As you may or may not know, back in March I travelled to the United States of America to visit one of my best friends. I was going to vlog the experience, but gave up a couple of days in because I felt fairly awkward walking around with the camera, and also we got up to so. much. that I didn’t want to take my eyes off of anything and get distracted by filming. Instead, I have decided to wrap up my trip in a few blog posts, because I want to let you all know what I got up to during the ten days I was over there.
To kick start this mini project of mine, I am going to be talking about the things that surprised me about America. I decided to narrow it down and convert my thoughts to a list format, because who doesn’t like lists? Believe me, I was surprised by a lot of things over there, and chipping away at the list was hard to do. Here you go, though. Here are the top most surprising things about the USA.
1. Americans are a friendly bunch
Dee (the friend I stayed with/who put up with my presence) lives in a “small” town in Virginia, so it’s probably different in the cities, but everyone there was so lovely! We took a stroll through town a couple of times, and I was shocked by how friendly everyone was. I was convinced that Dee and her sister, Laila, were friends with all of the people who were wishing us a good morning and talking about their day, but no. These people just wanted to chat and share the love! I think this was particularly surprising to me because I am English, and my countrymen are the type to speed walk past you with their eyes glued to the pavement rather than say good morning to you. In Dee’s town, however, everyone was lovely and open and welcoming. (Aside from the guy at the courthouse, but I’m ignoring him.) And I had never been called “Ma’am” before visiting the USA, nor had I heard the word so many times before in my life. The children are really bloody respectful!
2. Everyone doesn’t walk around with a gun
I blame this on the movies and the media, but I was fully expecting to turn up in Dee’s town and see everyone walking around town as though they’re on The Walking Dead. The thought that guns are legal over there scared me (and it still does), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that people don’t walk around with them and show them off. In fact, the only guns I saw were the ones in Dee and Laila’s house (because I was curious and asked to see them), and the one that the not-sheriff was carrying. Which brings me onto surprising thing #3…
3. Not every town has a sheriff
I KNOW, RIGHT?! I thought these were, like, a thing over there, but apparently not! Dee’s town has a Chief of Police Guy (an official term right there) instead of a sheriff. I feel like my whole life has been a lie. Tying in with #1, the Chief of Police Guy in Dee’s town is bloody lovely. He came strolling up to us as we were walking through town, and asked how we were doing. Obviously, when this happened the first thing I thought was that I was about to be thrown in jail for being an overly curious foreigner. Well, wouldn’t you think that if a 6 foot 5 cop with a gun and sunglasses made the effort to take time out of his day and ask you what’s going on? I swear, my heart nearly stopped. But then Laila told him that I was visiting from England and I got a photo with him next to Benjamin Franklin.
4. Those guys pay a lot of tax
I hadn’t realised this before I went over there, and was totally shocked when my first bill at a diner didn’t amount to what was on the menu. The reason for this is because tax gets added onto every (? I think it’s every but I don’t know, I’m not an expert) purchase. Go into Barnes and Noble and buy two books for $9.99, and instead of the total coming to $18.98, it will be slightly more and you will have to dig into your purse for more notes. For those of you not in the know, here in the UK this does not happen. The price on the restaurant menu is the price you will pay at the till. It really threw me off.
5. Portion sizes aren’t any bigger than over here…
… at least in fast food places. I went over to America expecting mountainous amounts of food on my plate, but the reality is that you get about as much food for your money as you do over here. I didn’t go to any fancy restaurants, so I can’t speak for every eatery, but places like Taco Bell and Dairy Queen offer the same amount of food as your British McDonald’s.
6. You have to drive everywhere
In my village, I’m used to walking everywhere I go. I even walk over to the next towns to get the train, because my local bus service is pretty bad. Prior to visiting Dee, while we were planning, I had mentioned that we could walk into town if the weather is nice. She must have thought I was being stupid because, in America, everything is so bloody far away. You can’t just walk to the corner shop to grab a late night snack if you’re feeling peckish, and you certainly can’t walk to the next town to check out the shops there. One day we were driving through Newport News, and Dee pointed out that we had now crossed over to Hampton. It was actually unusual for her to see two towns placed right next to each other! This was all very daunting for someone who had never left Europe, where everything is so close together. America just has so much space!
7. American toilets are strange
Story time. Laila and Dee picked me up from an airport in Washington DC, and a couple of hours into the trip back down to Virginia we stopped at a
petrol gas station. I needed to pee, so I sought out the toilets and locked myself in a cubicle, only to discover that the loo appeared blocked. The water in the toilet bowl was almost overflowing. I was convinced that this was one of those nightmare restrooms that you hear about in road trip novels, and that some heathen had blocked it with toilet paper. So, I did the only thing I could do in this situation, and squatted over the toilet, making sure my backside didn’t touch anything because I was convinced that the water carried all sorts of diseases. It was only when we got to Dee’s house when I realised that all of the toilets over there are like this, and I felt a bit foolish and very weirded out about the difference in the loos. I mean, the water almost touches your butt! British toilets would never be designed to be so unhygienic. I have included a diagram for you to use as reference.
8. Coffee Mate is a gift from the gods