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Home thoughts from abroad; a postcard from America


Oh to be in England, now September’s here? Not really, no.

I’m taking a few minutes of quiet time in between business and the essential hospitality that goes with it, at least it does more so here in the USA that maybe back home. Shortly I will be back on show when my host’s guests start to arrive and we get down to some serious socializing and, it has to be said, networking.

So, home thoughts from abroad? For me this is more home than home in the sense of where I live. Yes I know that I am British, and I am proud of that, but I am more at home here in the US than I am back in Wiltshire and, if I had the chance, I’d set up home here for good.

For me there is a lot about America that we have seen wiped out in the UK. People do care about each other here and there is a much greater sense of community spirit. In many ways it is like the England that I grew up in in the 1950s and 1960s. Nostalgia may not be what it used to be, but I am nostalgic for a time when people were far less self centred; my Monday Musing last week talked of the Musketeer’s motto of “One for all and all for one”. So much of what I see back home is more like one for all and every one for themselves.

Here there is a much simpler attitude in most people, and it shows up in the way that I am being looked after. The whole concept of me being over here and staying alone in a hotel is an anathema to the people that I’m meeting, so a range of hospitality gets lined up for me to meet families and friends.  This isn’t expense account stuff either; it is a genuine desire to welcome a stranger and look after them.

Back home people often mock the “have a nice day” culture, but here it is, in most cases, genuine. This morning I went for a walk down a couple of blocks to buy a newspaper. I’d not got far before I fell into step with someone heading the same way. By the time we got to the news stand I knew his name, what he did, the names of his wife and his children and how they were doing at school and he’d had broadly equivalent information from me. When I used to commute into London by train there would be the same herd of us heading off to the station each morning for the run into Liverpool Street, but in three years of doing that I got to talk to two other people. Everyone else just kept their heads down and ignored those around them.

The Americans bring this warmth into much of business, whether that be BtoB or BtoC. In most cases there is a real need to give the customer service that goes a bit further and that’s great. It makes doing business a pleasure. Sure they are hard negotiators, and yes there are sharks, but doing a deal here is a very different experience to doing one back home.

Maybe some of this is just because it is a change for me. It’s nearly a year since I was last over and it could just be the grass being greener on this side of the hill. Maybe I would find it less attractive if I was here full time. Maybe not, and I have to come home soon anyway.

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