Tuesday, 15 February 2005

The Usable Society

People often ask me what's different between the USA and New Zealand. I usually tell them that they're quite similar --- wealthy Western English-speaking democracies, so the broad patterns of life are the same, except for one thing: Americans know they are the global superpower, New Zealanders know their country is a minnow, and such knowledge colours everything.

Of course there are many differences in details. I think in small ways New Zealand is more user-friendly. A small example that I notice often: at restaurants in the USA, when you finish your meal, sales tax is added to your bill and then you have to calculate a tip on top of that. In New Zealand tax is usually included in the menu prices and no tip is expected. It's a bit more "what you see is what you get" and a bit less fussing around at the end of each meal.

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