Less than half of Americans have passports compared to around 75% in the UK. Brits often use this statistic to mock Americans for being uncurious provincial stay-at-homes.
I've always felt this was unfair though. As an American you might have visited all 50 states, all of the National Parks and maybe thrown in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico without having ever bothered with a fully fledged passport.
A Brit on the other hand might have spent a few days eating fish and chips at a British pub in Benidorm and is suddenly a sophisticated world traveler. I don't think so. There is simply more to see and experience in the US without needing to cross a border.
After I moved to America I realized that maybe there was another reason. Americans for some reason don't bother taking vacations. You get massively less vacation time over here and even then a huge number of people don't even manage to take off their paltry few days. There is no effective way to have a holiday overseas if you never take a holiday.
Now I realize that neither of these factors is as important as the United States Postal Service if you have a kid.
In the UK to get a passport you mail in an application and get back a passport. It's pretty easy. Even for children.
In the US you need to go to a Passport Acceptance Facility and that probably means a post office. There is a handy website that lists the 10 closest facilities together with their phone numbers so you can call to make an appointment. These phone numbers are not answered. It's less like a basic government service and more like trying to bag a ticket to Glastonbury.
I gave up and delegated to Fancy Hands (a personal assistant service). They have spent two days on the phone trying and failing to get an appointment.
I was going to do my best to vote my principles this year but at this point any presidential candidate who would force USPS to put in a web scheduling system might just get my vote.
Updated 2016-04-18 23:23:
After I posted this a friend pointed me at the United States Digital Service (via this Ted Video) and basically said why bitch and moan when you could help fix it. Which I don't have a great answer to. Except this.
- 15 minutes of terror, or how the UK has changed in four years
- Pew: Two Thirds of Americans Support National Popular Vote
- Open Immigration