to understand him. And deep south here means 200 km or so from the capital (125 miles). The same goes for somebody from the north or east.

Partly this makes the US such a dynamic place. People can just up and leave if they feel like it move thousands of kilometers away, without too much trouble. In some more remote European areas people are still considered outsiders because their families moved there only 200 years ago.

The fact that Americans do move all the time probably keeps it relatively uniform, which it turn allows the easy moving around.