Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The American way

I’ve been blogging on my own website (www.xyzasia.com) since the middle of 2002, but today I decided to shift my blog to Blogger as the new version of Blogger is more user-friendly than the pages on my own website – at least in terms of being able to upload photos, which I want to start adding to my blog on a regular basis.

So here I am on Blogger, with a nice ‘green’ layout, but one frustration – and that is that I have to write the date the American way. I would have thought that the guys at Google would have learnt by now that most of the world writes the date the little endian way (day, month, year) – and only the US, Canada, Philippines, Micronesia and Palau write it the middle endian way (month, day, year). The Philippines, of course, was once a commonwealth of the US, and Micronesia and Palau were trusteeships, so that explains why they are out of step with the countries around them.

So in setting up my blog I had the choice of Tuesday, September 11, 2007 (or Tuesday, September 11 2007 without the comma), or September 11, or just 9/11, but I couldn’t have Tuesday, 11 September 2007), or 11 September, or 11/9. We are forced to choose an American format rather than what is most commonly used internationally.

When Americans refer to 9/11, they are of course referring to the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon – but I have to keep reminding myself that happened on 11 September, and not 9 November. Before the 9/11 events in New York and Washington (and Pennsylvania as well), most people (at least those in Europe) associated 9/11 with the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, but of course the 2001 events have since overshadowed that.

One of the things that frustrate me about Americans is that they think the world ends at their shores. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Americans – I have lots of friends who are Americans – and have spent about a year of my life in the US (adding up all the ski trips and other vacations!) but sometimes I don’t think they realise that 96 per cent of the world’s population does NOT live in the US.

I remember once when my wife and I visited an old school friend who had married a Texan and moved to a small town near Austin. Her husband didn’t have a clue where Australia was. He didn’t know that Austria and Australia were two different countries, he had no idea of what countries were in the southern hemisphere, and was completely bewildered by the fact that we had spring between September and November, and autumn between March and May.

And then there was the time more recently when I tried to order a map from a mail order map store in the US. Even though they took credit cards, they said they could not sell a map to me because I didn’t live in the US or Canada. I offered to pay for the full cost of the overseas postage, but still they wouldn’t relent. They said the postage was not the problem. They stated very firmly that their policy was that they don’t sell to people outside the US and Canada. They couldn’t tell me why. That had always been their policy. It was like we are second class citizens because we don’t live in the US or Canada.

Fortunately not all Americans are as myopic – especially those that have traveled outside of North America – but it looks like whoever designed the Blogger templates is one of those who has yet to understand that not everyone in the world does things ‘the American way’.

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