This is a preview to the chapter United States from the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Paul Allen.
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Living standards are an obvious lure. Cheap cars, cheap(er) petrol, cheap food (and plenty of it!), huge refrigerators to stuff it all in, cheap clothes, cheap electronics.
And then there’s the “American Dream.” The hope, the possibility, that you too can strike gold. The sense that all it takes is hard work and perhaps a good idea for you to be the next Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or Oprah.
The US may have one of the greatest disparities in income between rich and poor in the developed world, yet that beacon of hope shines on. People believe it. They live it.
And it’s not just hype. That enthusiasm, that ambition is in the air. There’s an energy that is almost physical.
Anyone, literally anyone, can make it in the US. And they do. Or at least some do. Look at Bill Clinton, the boy from a town called Hope ... Or Eminem. That is, undeniably, what makes America great.
For Irish national Peter Curley, the States offers a certain freedom too: “There’s a lack of history and tradition. People are more willing to do something a different way. Whereas in Europe you feel that weight of history.”
And in California in particular life is easygoing, he says. “They speak the same language. The attitude of the people is understandable too, at least from an Irish perspective.”
Plus people in California are extremely hospitable, he says, and “they are very optimistic, very upbeat. I lived in New York for two years, and I remember going out my front door feeling like there was the weight of the world upon me. There’s an intensity about the whole place. And I love New York. It’s great. But here, people are a lot lighter and freer. So I think of all the places in America it’s an easy place to live.”
At the turn of the millennium I spent a year living in New York City, as part of a job transfer with my then-company. I too couldn’t help but feel the intensity to which Peter refers. But is there any more exciting city in the world in which to live?
As John Lennon said, “if I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself.”
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