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What do you miss most about America, Emily?

1) Autumn leaves.

I’m from the east coast of the US, and the leaves here in the UK just don’t compare.

2) US bathroom etiquette.

When I see a closed bathroom door, I knock on it. Only if there is no claim of occupancy do I try the handle.

Here, I’m considered horribly rude to expect interaction with someone on the toilet. No one ever answers. Worse, no one ever knocks on my toilet stall door. They just grab the handle and start rattling. In their minds, they’re being polite, checking the status of the door rather than engaging with me while I’m involved in personal matters. But it makes me feel cornered. The rattling, turning handle is far more creepy and imposing than a knock. I feel like a heroine in a horror movie, cringing on the toilet, hoping the door will hold.

3) Baggers in supermarkets.

My kids were in awe of baggers last summer in Rhode Island. You mean, people actually *help* you?? Also, the checker gave them free day-old bakery cookies. My older son plans to move back to the US when he’s an adult, partly based on this one shopping trip.

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From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."