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The electrical current is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC), so most North American appliances can't be used without a transformer. Older wall outlets take Continental-type plugs, with two round prongs, whereas newer buildings take plugs with three flat, angled prongs or two flat prongs set at a "v" angle.
Brief power outages (and surges when the power comes back) are fairly regular occurrences, so it's a good idea to use a surge-protector with your laptop.