Yesterday I pointed out a post on Reddit that asked Americans what surprised them while visiting Europe. Today, let’s switch it around. If you’re a traveler who has visited the United States, what did you find surprising? Comments are open.
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Coming from Ghana (West Africa), it was the Internet. 4G compared to our 300 KB/s 3G Connections; and FiOS compared to our 400 KB/s Broadband. Also, Wi-Fi on buses and airplanes.
Having visited the United States on two occasions, I managed to see a few different parts of the country, although almost exclusively on the west coast. The first time we spent a few days in Seattle, visiting Boing Field, and the Aviation museum (My brother is training as a pilot and has wanted to be one since he was 6). One of the biggest differences really is in hospitality. Given that so many of these jobs are driven by tipping in the US, individual staff seem to make a much greater effort to actually please their customers because it will help their pay. Coming from Australia this was quite unusual, since tips are not seen as ‘mandatory’ here.
The second trip we had was both our best and worst experiences of America. We went to Las Vegas so that we could see the Grand Canyon, and in the process got to visit what I’ve described on numerous occasions as the ‘epitome of what is wrong with our society’. It was shockingly opulent and downright disgusting walking through Las Vegas, seeing the rampant commercialisation and constant badgering by people attempting to sell various (mostly sexually implicit) services. However, despite my scant regard for Las Vegas, our trip ended up being fantastic, thanks to the time we spent skiing in Telluride, Colorado. The village of Telluride was absolutely beautiful, and full of surprisingly sweet shops. The bookshop was possible the most amazing bookshop I’ve been to in my life! We also got the opportunity to go for a drive to a friend’s house just near Telluride, and in the process saw some beautiful landscapes.
So essentially, despite the confrontation that is arriving in America via Los Angeles (Which is such a horrible airport), once within the countryside, there really is some astounding beauty to be seen, and some positively wonderful people as well.
Karan, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have thought of that.
Andrew, America is a capitalist society, and sometimes to a fault. Unfortunately, you visited one of the shining examples of that weakness. I’m glad it turned out well, though!
I have visited the States on a number of occasions.
Many of the things that surprised me are the counterpoint to the things mentioned by Americans visiting Europe. In particular, everything appearing so large (cars, hotel rooms, food portions). The tipping culture is very difficult for many Brits to understand. Although in London (though often not the rest of the UK) we do tip in restaurants, this would rarely be more than 10%. The notion of tipping a bartender seems very odd to us. That said, the second time I visited the States I started to appreciate the difference that tipping makes to the service received. Most of our restaurants and service positions are staffed by 16 year olds or recent immigrants. I’m sure most Americans must be quite shocked at how unhelpful and downright rude waiters etc can be in London.
Whilst walking through the airport in Cleveland, just after arriving, I was surprised at the extremely sweet smell coming from some of the fast food outlets. You could almost collect the sugar in the air! We have fast food, but you guys seem to take unhealthy heating to another level. I’m sure it’s not like this for those actually living in the country, but it can appear to tourists that the only food available is steaks, burger and chips etc.
One final thing, I’ve found that most American cities seem to inhibit walking around, and many of the attractions for tourists (outside New York) pretty much require the use of a car. That said, I did spend a lovely day wandering around downtown Denver.
I have only been to New York City (I’m from Germany). I admired the cool professionalism from Police officers or metro staff when asking for directions, the enormous level of service in every shop we went to. We hardly have that that clerks look up from what they’re doing, smile and ask “how are you” or “may I help you?” (the only exception in Germany being Apple Stores). This was really one of the biggest impressions and you had that not only in expensive shops but also in supermarkets etc.
I posted this on reddit a while back, thought it would be relevant here, too:
You think the US is bad when it comes to strangers’ behavior to each other? Come to Denmark. We might be the “happiest people on Earth”, but fuck it if we’re not gonna keep that happiness to ourselves. I was in California in August, and I have never in my life experienced so many strangers randomly starting conversations with you out of sheer, genuine interest. Even clerks in convenience stores who thought my driver’s license looked funny. I had genuine conversations with more strangers in public places in those 2 weeks than I’ve probably had in the last 5 years in Denmark. It was so depressing coming back home.
One specific situation that really impressed me just came to my mind. I was in the Bay Area Metro, and some skater dude with tattoos all over stood next to some business men. All of a sudden he just goes “I fucking hate my life” to one of the guys. Yes, it took the business guy by surprise, but they then had a genuine conversation about what the skater guy could actually do to better his life. I have never experienced something like that in Scandinavia.
never been in the States and willing to do it. One thing that seems frightening to me is the amount of documentation needed to come there, which is no way easy as it could be for you to come to Italy.
Despite this I’d love to come there as soon as possible. Then I’ll try to remember to come back here and leave a constructive note, cheers :-D
Great insights, everyone! Thanks.
The proportion of people who don’t speak English; most
of whom speak Spanish. Coming from Ireland, I did not expect that so much of the population (and signage) would be Spanish. That was twelve years ago, maybe this is more obvious through Internet TV etc now.
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