Remember Sting’s song Englishmen in New York? Well, I can tell you this much, it’s a huge cultural difference between the two continents, and yes, you can really feel like an alien sometimes, luckily with the globalization, the gaps are starting to diminish, but until then, here is my list of noticeable differences when you are traveling to the US from Europe.
- Hi! How are you?
In the US this is just another way of saying hi, none really wants to know how you are, it’s just a polite way of starting a conversation. In Europe, asking someone how he/she is, is usually the start for the broader conversation about what the person is doing.
- Mix of cultures
One of my favorite aspects about the US is the cultural mix, the diversification and the unique beauty that each of the individuals brings. Working for a company that promotes diversification and equal rights gave me also the opportunity to work with different people coming from different grounds. Furthermore, big cities as New York and Chicago will impress any European for sure.
- Smiles and compliments with no hidden reasons
In Europe, people are more composed and don’t really interact with strangers, also when they do, they keep their distance. In America it’s the opposite, people smile back at you and offer you compliments, without having an agenda. I was in TJ Maxx trying on a pair of shoes and this lady told me that she loves the color and those look really great on me. She was also a costumer, so she didn’t gain anything from trying to sell the shoes, she was just very nice and unfortunately, you don’t get to see this very often in Europe.
- Everyone is willing to help you
This point goes very well with the one above. Have to say that whenever you need help and ask for it, everyone is willing to lend you a hand. They would all stop what they are doing and try to figure a way of helping you. Also, being in this mindset, makes you change your behavior.
- Fast and heavily processed food served in HUGE portions
The food was the hardest area for me to adjust. It is true that I didn’t eat a lot in the high-end restaurants, but more of the budget ones, yet the heavily processed meat, the sugar and the amount of grease that it’s used, made my body react in a not so pleasant way. Usually, when I am abroad I make an exception and don’t really watch what I am eating, yet after 2 weeks in the US, I was anxious to get home and have a real meal, made with real meat and with raw vegetables. Seeing it from outside, the fact that fast food business is booming and that people eat that much unhealthy food is a bit scary.
- Tips are a must and prices don’t include the taxes
Tipping in Europe is one of the nice to have in the northern countries, more expected in the southern ones, but not mandatory. In US tipping is a must, also the fact that you have to tip up to 25% of the check is also a big shock to anyone traveling there. Maybe it’s because we usually only tip 10-15%, or because we feel like we are obliged to do it, that makes this practice very hated by most Europeans. If tipping is mandatory, it should be added to the check, also while I was with Work and Travel and waitressing, the wage that I was getting was half of the minimum because I would get tips, and this made me feel like I wasn’t actually paid by the restaurant but by the customers.
Another odd thing is the taxes not being included in the price, I would never actually know how much I would get to pay at the counter because of it. I think the US is the only place in the world that I’ve seen this.
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