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June 13, 2017


Hank Phillippi Ryan

Are the funniest person I have ever met. Ever ever ever. Hilarious. Completely hilarious.
You are so right about dinner parties. What's up with that?
Coffee, it hasn't always been like that. The idea that everyone walks around with a cup of coffee all the time is pretty new. I embrace it, too!
Someone else who came from away mentioned she was baffled by how many signs there are in the United States that say "It's the Law." Have you noticed that? I had no idea what she was talking about… Till my brain became too into it. She's right!

Karen in Ohio

What Hank said!

Yes, we used to have crap coffee, too, until Starbucks took over the world. Bless their caffeinated heart. But the first place I ever saw an electric kettle was in England, so there's that.

And we did not always have right turns on red, either. I think it happened sometime in the 80's, if memory serves.

What about food trucks? And public fireworks displays, and water parks?


My favourite thing is the people who have moved here from all over the world. Especially from Scotland.

catriona mcpherson

Wait, stop. Hold the phone. Rip up the list. Karen - you saying waterparks reminded me of - WATER FOUNTAINS. I'm adding water fountains as a A* category (that gets to board the plane over a strip of carpet).

Triss Stein

Great to hear what you love, especially these difficult days And thanks for the giggles. Must go read the #2 item on Car Talk to husband!

catriona mcpherson

Hank, I'm going to look out for "IT"S THE LAW" - I've never noticed. I've noticed the "this entire building contains a gnat's spit of some chemical that, if you drank a buckeful every day, might kill you" signs.

Dana Cameron

We are very glad to have you hear, Catriona!

As a relatively recent coffee addict, I can't agree more about the coffee. Those UK sachets are something out of an Edward Gorey illustration.

Dana Cameron

Or, we are very glad to have you HERE. #MoarCoffee


I do love that I can order any meal or dish and have it my way.


Fun list! I love it! A British friend of mine told me once that his favorite thing about United States was the ice water that came with every meal, no questions asked. Of course his wife chimed in that the serving size of our plates was ridiculous, so there's that :-)


I love your lists. I wish I had thought to have my former students make a list for me of what was still a mystery or mysterious to them (other than the food at school) after being here for awhile. I taught New Americans over the years in public schools, refugee and immigrant children.

Sarah Glenn

The "It's The Law" signs and signs with specific regulations are prevalent in Georgia. I've always assumed it was due to its early status as a penal colony.

Gwen Ervin

Although I might take a guess at one thing: why make those cool Super Hero comfy clothes (pajamas) for kids if you shouldn't wear them to school.

Jamie Freveletti

I also love good coffee, right turns on red and early ending dinner parties, but never knew they weren't the norm in the UK or Scotland. Love this post!


I'm a fan of NPR generally and, yes, even Car Talk when I have no interest in cars.

You know you have to stop on red first, right? And then turn. I like the song.

We do have a lot of mysteries like that bottle of soy sauce. Those are also my favorite.

Barb Goffman

The "Right on Red" song is now my favorite song of all time. I keep singing it happily to myself. Did you know that in some states, if you're turning from a one-way street to a one-way street you can turn left on red? I'll wait while you put your brain back together.

catriona mcpherson

*mops up brain debris from kitchen floor*

catriona mcpherson

Lori, I pause. They call it the Berkeley stop.

Clea Simon

Car Talk! For years, we would routinely spend weekend afternoons drinking coffee and reading at a now-defunct cafe and hear that braying guffaw, because of course the Magliozzi brothers hung out at a Brazilian cafe in Harvard Square ("our fair city, Cambridge, MEH"). So sorry we lost Tom at 77 years young and now living in dread of not tuning in and hearing the repeats. Or at least the credits (Director of working mothers' support group: Erasmus B. Draggin). Um, in other words, GLAD TO HAVE YOU HERE!

Barb Ross

Seriously, the coinage. Being the only developed country using bills for $1.00 (or the local equivalent)drives me crazy. And pennies, should just be done away with.

Maybe a few years in the UK would change my mind.

I think the everyone leaving parties at once thing is newish. We don't drink and drive much anymore, at least not after home parties, so no brandy and cordials and we don't smoke, tobacco anyway, so...time to go home!

Mary Feliz

On a walk to visit with my youngest, we passed a pair of worn out old shoes under an overpass. Next to it was a shoebox, new, with the tissue wafting in the wind. Youngest said, "There's a story there." About five minutes later he added. "I should remember to tell you that next time I don't want you to say anything for awhile."

Ann Mason

What Hank said, indeed.
Thank you for moving to California
Thank you for being my favorite Scot.
Thank you for choosing me to vent to when Brexit was going down. (I'm sure you thought you were talking to Ann Patchett or Ann Cleeves or some famous Ann.)
Thank you for holding my hand on that election night in November when my world crashed.
Thank you for writing me new bewks.

Now please get off the internet and write me another.

Love, Ann

catriona mcpherson

Barb - Ross, not Goffman - I love dollar bills. Not having pockets full of dustbin lids is great.

And Ann - I'm on it.

catriona mcpherson

Erin, you win! Thank you for having me.


Things I didn't know to appreciate about my own culture. It's nice to see it from someone else's eyes. Thanks.

And congrats on 7 years here. Glad you are enjoying it!

Leslie Budewitz

Oh, gosh, what a fun list! I hope I never forget hearing the Car Talk guys, but honestly, the glory of coinage? Totally escaped me. The glory of cheese plates after dinner escapes me, too, but I'm willing to try it if there's cognac involved.

catriona mcpherson

See, Leslie, cheese as a starter puzzles me. Salad as a starter, though - brilliant!

Victoria E Thompson

I read this whole post in your accent, which made it even better. We're so glad you're here!

Kathy Reel

Oh, I loved Car Talk, Catriona! My husband and I listened to them on car trips. I need to start listening to the Best of Car Talk. And, as a coffee lover, I am thrilled it's so accessible.

I agree with Hank about you being the funniest person I know. This country is so lucky to have you as a resident.

Sherry Harris

I love this so much! A list of so many things we take for granted. One year when we lived in Monterey we had a large group of people from all over the world for Thanksgiving. Everyone brought a dish of something along. As people left I handed them their dishes back with whatever food remained. The next day a man from Hungary stopped by to ask if we didn't like the food they brought and why had we sent it home. I assured him we liked it and said American custom. We had another group over who were completely mystified by marshmallows.

Debi Huff

Thank you Catriona for helping me to see some of the great things about being a citizen of these United States. Those that I take for granted. And I am honored to have met you early as you moved to the U.S.-I think we first met at Bouchercon in St. Louis!. We are so glad you like it here. Think we'll keep you.

catriona mcpherson

Oh Sherry - that's a challenge to my day of positive things. It still feels like stealing when people bring you something and if you don't scarf it down there and then they take it way again.

catriona mcpherson

Debi, we needed it. Right?

Edith Maxwell

What a fabulous post! (But...what's a Winco?) My parents drank only instant coffee, so the good coffee thing is definitely recent.

I've lived in a number of other countries (okay, the number is five) for more than a month, most of them for at least a year. I realized that one of my favorite things about the US is that I feel at home here. I know, that's too intangible, but it's true. But I also love the splendid diversity of where people came from and what they look like.

The party departure thing? I think it's because if one set of people leave, the rest don't want to be the unwanted hangers-on.

Elaine Viets

Aw, this is such a sweet blog, Catriona. Welcome to the USA. Long may you keep enjoying us, soy sauce and all.

catriona mcpherson

Edith, WinCo is a supermarket - employee-owned, with a bulk section that makes my jaw-drop.

Carol Pouliot

Catriona, you are absolutely the. funniest. person. ever! I completely agree with your wonderful observations. Yes, those diner party exodus...what the hell is the plural of exodus?!...are an acquired taste. But, when you've had your fun, the dishes are done, and there's still some of the evening left...well, it's just plain wonderful. And, oh, yes, the coffee. Period.

Bonnie MacBird

Catriona, you are hilarious. As a Californian who is now spending half my time in the UK, I appreciate this! I feel like an idiot that after quite some time, the coinage in the UK still has me staring stupidly at my hand every day in Pret with people politely and silently ('cause it's the UK) fuming behind me. And you've explained WHY! This is a laugh-out-loud list and I loved reading it. I'm thinking now of the ten things I love most about the UK...anyway, so glad you are loving California. California loves you back!

Ellen Byron

Love this! Glad there's something still good about Amurricah. You begin to doubt it these days. But embarrassed to say - I've never heard of Winco!

Brian Thiem

You're not only charming, but funny too. I love seeing America from your perspective and hearing about those parts of our great country and culture that we take for granted. See you at the next Bouchercon.

Brian Thiem

Elizabeth Varadan

I love your list! Being an American, it's so interesting to see what strikes people from other countries as special about the US, particularly since I have my own list of things I love about England, about Spain, about Portugal, from our travels. I'm glad you are having such a good time and haven't let the current political aberration in the White House put you off the culture in general. I know I take a lot of these things for granted, but I enjoy them so much, too.


Love the list and Tom and Ray too, though every time I listen now, there's that undercurrent of sadness about Tom that I can't shake.

Be careful in your rental car in other states. Not everyone has "right on red" laws!

Ellie Enos

In Northern Nevada, we are big WinCo fans. The bulk barrels fulfill many needs. I prefer buying the exact amount of corn meal for a recipe I am making. I don't like to buy a container and keep it in my cupboard.

The opposite is also true. The McCormick containers of Sesame Seeds aren't adequate for a double (or triple order)of sesame chicken wings. Buying from the bulk bins costs significantly less.

I'd also recommend the dried cherries. My brother uses the dried Montmorency cherries for his famous Cherry Lemonade Scones!

catriona mcpherson

Oh God, Laura-Kate. Thanks for that heads up. I thouhht it was national.

And a strong yes on WinCo's dried cherries!

Marcia Talley

Waaah! Why can't we have WinCo on the east coast?

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