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The Daily Tar Heel

America Is, Like, Different From the Rest of the World

As a Zimbabwean, I have found the events regarding the elections quite fascinating and somewhat amusing. But I am not going to talk about that.

I am sure that there are many people out there who have absolutely no interest in reading another article about the damn elections, because it is now becoming a dreadful bore. Yes, it was fun at the beginning, but, as you Americans like to say, "Enough already!" No, I merely mention the "e word" because it reminded me (again) of the differences between "y'all" and myself.

I am not allowed to vote because I am not a citizen, so I missed out on the fun of voting for Bush, Gore or Eric the Half-a-Bee, depending on your sense of humor and level of understanding that no, your vote does not count. One more sentence about the elections to explain what I meant just then: Despite Clinton's rantings about how there is no question about the importance of your vote blah, blah, blah, they count if you live in a state with a lot of electoral clout, but no one gives a damn about you little North Carolinians.

OK, so what is my point here? Oh yes, I was talking about how much I was reminded of the fact that I am an outsider here. Let's make a list of the things that I (and maybe many foreigners?) don't understand about you.

1. First and foremost has to be this door thing that you do. Why do people insist on holding doors open for me? I am perfectly capable of burning those two calories required to do it myself. I don't think that it is something that anyone can try to answer.

It's a habit, and a weird one, and I must admit that I have started to do it myself. I know, I know, it's polite to do it, etc., etc., but the thing is that it is taken to such extremes at times that I have to run to the door just because there is someone standing patiently, holding it open for me. And that is when it just gets ridiculous.

2. Related to no. 1 is the overuse of the phrase "Excuse me." If someone comes within 10 meters of me (sorry, I am used to the far more sensible metric system - we'll get back to this), they say, "Excuse me," as if I am afraid of catching their cholera or whatever disease they happen to be carrying.

Where I am from, people stand so close to each other, you can hear them breathe. Don't get me wrong, that irritates the hell out of me, too. I am merely trying to illustrate the contrasts to which I have to adapt.

3. The metric system. Why do you all insist on keeping ounces, Fahrenheit and all those other stupid bloody measurements? Isn't it easier to remember that at sea level, water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius rather than 32 degrees Fahrenheit? And that water boils at 100oC, rather than 212oF. The metric system works in units of 10 and 100, rather than 12 (like inches and feet) and those other crazy numbers.

The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that hasn't adopted the metric system as its predominant form of measurement. I mention that just to annoy those people who care about keeping up with the rest of the world.

4. The use of the word "like." I mean, like, what's up with that? Like, it's totally annoying, and like, nobody understands why I keep, like, saying this word. I am getting used to this little vexation, but I would greatly appreciate it if someone would explain the origin of this (improper) use of the word.

I could go on forever, listing little grievances, but I shan't, because I am sure that I myself have annoyed many people. I just wanted to bring up some examples of quirks that you all consider normal, and that I find amusing and strangely enticing. I know you didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition, but you got it.

Kirsty Carter is a sophomore international studies major. Eric the Half-a-Bee and the Spanish Inquisition are references to Monty Python. If you don't know them, you should. Reach her at

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