26 August 2018

UK vs USA

Having visited England for six years prior to moving here two and a half years ago, I do believe I can make an honest assessment between the two countries. Many people believe, myself included, that moving between the two countries wouldn’t be that much of a change. I was in for a rude awakening when instead of a visitor, I became a resident. At times, I just wanted to throw in the towel and head back to America with my tail between my legs.

The reason I moved here was because of a lovely British gal and no matter how much I wanted to run away, I wasn’t going to give up on our life together. So I carried on and fought a battle within myself to change what I had learned for over 50 years, to adapt to a new culture and a new way of life.

Admittedly, I still make more than my share of mistakes. Now though, I realize I am the one who needs to adapt, not for a country to adapt to me. Some things were easy to accept and quickly fall in love with. One example would be bacon. Both countries love their bacon. And as an American I can honestly say, you haven’t tasted bacon until you tasted English bacon. Another example with food products is Mountain Dew. The American version of this drink can not be purchased in England. The reason being that one of the preservatives used in it is considered a poison in the UK. To put it simply, all of Europe is a lot stricter with food products than America.

Adapting to food has been one of the more comfortable changes I have had to make. One of the more difficult changes has been employment. From zero hour contracts to contracts in general, work in the UK is more frustrating and in a somewhat bad way, more employee friendly. As an employer, if you have a “bad” employee, it can take forever to fire (sack) him. These employee’s can show up late, leave early and still have a secure job.

The younger generation will work but very few go above and beyond to improve their lives. They know how much to work and when to quit. If they work to much, they can hurt whatever benefits they get from the government. In America, if you work, you may get help with food, in the UK, you can get help with your housing and sometimes travel expenses as well. Some have kids and want to work even less, so they get help with their housing. As and immigrant I am not entitled to any government benefits. Imagine that America. No benefits for immigrants! For me, it is for the first five years that I live here. I consider it one of the smarter things England has done.

Even though, I’m not entitled to any benefits, I am able to receive healthcare. When I moved here I paid a surcharge to have the ability to use the National Health Service (NHS). Now as a working member of the British society I contribute through my taxes to use the NHS as well as help others to have the ability to use it.

This is one expense I have no problem with. I remember back in the 80s when America was giving free breast screenings for woman to look for cancer. Yes, the tests were free, but if you had cancer then you needed money to treat it. Let’s face it. Only the poor people would use this free service. Then when they found out they had cancer there was nothing they could do to treat it.

The reality is that both countries have their own pros and cons. In a very simple nutshell, capitalism says you work to afford things. Mainly though, you work for one benefit – health insurance. One health issue can bankrupt a person. In 2014, I had open heart surgery. The total cost was a quarter of a million dollars. It was also the first year of Obamacare. Without insurance and without Obamacare, I would have gone bankrupt.

In 2016, my first year in England, I was diagnosed with mouth cancer. I had 30 days of radio therapy and spent over two weeks in the hospital. Two years later I see an ENT every three months for check-ups, and through it all I have never seen one bill for any of it. In fact, one expense was even eliminated. If you have cancer, for five years afterwards you get all your medical prescriptions for free.

To be going through cancer or a major health crisis and not have to worry about any bills, makes for an easier path to recovery.

Our two countries have so much in common, yet we also have so much that divides us. We should never assume and American is a Brit, nor should we assume that a Brit is and America. They are two totally unique countries, with a long history that both countries can be proud of.

There is so much difference that it would make an interesting book, from a personal perspective. … hmmm!?!


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