As individuals, I really like Americans. They're generous, outgoing and very friendly. But, together as a whole, they can be a strange people.

I regularly travel to the States for work and am constantly amazed by how Americans insist their way is the best, even if the rest of the world thinks different. The rest of Western civilisation tries to work within common-accepted parameters of standards - not the Yanks.

Theirs is the only country in the world where I have trouble deciding if I need a morning jacket because they insist on weather forecasts in Fahrenheit. I also have to calculate how far my business meeting is in miles because they don't want to know about kilometres.

Americans tend to see the world from their rather unique perspective. I met one guy in cowboy boots at an investor dinner who couldn't understand why cheese was offered for "dessert". In his mind, cheese is only a condiment for hamburgers. And what he referred to wasn't even real cheddar cheese. It was the stuff in plastic slices, simply called American cheese.

Naturally, no other country has any cheese-making skills. Well, except for the Swiss.

I said: "Do you mean Emmental?"

"No, I mean Swiss cheese."

Renaming everything just for their own perspective is another charming national characteristic.

When I order a salad in one of the Midwest states, there is no such thing as balsamic, Roquefort or honey Dijon vinaigrette. It's either Italian, French, ranch or - heaven forbid - thousand island dressing.

If I ask for extra virgin olive oil, I usually get a hearty laugh from the down home-waitress who replies: "Good luck finding anything extra virgin in this town, sugar!"

There are other idiosyncrasies. They have a collective fear of tea leaves. The stuff must be corralled in a teabag and never allowed to steep freely in a teapot.

Luxury to them usually means something really big. Living large applies from cars to houses, earrings to hair, and lips to butts. This is true from Manhattan to Dallas, Miami's South Beach to LA's Rodeo Drive.

Of course, not all Americans are so uncouth. The country has given the world its ample share of impeccable style and fashion. From Zac Posen, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, to my favourite character from Project Runway, Tim Gunn, their sartorial heroes know how to make it work.

On the downside, they also gave the world low-hanging baggy trousers and trucker hats. And their choice of politicians can be a little strange.

The Aristocrat

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