AMERI-SPEND: In the same way as Ameri-patriotism is wrapped up with Hollywood, it merges too with Madison Avenue. To make a purchase, in America, is a patriotic gesture. Goods are confused with greatness. ‘Plotkin Chevrolet’, a local TV ad will enjoin. ‘We are America!’ No Brit-product will make a similarly grandiose claim. The most you can expect is ‘Go to work on British egg’. Or ‘Cheddar cheese ... a taste of Britain’.
BRIT-THINK:As citizens of a trading nation, Brits are always concerned with trade deficits. Periodically, they fight back – at the Japanese, or the Americans, or the rest of the EEC – by launching a ‘Buy British’ campaign. This is often carried to ridiculous extremes of Gross Patriotism. There are heated arguments about how British milk tastes better than the inferior French variety, why British margarine is preferable to imported Aussie brands, and how Brit-bacon makes better Brit-breakfasts than popular Danish imports. Brits can become positively xenophobic when the dominance of domestic meat, or leather goods, or coal (hotter heat, quarried by British workers) is under threat. Yanks, by contrast, rarely seem to notice what’s American and what isn’t, and generally assume that (electrical goods, cars and South African apples apart) everything is. Which is why they are presently carrying the world’s largest trade deficit. Bob Hope’s doing his best to heighten awareness by appearing in TV commercials sporting sports jackets labelled, ‘Made In The USA – It Matters’... but to little avail. Ameripatriotism does not seem to manifest itself in fierce allegiance to polyester fibre and slices of bacon.
Dollar allegiance … big bucks
AMERI-THINK:To Yanks, the only spectacle as moving as the Stars and Stripes flying over a baseball stadium (or a Chevy dealership) is the reassuring sight and crunch of a crisp greenback. Though many Americans these days are widely travelled, dollar-dependency is a hard habit to break. They do not trust anyone else’s money, and (stuff the foreign exchange-rates) have never been convinced that any currency in the world is worth more than the almighty buck. Or indeed is worth anything at all.
They’re also convinced that if only Brits (and others) had the choice, they’d rather deal in dollars than the local stuff anyday. The point is that no one plays around with bucks. Solid as rocks. They never slide dramatically, even when trade deficits are huge. They’re never ‘devalued’, whatever that means. No one makes them into tinny little gold coins that look like they have chocolate inside. Other countries have financial crises because they can’t get their acts together; reliable countries have well-behaved money. A country gets the currency it deserves.
Currencies for which Yanks have some respect (in descending order):
1) the Swiss franc;
2) the West German mark;
3) the yen;
4) the pound;
5) the French franc (only just);
6) anything Scandinavian (but not Finnish, which is different);
7) the South African krugerrand;
8) the Italian lira (this is really pushing it).
NOTE:Aussie and Canadian dollars are virtually ‘proxy’ currencies, pegged to the UK pound and the US dollar respectively.
But this is a choice of evils. It’s generally unwise to trade perfectly good greenbacks for something which is bound to be inferior. When travelling, keep your fist full of dollars, and if they won’t take them, use AMEX.