For this year's Perl QA Hackathon, I travelled to the UK for the first time. I don't know what I was expecting, but what I got was kind of surreal. I've watched a lot of British television and movies. But experiencing it was a lot different.
I knew things would be different. But the interesting thing was how subtle the differences are. Everything's closer together, but the effect is warm and cozy not oppressive (despite the weather). The roads are a lot different. I can see why some modern subdivisions are eschewing a grid of streets with a curvy, winding road system (though the effect in the US is anti-pedestrian).
Asda was very familiar though. Freakishly familiar. Finding out that it was owned by WalMart makes absolute sense. The interior of The Lawrence Sheriff pub was familiar as well, but because it's a JD Wetherspoon, which is a franchise (picture the interior of pubs in the Cornetto trilogy).
When I got back, all I could think about is how loud Chicago is. And how organized. Efficient (that's not a compliment). A lot of the difference between the two boils down to "big city" vs "small city". Rugby has 70,000 people, and another city I've lived, Oskhosh, WI has 70,000 people, and the differences are still severe. Records of the village of Rugby go back to 1000AD. The hotel I was staying at pre-dated the entire city of Chicago (by perhaps 100 years). The hotel probably pre-dated the United States. It's difficult to fathom.
And now, watching UK TV as I often do, I find myself recognizing the styles. There's now a very obvious difference in my head between "generic human dwelling" and "English house", and between "generic human village" and "English village".