One thing that everyone visiting the US from the UK notices is their service culture. As illustrated by the cliches of “Have a nice day” and “I’m going to be your waiter for today”, it’s one of the most distinctive things about the States.
Americans are starting to become conscious of the false sincerity of these pat phrases, but the sentiment behind them is genuine and persists. And the difference between service in the US and service in the UK is how it is pitched. Good service needs to fall somewhere between ingratiatingly obsequious and sullenly reluctant. The english struggle with this balance, swinging wildly from one extreme to the other (see, most obviously, Basil Fawlty).
But the Americans have an uncanny ability to be helpful without intrusive. Take the guy in the bed shop that I went to last week. I stopped at ‘Sleep Train’ to look at the price of mattresses as we needed to get a bed fairly urgently. I wandered around the store for a couple of minutes before he asked if I’d like any help. He then asked if I would like him to explain the different brands they carried, and when I said yes, proceeded to explain the various benefits of each one. He gave an honest price range for the size of bed we needed, and never once gave a ‘sales pitch’ speech.
And then there’s the burger place we went to on Saturday night. Yes, we were living the true American dream – burgers and fries in a restarant where the baseball ‘World Series’ was playing on the big screen. It was a place where you order at the counter then take a number and sit down. The food was good arrived fast, cost $16 for the two of us, and at least 3 people checked that we were OK and had everything we needed during our brief meal. God bless America – or something.