US vs UK: Sockets & Switches

Where Ed wonders why nobody is buying American if everybody is buying American.

There’s a lot of Nationalism floating around at the moment, in both America and the United Kingdom. I’ve stayed inoculated against the disease by avoiding the rightwing press and staying informed, but it’s a risky business.

One of the big topics that’s been beaten to death by both sides is how ‘imports’ are ruining our lives, how everything would be so much better if we just ‘bought American’ or ‘brought our skills back to England’. Now I’m not going to delve into the whole globalisation argument, but I did find that an odd thing for Trump to be banging on about, especially when everything in America is the same.

Okay, that’s a little hyperbolic, but hear me out.

I’ve travelled quite a lot around America since the end of 2014, as well as a brief few days in Las Vegas prior to that. I like to think I notice the little things, the details, and one of the things that’s bemused me no end is how much homogeny there is, everywhere I look.

Specifically, I want to talk about sockets and switches. Wherever I go – be it hotels, houses, or workplaces – almost every single light switch and power socket is identical. Maybe some are white whereas others are off-white, but they’re everywhere. The light switches are either these insipid flat panels, or ugly little nubbins.
Even stranger is that 99% of them are poorly fitted, at least to my eye. The gaps aren’t uniform and they look cheap and nasty. But … they’re everywhere.

I’ve been picking up on this odd little phenomenon for years now, so today I finally sat down and did a comparison.

US vs UK. Light Switch against Light Switch. Socket vs Socket. Home Depot vs B&Q.

british-general-double-switched-power-socket-black-nickel-nbn22b-481In the UK, unless you go into a series of identikit homes, you’ll probably come across as many varieties of these things as buildings you go into. Hell, my parents’ house has differing outlets and switches depending on which room you’re in. The size, surround, and colour of the thing is essentially customised (as there are so many options) to the decor of the room. Each unit is sold as a finished product, with the fit and finish (assuming you buy quality) nice and solid as you like.

power_socket_usIn comparison, based on my Home Depot browsing, whilst you can find different wall plate styles and colourings (white, brown, black or ‘almond’ (beige)), not only are they pretty vast expanses of flat plastic, but you’re forced to place them around the aforementioned insipid flat plastic pads, or the little nubbins. This probably contributes to most of the switches I’ve ever seen looking poorly fitted – they’re not one piece, they’re two, from probably separate manufacturers – and just, sorry to say, fucking ugly.

In what world does this look nice?

The same is true of the power sockets. We’re different in the UK in that we have physical power switches to turn things on and off, but even so, the sockets suffer from the same ‘socket mated to a different panel’ issue, which means they don’t quite line up properly and look crap as a result.

The most baffling thing to me is that you can spend zillions on a big expensive house, fill it with fancy furniture and wares from around the globe, but still be saddled with all the tiny details throughout the place looking like … well … shit.

Whilst I’m on this, I want to segue weirdly into bathrooms. Here too, they’re all weirdly similar. At first I thought it was a Hilton thing. All the tubs, shower fixtures, etc., are identical. Doesn’t matter if the hotel is old or brand new – they’re all the same. However staying at an AirBNB in Miami … oh wait, this apartment is identical too. How odd.
Let’s go look at some apartments in New York that we might like to live in … hang on, these bathrooms are the same as well.

What the hell, America? Your politicians have been bleating on about the world sending you all these foreign goods you don’t want, and yet every damn thing in sight is the same. Perhaps people are buying all these European and Asian things because they offer, I dunno, variety?

(Also if I had a dollar for every Mac and Ford truck I’ve seen on the street I’d be rich).

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