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Living in England as an American expat is an exercise in diplomacy and restraint. It's about using your "inside voice" even when you feel like using your outside voice. On a good day I like to try to chip away at America's cultural hegemony one considerate decision at a time. ("Yes, I do prefer Amy Winehouse to Lady Gaga, don't you?") On a bad day I just try to avoid asking too many café waiters what exactly they expected to be the fate of an empire that failed to adopt grilled cheese and sushi lunch specials. I try to appreciate difference rather than exerting dominance. A lot of the time.
But every once in a while there's a difference that goes beyond difference. A situation where there's a clear right and wrong, and London gets it wrong. Clothes dryers that don't vent to the outdoors, say. And the laws about snow shoveling. Definitely the snow shoveling laws. That's where I get a little screamy.
Where I used to live, and probably where you live, you're required to shovel your sidewalk. If you don't, and someone slips and gets hurt, you're liable. That way, sidewalks get cleared within a day or so after it snows, and life goes on. Here? You're only liable if you do shovel and someone gets hurt. Consequently, no one shovels. And after it snows two inches, the sidewalks look like this for days or sometimes weeks.
You field a lot of requests for new ice skates from the peanut gallery. You hesitate before buying that fragile bottle of red wine to bring home. You amortize your law degree, which is currently "resting," by teaching your kids about how a legal system should encourage good and not idiotic behavior. Maybe you also teach them a few new words after you've slipped for the fifteenth time on the short walk to school. Life and its joys grind to a halt.
That's when—because what else can you do?—you go home and escape to the tropics. Fire up the juicer and create a sweet and breezy-tasting blend of tropical fruits. Infuse it with the goodness of a whole bag of spinach, which you'd only know is there from the vibrant color it imparts. Close your eyes. Take a sip. Breathe deeply. And remember that difference is almost always a good thing.
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