Things I Don’t Miss about the U.S.A.

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Most Cubans get a queer, screwed up look on their face when they learn I’m from the States but choose to live here. It’s logical: for so many people the world over, the USA is the land of milk and honey, of unfettered freedom and opportunity. I can only think that these folks know nothing from taxes and $200 pap smears, the Patriot Act or hate crimes.

But I know what shade the grass is on the other side; Considerable is the time I spend trying to explain this to my Cuban friends, colleagues, and strangers on the street (see note 1). This is like trying to explain the color of beets to a blind man or the importance of Les Paul to someone who doesn’t play the guitar (see note 2). Too much just doesn’t compute.

 Needless to say, I’ve had 7 long years to think about life over there, about what I miss and what I don’t. Here’s a snapshot about those things I’m happy to live without:

 – Panhandlers

– From MJ to Ms Schiavo, unrelenting media coverage of dead and dying famous (and not so) people

– TV commercials (see note 3)

– Antibacterial everything

– Scented toilet paper

– Telemarketing

 – Road rage

 – Anti-smoking Fascists

 – All that dog eat dog

– Hidden (and not so) cameras and the nonstop surveillance that comes with “modern” life

– $400 mammograms and $200 pap smears (see note 4)

– Pro-war people


– Shoveling snow & raking leaves

– Mormons

– Sirens

– Children who can’t entertain themselves

– People texting and tweeting in the middle of conversations

– Epidemic obesity

– Electric flushing toilets (especially the hair trigger kind that are flushing before you’re finished)

– And the latest discovery on my trip back “home”: advertising on plane tray tables.


 1. Apparently being a blondish haired, blue eyed, be-freckled Yuma gives every Tomás, Ricardo, and Enrico here the green light to talk me up. The Cuban-foreigner dynamic is insanely complicated and something beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say that every time I step out my door there’s someone invading my personal space with their personal questions.

 2. I was very saddened to learn of Les Paul’s recent death. He holds a special place in my heart and I know was an inspiration to many generations of guitar players.

 3. One great upside to government-controlled media is that there are zero TV commercials. This means when I’m watching The Reader or The Sopranos, I get it all uninterrupted (and mostly) uncut.   

4. Is it just me or is it totally sick that someone should have to pay such an outrageous amount of money for preventative medicine? You can bet if it were the men of the world with boobs and vaginas it wouldn’t be so.



Filed under Americans in cuba, Living Abroad

6 responses to “Things I Don’t Miss about the U.S.A.

  1. The no-advertising thing is huge! I didn’t quite appreciate it on my trip there until I returned to the DR, and just felt totally assaulted by billboards, etc. It is indeed relentless here in the US, and you don’t even realize until you step away from it for a little…

    • !Hola Zora!

      Yes, it’s incredibly refreshing. I’ll take a few political messages over ads for happy pills/maxi pads with wings/turkey sausage/fertilizer any day!

      BTW – loved your post on one of my guiltiest pleasures when on the road: Pollo Campero. Part of me wishes I still lived in NYC just to be able to gorge on what must be the world’s best fried chicken (MSG notwithstanding!). If anyone is going to be in Guatemala (or China or Nicaragua, this Guatemalan company has branches all over the world) any time soon, check it out!

      Readers: Roving Gastronome is a terrific blog by fellow Lonely Planet author Zora O’Neill. Check it out at (and we TOTALLY agree: What up with MIA?? If you want a trip to the third world without a passport, check out the Miami International Airport. Dios mio!!)

  2. MIA was indeed mind-bending, and not just for the horrible crowd management. People spoke more Spanish to me there than in Mexico, which made me try to pay for my magazine in pesos. It was all very confusing…

    • Funny – I know many Cubans who have lived in Miami for ages and don’t speak English – there’s no need to! (Did you know that the second largest Cuban city after Havana, population-wise, is Miami?). Ive found speaking Spanish in NY and Miami especially is a great advantage: my slice of pizza/italian ice/lemonade is hotter/bigger/colder and comes quicker with a little espanol. !que vaya bien!

  3. And thanks for the shoutout, Conner!

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