The Internet Walgreens Test

I lived the bulk of my life outside the United States, where I have been for only 6 out of nearly four decades. There are many things I appreciate about the U.S.; San Francisco in particular, which gave my wife and I a wonderful place to build our home and welcomed us at every step.

One thing that I am not used to though, is the degree of imperial insularity.

Other than Fahrenheit and imperial units, I think it's the first time I've lived somewhere that is so totally detached from the rest of the world. I feel it in my soul as I realized, with a shock, that bars here play only American sports, American news, and on top of that, hyper-regional versions of all of that.

I realized that I was not hearing about the rest of the world, except in very negative terms: like in wars or in other crises. This, I noted, is new. (I grew up in a city-state and I think I had to learn the exchange rate to all 10 major global currencies as a teenager figuring out eBay)

I know it doesn't come from a place of malice. Most of the time, it just is. As the superpower of the world, that's just the way it is.

To keep myself amused, I have come up with a test that I think reflects my past experience as a non-American, interacting online with Americans who are not aware of their insularity.

On Mastodon, I called this the Walgreens test. I phrased it a little less well on Mastodon, so I want to post this here for posterity:

When you are on the Internet, and you ask a question about where to get face wash or shampoo, what do people tell you?

The people who say 'Walgreens' even when you've stated that you're not in America, are the winners of my Internet Walgreens Insularity test. The idea that your local drugstore is available elsewhere in the world is a frame of mind that I personally do not understand. The idea that you are surprised that there is no (insert your local business) in another country is one that can only occur in an empire.

Other people had fun ideas too.

  • 'when I talk about wanting to read a book and someone tells me to get it at my local library. but there are no local libraries where i live'
  • 'that Pi Day is 3/14 and only in America'

Personally, I was really surprised when I encountered a very educated person here who had no idea that other countries used other currencies, and that other countries used other electrical outlets. They had never seen an electrical adapter before.

I say all of this not to bash anyone, but to really only note that wow, I live somewhere completely different now.

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