thoughtful. entertaining. random.

some things that the u.s. can learn from the u.k.

A short list of things noticed in the UK that should be taken into account by folks here in the US:

  • You shouldn’t need a credit card to secure a hotel room. In Brecon, Wales, we stayed at the Castle of Brecon Hotel. sprite and I arrived fairly late, but didn’t need to present a credit card or any kind of ID to secure a room. Same goes for the Premier Travel Inn near Bristol Int’l Airport. Yet here in the U.S., each and every hotel requires picture ID, a credit card, a note from your mother, etc., just to secure a basic room.
  • It’s possible to have fast cars that are fuel-efficient Yes, this logic flies in the face of the “bigger is better” American way, but my experience proved quite enlightening. Our Nissan Almera (essentially the same as the Sentra here in the US) had only a 1.5 litre engine, but it still could do zero to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds. The secret is having gearbox ratios that actually differ by a great deal. For example, in a US car (with manual transmission), the difference between first and second gears is often trivial. But in the Almera, first and second were markedly different (e.g. it was nigh-on-impossible to start from a dead stop in second). The car did 90+ mph without complaining, and our overall fuel economy was just a shade short of 42 miles per gallon in mixed driving. We need this kind of fuel economy here in the US.
  • Airport security in the UK feels more secure than in the US – as well as less draconian. When leaving the UK via Bristol Int’l Airport, the security was evident: questioning from security officials while in the queue to check in; a bag search of sprite’s checked bag; and the usual x-ray and metal detector to get to the boarding area. But it was all done in a friendly way, with a smile. Going through the “mag & bag” before the boarding area was also striaghtforward: you place your bags on the belt (without having to remove laptops or digicams, and without having to doff shoes or belts), walk through the metal detector, and that’s that. It’s remarkably efficient, and the staff presents an air of confiendence without having to act “tough.” It was definitely of a better class than the usual TSA treatment here in the US.
  • Clear signage and clear language will get you far. Directionals road signs in the UK (at least for intersections of fairly major roads) are often extremely clear, stating which road is at the other end, without being huge and intrusive. Signs for lane closure, yield (or “give way”) and other such things are clear and concise, using international standard iconography to get their point across. Signs in areas such as the London Underground are very clear, and the audio announcements are clearly spoken and delivered at a very reasonable cadence. When you compare these audio clips with the old New York Subway or the DC Metro, it makes our system seem antiquated and pokey – yet their system is much older.

There’s bound to be more of this – but these just struck me at the present moment.

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