USA reflections - by Paul Beard (Executive Chairman and Founder)

Having just returned from a three week trip to the USA (two weeks of which was for business reasons) and with the Olympics getting underway I felt that amid the darkening economic skies, a lighter tone was called for to open this U.S. centric Blog.

So, on this light note, I am continually amazed, amused and occasionally mildly aggravated by the inability of Brits and Yanks to talk the same language. For example:

Here in the UK it’s a Spring Onion; in the USA it’s a ‘Scallion’.

Courgettes are ‘Zucchinis’, Aubergines are ‘Eggplants’!

Crisps are ‘Chips’.

Most venues don’t know what brewing a pot of tea looks like!

When ordering food in a restaurant in the USA, one doesn’t ask the Server (btw, not waiter/waitress) if you can have a particular dish on the menu, you tell them that you’ll “take” that particular dish.

I’m not asked if I have “finished my meal?” the enquiry is usually in the form of “are you still working on that?” and if there’s anything left they look at you strangely if you don’t want it “to go” i.e. a doggy bag!

A side order is simply “a side” and when you’ve got through all that you don’t ask for your bill you ask for the ‘check’, which is also what the Americans call a cheque!

A’ Lift’ is an ‘Elevator’ and the ground floor is the 1st Floor.

In the USA you board a train on ‘track 12’ not Platform 12,

In the UK, for example, you live in Flat 2, 32 Acacia Ave; in the USA it would be Acacia Ave, no 32; Appt. 2.

They don’t say” I’ll call you back”, they say “I’ll circle back with you”.

They thank us for “reaching out”, rather than thanking us “for calling”.

If I were to tell someone I’m going to be away from the office from, say, the 7th to the 14th, in the USA I’d have to say I’d be away “from the 7th through the 14th “.

And their children study “Math” (singular) whilst our study Maths (plural).

The 7th of August 2012 in the UK is abbreviated as 7/8/2012; in the USA its 8/7/2012 but on all their Customs and Immigration forms it’s shown our way round!

“Problems” are “issues” and “difficulties” are “challenges” and boy, how we’ve adopted those phrases over here, but they are a more positive use of words, albeit a little annoying sometimes, it does somehow reflect their overall attitude to business. It’s positive, rarely negative, upbeat, never gloomy with an overall “can do” attitude. Service levels in places like restaurants and hotels are extremely high, way better than ours, but the propensity for “have a nice day” and “you’re welcome” can grate a little when you’ve heard it 20 times that day!

However, most times I leave a meeting with a smile on my face…but let’s be quite clear, they did invent the phrase “going forward”.

On a more serious note, I learned a number of things from my trip which can be broadly summarised as follows:

1.  The business community are no fans of President Obama

2.  Mr Romney is looking more likely to force a close race in November but more so because of the disillusionment with Obama rather than any particularly strong qualities that he Romney has and the man’s ability to aggravate people seems as prevalent there as now it is here!

3.  The US economy is not growing as strongly as the press here might suggest and this may be insufficient to save Obama at the polls.

4.  The Government is still borrowing huge amounts of money and their national debt is astronomical.

However, despite these obvious uncertainties, the business community (or at least those that I come into contact with) are still positive and this is one of the USA’s great strengths; they always look forward, never back and believe that their economic problems can be solved by hard work and entrepreneurialism, they value service and straightforwardness in business and reward this with great loyalty. Whether Obama’s economic strategy of borrowing to stimulate the economy is correct only time will tell and as the old adage goes “if you have two economists in the room you’ll get three opinions”.

Just like any other part of the world though there are a myriad of differences, many good and bad aspects; it remains a fiercely patriotic country which I love to visit for both work and play and over the years have made many friends there and hope to return many times before I hang up my spurs!

Enjoy the Olympics and the rest of your summer!

Posted In : Alexander Beard, Paul Beard