Friday, October 3, 2008

What I like about America (August 27, 2007)

Often in my blog, I compare living in the US with how I lived in Belgium and note the difference. Most things are just that, different, not better or not worse. In other things, I prefer the Belgium way, sometimes because I genuinely think it is better, sometimes just because that is what I am used to. One of the questions that people asked me a year ago when I had just arrived was "So, what do you think of the US?" which was always strange to answer, because you were still overwhelmed with everything that was new and different. Now, a year later, they often ask, what do you like most here? That is by now a bit easer to answer, so today I want to bring up four that I like very much here in the US, and think are done better than in Belgium. When I say 'the US', I am of course generalising. I have only visited Saint Louis Missouri, and have lived for just over a year in South Carolina, so I guess my list of 'likes' will be distinctly Southern.
First of all, I love the way that a stranger is welcomed here. People are interested in where they came from, why they are here, and above all, interested in making them feel welcome. The way my parish community embraced me and truely brought me a feeling of being surounded by people that I know very quickly is unbelievable.
Secondly, I love the helping hand that is being reached out for whatever reason, funerals, babies that are born, small emergencies... people that you have seen only a handful of time at meetings are there to offer their assistance or at the very least do not find it weird that you are asking for it. In Belgium you would only dare ask your very best friends to come and help you move. Here you mention it in the community and there come the helping hands.
Thirdly, I love the green, even in the city. There are so many parks, trees, little garden nooks... everyone seems to understand that those bits of green are important! In every town that I visit in the South, I see trees, parks and places to play. In Europe, an unbroken history of building has taken it's toll. Especially in Belgium where they say everyone is born with a brick in his stomach.
Fourth, I like the numerous volunteer oportunities. The semi professional way that many organisations work, and the genuine commitment of people to make the world a better place. Volunteers, even in the harshest fields, are often the least cynical of people. While I love the social network that our government has set up in Belgium, because it helps avoid people slip through the cracks or feel embarrassed about a temporary setback, it does not give others the oportunity to reach out as much, or to have the very real feeling that they can actually help make the world a better place.

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