The modern world

A list of things that surprised them from people who moved from a poorer to a richer country. A lot of what we might expect, less violence, more lights, things get repaired, free loo roll in the public toilets, grocery stores. Hell, I’ve been surprised by American grocery stores let alone someone from West Siberia etc.

This one rather struck me:

Being a girl, you can live alone.

Isn’t there so much freedom, liberty and just how fucking marvellously life is better wrapped up in that little one?

48 thoughts on “The modern world”

  1. Surreptitious Evil

    We had some rural Ugandans staying with us a few years ago. They were fascinated that you could get money out of ATMs. There were a lot of £10 withdrawals over the week!

  2. We had some Californians working with us a few decades ago. They were fascinated that you could get money out of ATMs.

  3. Last year we had some Germans over who were fascinated that you could pay using contactless in a pub.

  4. I’m sure that when enough of their friends and relatives get here it’ll become just like home….

  5. My wife’s first time in the U.S she burst out laughing at how a 4-way stop worked, and just couldn’t believe people actually followed the rules.

    She’s right: the four-way stop is an abomination.

  6. “…the four-way stop is an abomination…”

    Au contraire. At any roundabout where one road is much busier than the others, it’s hard to get through the junction from a quieter road because the major road traffic hogs the right of way. The 4-way stop (if observed) prevents that.

  7. But but, the UK is a racist sexist homophobic hellhole! It must be because the Guardian and the BBC keep telling me it is…….

  8. Long story not so long – my Brother and Sister in law used to look after a Polish guy who lived and worked here (England) in the 1980’s / early 90’s.
    The Polish (Soviet) Government would allow his family members to come here to stay with him for 3 / 6 months to help him also.
    One quote sticks in my mind when they first encountered a UK supermarket – Polish person (Plonka as I recall) “Wow, so much stuff, what happens when all the stuff is gone”, My Brother ” they fill it up again” – Plonka, “how many weeks”?
    Coming from a Socialist paradise where the only thing in regular supply was vinegar,and after being told in the papers and on TV etc. that the West was in dire straits and close to collapse, Plonka just could not comprehend what he saw.

  9. Dennis, Offender of Krauts, Frogs and other Wogs

    About 45 years ago I was tasked with spending time with some French exchange students that had been parachuted into rurual Ohio. They were at first fascinated with – and then confused by – bars of soap, bathtubs and showers.

    The smell of four teenaged Frogs shoehorned into an Oldsmobile for three hours in 95 degree heat is something I will never quite be able to forget. And yet we ‘Mericans were the savages because we ate corn (“We only feed corn to the pigs,” said one Snaileater after being served fresh picked sweet corn roasted on the cob.) and didn’t have bidets.

  10. Better yet, about a couple of schoolgirl visitors from the USSR to friends of ours: they took the girls to Sainsbury’s.

    The girl from Moscow oohed and ached about how wonderful it was. The girl from the sticks said “we have stores like this in Moscow”.

  11. Dennis, Tiresome Denizen of Central Ohio

    She’s right: the four-way stop is an abomination.

    Given that Europeans seem to always be either running in circles or fighting each other, I could see how the efficiency and cooperative nature of the four-way stop would confuse.

  12. I can see the simplicity of the four way stop, and the Yanks have always struggled with the concept of a roundabout.
    Now if only you all drove on the correct side of the road it would make it so much easier.

  13. In Martin Cruz Smith’s novel, ‘Polar Star’, the crew of the eponymous Russian trawler have brief shore leave in Alaska, and in the supermarket one diehard says something like ‘It’s only so full because they don’t have the money to buy things,’ That has the smell of research incorporated.

  14. The four-way stop is not only an alternative to the roundabout but also to the major/minor road junction where one road or other always takes priority. Usually one or the other will be quicker than the four-way.

    I remember coming upon a roundabout in Tulsa. I couldn’t remember how they worked. But then nobody else seemed to know either.

  15. At night, the shops were just closed with their glass doors. No extra iron shutters with multiple locks and stuffs.

    There are metal shutters on many shops in the UK, especially in the cities. What does that say about us?

  16. @Dennis channeling his accountant buddy spud and talking bollocks on shit he knows nothing about.

    Oh the glorious 4-way stop, I can see for miles in each direction that the other roads are clear but no you must come to a complete stop. So much fun for those towing heavy cargo.

    4-ways are acceptable on low volume routes (but priority and yield is better), roundabouts work at much higher volumes than a 4-way can handle, however if there is a significant volume asymmetry then neither work and you are best served with traffic lights.

  17. Johnny Foreigner: Full aricle as paywalled
    Daniel HannanIf Sweden succeeds, lockdowns will all have been for nothing

    When foreign commentators discuss Sweden’s light-touch response to Covid-19, they tend to adopt an affronted tone. Which is, on the surface, surprising. You’d think everyone would be willing the Nordic country to succeed. After all, if Sweden can come through the epidemic without leaving a smoking crater where its economy used to be, there is hope for the rest of the world. So far, many signs appear encouraging. The disease seems to be following the same basic trajectory in Sweden as elsewhere.

    Although we must wait for complete data, modelling by country’s authorities suggests that the infection rate in Stockholm peaked on 8 April. If so, we need to consider the implication, namely that, once basic hygiene and distancing measures are in place, tightening the screw further perhaps makes little difference. Which would be good news for the rest of us. Adopting Sweden’s more laissez-faire response might not restore our economies to full health, but it would at least allow us to bring them out of their induced comas.

    Sweden is, broadly speaking, sticking to the approach that Britain followed in the week before the lockdown – the approach, indeed, that our strategists had wargamed in cooler-headed times. On 23 March, in an abrupt shift, Britain’s shops were closed and its people told to stay at home.

    What had changed? Was it the hysterical media demand for a Continental-style crackdown? Or the furious reaction to people visiting beauty spots on Mothering Sunday? Or was it the Imperial College model, published a few days earlier, which warned of hundreds of thousands of deaths unless there was a mass quarantine? Whatever the explanation, the lockdown soon took on a momentum of its own, with every new death turned into an argument for tighter restrictions.

    It is important to stress that Sweden is not being insouciant. Its people have been told to work from home if they can and to avoid unnecessary contact. Sports fixtures and meetings of more than 50 people are banned. Cafés can serve customers at tables, but not at the bar. Many Swedes, especially the elderly, are isolating themselves by choice. Personal spending, measured by bank card transactions, is down 30 per cent – though, by comparison, the fall in Norway is 66 per cent and in Finland 70 per cent.

    “I was sceptical at first”, a friend in the southern county of Blekinge tells me. “But every day I feel more confident. Our public health people look like they made the right call”.

    Most Swedes agree with her. According to the pollster Novus, 76 per cent support the public health agency. “It’s bad news for us politically,” a Rightist MP admits. “The socialist government is up 21 points. But I am a patriot, and I want what is best for my country. I criticise ministers for not helping small businesses. But I don’t criticise them for sticking to the science when other countries gave in to populism.”

    Sweden’s domestic consensus is not reflected internationally. “We fear that Sweden has picked the worst possible time to experiment with national chauvinism,” chides the Washington Post. Donald Trump, justifying his own retreat from openness, claimed that Sweden “gave it a shot, and they saw things that were really frightening, and they went immediately to shutting down the country.”

    The Guardian now purses its lips when it mentions its erstwhile pin-up. Its recent headlines have included “Critics question Swedish approach as coronavirus death toll reaches 1,000,” and “Anger in Sweden as elderly pay price for coronavirus strategy”.

    True, Sweden has had more deaths, proportionately, than its Nordic neighbours (though fewer than Spain, France or Britain. This is partly because the virus tragically found its way into care homes. But it is worth bearing in mind that the Swedish strategy always allowed for the possibility of a higher initial death rate.

    Britain, remember, closed its economy in order to “squash the sombrero” – that is, to spread out the number of infections and, avoid crippling the NHS. The policy seems to have succeeded: there are more spare critical care beds available than before the pandemic started. The Swedish authorities calculated that their hospitals did not need a delay, and believe they have been vindicated. Sweden’s public health agency says that a third of Stockholm residents will have been infected by May 1. If having had the disease leaves a measure of immunity, Sweden will emerge from the crisis much earlier than the countries that are dragging things out.
    Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart – deaths default

    That is still a big “if”. But public policy should rest on the principle of proportionality. It should not be up to me to prove that lockdowns definitely don’t work. The burden of proof lies on those who propose to remove our freedoms, not on defenders of the status quo ante.

    When Britain’s closures were announced, they had a clear goal: to buy time for the NHS. It worked: we were spared the horror that overtook parts of Italy. The government believes that fatalities peaked on 8 April, suggesting that the rate of infection peaked around 18 March – in other words, when Britain was still pursuing a Swedish-style policy of maintaining distance and hand-washing.

    So why not return to that policy? How did “flattening the curve” morph into “avoiding a second peak”? It is hard to see how ending a mass quarantine won’t lead to some uptick – just as it will lead to an uptick in common colds and traffic accidents. Our goal, surely, should be to ensure that this uptick does not overwhelm the system. In other words, we should aim to prevent people dying for want of medical attention, not to prevent all deaths – which, in the absence of a cure, is impossible.

    One of the most dangerous human biases is the sunk costs fallacy, the idea that we have sacrificed too much to give up now. That notion can lead to disaster. Every belligerent nation in the First World War, for example, suffered more than any conceivable war aims could justify; but, once the slaughter had begun, it became its own justification. Agreeing terms would mean that all those young men had died in vain. Nothing less than total victory would honour them.

    Listen to the phrases we hear at the 5pm daily briefings. We must not take our foot off the pedal, we keep being told, or everything we have achieved so far will have been for nothing. We have, as Matt Hancock put it on Thursday, “travelled too far together to go back now”.

    But what if the harshness of a lockdown has little bearing on the overall rate of mortality? In Europe, France, Spain and Italy, all of which imposed heavy restrictions, have suffered worse than, say, Sweden. There may, of course, be other explanations: demographics, population density, cultural habits. But, to repeat, it is for proponents of unprecedented state coercion to prove their case, not for their opponents to prove a negative.

    Could it be, as Isaac Ben-Israel argues, that the disease traces a similar arc however strict the lockdown? According to the Israeli scientist: “It turns out that a similar pattern – rapid increase in infections that reaches a peak in the sixth week and declines from the eighth week – is common to all countries in which the disease was discovered, regardless of their response policies.”

    He may be wrong, obviously. But it will not do to respond by saying: “Let’s keep the lockdown going a little longer, just to be sure”. The default position should be to retain our freedoms unless there is solid evidence that abandoning them will make a significant difference. In any case, at £2.4 billion a day, time is a luxury we don’t have.

    The resentment aimed at Sweden reflects an uneasy sense that the rest of us may be condemning ourselves to years of needless poverty. Sweden is like the control in an experiment. If it succeeds, the lockdown enthusiasts will never be able to claim that, but for their measures, things would have been even worse. No wonder they sound so tetchy.

    – Well said Mr Hannan. Lockdown induced by Fear & Panic – Fear & Panic should have no place in Gov

  18. Grocery Stores – Yes
    – First visit to USA large size of stores, milk cartons etc. Also variety of milk eg with extra Vit A, Vit D
    – First visit to Madeira and Sweden (mid 90s): I’d time travelled back to 1970s

  19. I’ve told this story before I think but Finnish TV transmissions could be seen in Estonia. There was a Finnish TV chef in the 70/80’s working for a supermarket. Estonians were able to see those commercials but the official govt line was that it was all propaganda, in the west (in the case of Finland, almost in the west/right in the middle of the iron curtain) they did not have food like that in the shops.

    Here are some examples:

  20. ” I can see for miles in each direction that the other roads are clear ”

    And spotted the semi-hidden cop car waiting for someone to commit the Grave Crime of Ignoring the Law… 😛

  21. Dennis, A Septic To His Very Bones

    Wog in Calgary (Canadians don’t say “bullocks”):

    Here’s how it works in the USA…

    Four way stops are used in two areas: Seriously rural (low traffic) and suburban side-streets (relatively low traffic and very low speed). You don’t need a rotary (what we call ’em) in either situation. As far as large commercial vehicles (ie, 18 wheel trucks), you don’t get ’em all that often on rural roads. Warehouses and factories that aren’t in major metropolitan areas are usually situated near highways or state routes for the sake of efficiency. What big stuff you get on the rural roads is farm machinery, and I guarantee you that farmers driving combines and tractors with extra equipment don’t want to have to deal with rotaries. There has been a movement over the past five to ten years to place rotaries at rural intersections that are seeing increased traffic (usually due to nearby development), but if traffic really appears to be on the rise, what we do is put in traffic lights. You simply don’t find 4-ways that deal in heavy traffic that stay 4-ways for more than a few years… They turn into intersections with traffic lights.

  22. The Yanks (God bless ’em) have some good traffic rules – my favourite being able to turn right against a red light as long as you can see nothing is coming from your left. And then they go and spoil it all by changing the rules from state to state.

  23. Bloke in North Dorset

    We used to host French students, mostly young teenagers, on exchange trips. The first boy we had was dreadful when it came to washing, in the end Mrs BiND marched him in to the bathroom, showed him the soap and how the shower worked and stood outside while he used them. She even smelt him when he came out.

    I was away at the time and was most impressed when she told me.

  24. We had a German girl on an exchange. She was impressed that (i) we had carpets on the floor, (ii) we had pets, (iii) it was a house not a flat, (iv) we had a garden with trees, a rope ladder, swings, and a tent, (v) we ate toast and marmalade (wonderful) and toast and peanut butter (marvellous).

    We had a girl from Normandy on exchange: she was astonished at the quality of our milk and insisted on taking some home. She was from Normandy!

    The Portuguese kids were most delightful.

  25. The weird traffic light system whereby pedestrian crossing is on at the same time for the other part of the intersection, so if you are turning left or right you have to watch out for pedestrians (legally) crossing as their walk signal is on. In a busy urban area it can take forever to turn as there’s always someone crossing

  26. To clarify if north-south is green for traffic then east-west is red for traffic (though right turn allowed if nothing coming), at the same time the walk signal for north-south is ‘Don’t walk’ and the walk signal for easy-west is ‘Walk’
    Having pedestrians and cars in same space not a good idea

  27. ‘It’s only so full because they don’t have the money to buy things.’

    The pig-headed bastard sounds like me!!

  28. There are metal shutters on many shops in the UK, especially in the cities. What does that say about us?

    Now note the correlation between shops with metal shutters and the “ethnic vibrancy” of the local area.

    So the question is not really “What does that say about us?” as “What does that say about them?”

  29. I could never get the precedence rule on a 4-way stop. I assume there is one and it’s probably in The Big Rand-McNally Book Of Traffic Rules In All 50 States. But I didn’t buy that. I only remember seeing them in streets around Beverly Hills but I probably crossed them elsewhere too.

  30. dearieme: We had a girl from Normandy on exchange: she was astonished at the quality of our milk and insisted on taking some home. She was from Normandy!

    That’s not entirely surprising – until quite recently most milk for retail sale in france was UHT milk and ‘lait frais’ was the exception. This does seem strange in a region that has a big dairy herd and where cheeses made of raw cows’ milk are exceptionally good.

    BiTiN (if he hasn’t been swept up by the gendarmes for driving without his permit) might confirm or otherwise.

  31. Truth spoken:
    Lockdown policies are taking a grave toll on mental health and hospitals

    Read this today

    – Mrs Gove: Sick inc CV-19 not phoning 999 as they don’t want to die in isolation in hospital, want to die with family present

    Makes sense to me

    Dan Hannan today

    I disagree, when voters have to choose ‘least worst’, not ‘best’ we’re not getting leaders we want

  32. @Jussi

    Koosteessa mainokset, jotka esitetty 13.8.1981, 21.11.1985 ja 7.4.1987
    The summary includes advertisements submitted on 13 August 1981, 21 November 1985 and 7 April 1987

    Looks tasty. I would put 80s Finland about 5-10 years behind UK. Broiler – think they ended in late 60s/early 70s

    @John Galt April 29, 2020 at 9:40 pm


  33. Coronavirus Derangement Syndrome

    I’ve been saying this for a few weeks; Trump saying too
    Delingpole: Piers Morgan May Have Terminal Coronavirus Derangement Syndrome

    More deranged
    Activists Protest Trevor Phillips’s Role in Ethnic Minority Deaths Review over His ‘Islamophobia’

    Trevor Phillips: a bad black man
    The identitarian lobby hates Phillips because he rejects the cult of victimhood

    Why the heck has Gov launched “an inquiry into the high proportion of black and minority ethnic (BAME) deaths due to coronavirus”? It was reported on in February before CV19 deaths in UK started using data from foreign countries. It’s Genetics, no multi-million pound lawyer bonanza needed

  34. I remember in the 1980s my Japanese girlfriend being amazed I had a cheque book. People accept a promise written on a piece of paper as payment????

  35. BBC has some numbers today on BAME and this time they adjusted for urban demographics and the difference was more like 3% so not significant enough to warrant enquires and certainly not as big as the male/female split

  36. That’s not entirely surprising – until quite recently most milk for retail sale in france was UHT milk and ‘lait frais’ was the exception.

    I lived in France for five years a couple of decades back. Fresh milk was plentiful in my region (Pays de Gex) — I think because of all the foreigners living there. I was devilish hard to find in some other regions though.

  37. Pcar asked:
    “Why the heck has Gov launched “an inquiry into the high proportion of black and minority ethnic (BAME) deaths due to coronavirus”? It’s Genetics, no multi-million pound lawyer bonanza needed.”

    Could also be social behaviour?

  38. Bloke in North Dorset

    Having pedestrians and cars in same space not a good idea

    Not necessarily, have a look at the Shared Space on Wiki, some of the trials have been quite interesting. The Netherlands is a good example.

  39. Bloke in North Dorset

    BBC has some numbers today on BAME and this time they adjusted for urban demographics and the difference was more like 3% so not significant enough to warrant enquires and certainly not as big as the male/female split

    This is discussed on the latest More or Less and I’m fairly sure they came up with different numbers, but I did get the feeling there was a fair amount of motivated research.

    At this stage all research could be useful and if there is something genetic/social its worth knowing exactly what it its.

  40. When I go to Colombia I am amazed that you criticize Islam in public without fear.
    Not everything is better in the west.

  41. This BAME business is ludicrous. A virus has eyes that discriminate skin colour! A good proportion of triage nurses and junior doctors are ethnics themselves. And criticising our sainted NHS in any shape or form is akin to a blood libel.

    Seen yesterday at the 2m queue at Tesco. Two muslim ladies in face masks. Lower face masks to exchange kisses, two on each cheek. Put face masks back on.

  42. If I were an NHS doctor and was told that the black chap I worked with would get PPE and I would not, I’d resign and sue the bastards for racial discrimination.

  43. Bloke in North Dorset

    This BAME business is ludicrous. A virus has eyes that discriminate skin colour!

    We know its sexist, there might even be enough evidence to accuse it of misandry, so why couldn’t it be racist? See sickle cell disease.

    There’s plenty of reasons why people from different backgrounds and cultures could be more prone to it. Who’d have thought a respiratory disease would go easy on smokers, of all people?

  44. @ Pcar
    Sweden has more than three times the deaths per million of Denmark and more than six times that of Norway or Finland.
    So (i) that suggests that it is paying in more deaths for keeping its economy going (firing on two cylinders).
    All the Nordic countries have a low death rate so Sweden’s is still lower than the UK’s or France and only just above Ireland’s
    So (ii) the cost in deaths is lower than it would be in the UK and they may feel the trade-off is worth it. That doesn’t mean that the UK would feel the trade-off was worth it.
    (iii) Each of us may agree or disagree with BoJo’s decision and have a different deaths per £billion level on the right trade-off between lockdown and tolerating spread of the epidemic.

  45. @john77

    World Health Organization Hails No-Lockdown Sweden as ‘Model’ for Other Nations

    When other countries open, their deaths will rise. Meanwhile Swedes are happy (£value) and economy not destroyed. We won’t know until full year deaths in, my guess is they will be similar.

    Value of a life? Considerably less than the >£5 Million cost to economy for each, mostly old, living a bit longer

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