This is a little something I wanted to write up about my little trip to America. I got to spend a few days in Memphis and a few days in Nashville.
Having never travelled out of the UK before, flying out all the way to Tennessee USA was an amazing adventure to say the least and to say I didn't know what to expect was a huge understatement.
The one thing I have to say outright though to all Americans, is that I absolutely love your country. The United States is such a fantastic place, and sure, I only got the chance to see a tiny portion of it, but everything I did see was just amazing. The place was amazing, the people were amazing, every single person I spoke to was polite, Every restaurant I ate at, the service was fantastic, everyone seemed so happy to help. It was just a wonderful experience.
But now for the real reason you're here, the strange oddities I noticed while I was over there, and I don't even mean the common ones that everyone picks up on, things like, "Oh, you spell words weirdly!" or "Oh! You're driving on the wrong side of the road", we already know all these things and it's pointless dwelling on them as they're already so over-documented and everyone's already given an opinion on them. But see there were strange things I noticed while I was over there, some were better than here, some were worse, and most were just _different_, and that's okay. These are just the things that caught me off guard!
Okay, as a Brit travelling to the United states for the first time, I obviously knew the plugs were different. And there's a lot of things that you guys have gotten right, but you guys really need to work out what you're doing with your mains sockets!
So I'm sat in Charlotte airport, waiting for my flight, and I'm a little worried about the power level of my tablet, as it's running low. So I find some sockets and plug it in. But then I notice the guy sat over me with his phone charger plugged into the wall, plugged into one socket and blocking THREE at the same time! Why don't you like.. space them out a bit more? Your houses and airports are way bigger than ours but we have ample room to the point where I've never seen a plug block another. It just seems kinda silly!
The next strange thing I noticed is.. why do you only use two pins when the sockets have room for three? I mean sure, don't use the ground if you don't need it, but why not use a plastic dummy in those instead or something? A triangular shaped plug is way sturdier, and it would never fall out. I plugged my tablet charger into the wall, and it just kinda hung loose all the time to the point where I was worried it wasn't going to charge. It seems strange!
The Unexpected Advantages of Tips
Before I visited the US, I thought tips were an extremely silly thing, as we just don't really tip here. Maybe occasionally if you get extremely good service but certainly not with taxis or if people were rude or abrupt, or even for normal service we wouldn't tip. So going into the United states I was a little worried about getting it right, however by the time I got there, it all seemed fairly obvious and made a lot of sense.
However, the one additional thing I noticed about all the restaurants and food places I visited is that every person was super polite. That just.. doesn't happen in the UK. Having people ask if you were alright, refill drinks and things, everyone seemed happy and it was just a lovely experience - So they all got tipped well. And I think that's an advantage of tips that I didn't even consider. It actually PAYS to be nice. And there's something nice about that.
And while I've heard that people in those types of jobs do get paid really poorly even with the tips, I hope that there's room for some kind of balance, that does promote politeness and gets people a decent wage.
Everything is Bigger In America
No, really it is! The cars are massive, the roads are massive, the car park spaces are massive ( Although that doesn't help some), the buildings are massive, the food is massive, the drinks are massive, the tomatoes and apples are massive, the pavements and the steps up and down to them are massive, even the macros are bigger in America!. And then even when we're driving around on the massive bus on the massive road, I'm looking outside at the massive shops, wondering just how they manage to cope. Like.. extremely specialist shops as big as our supermarkets out in the middle of nowhere with nobody in the car parks. For example a number of really big shops with DRUGS wrote along the side of them in huge letters. Or a tanning Salon in Mississippi, while it's like.. 90°F+ outside.
Strange oddities about cars and driving
While I didn't drive myself, I saw a lot of cars and was the passenger in a car or two while over there, and there were a few things that caught me off guard there! Like..
What the heck is a yield sign? I kinda saw it and pondered and it took my mind a while to work out it that it meant "Give way". It's a strange use of the word!
Automatic cars are weird! They feel really smooth and almost unnatural. Here in the UK we pretty much all drive manual, to the point where I've never been in an Automatic car before. It felt really strange at first. So to not feel the gear changes felt so bizarre.
You guys really like your trucks. Flatbed trucks are really rare over here, and they were everywhere over there!
U turns! I was the passenger in a car and the guy I was with said he was going to take a left. So he made a U turn on the road at the traffic lights. That completely blew my mind. As I think in the years I've lived in the UK, I've never actually been in a car that's made a U turn. Our roads just aren't designed for them! And where you lot have traffic lights we might have roundabouts which alleviate the need for u turns.
Why do you guys not have licence plates on the front of your vehicles in some states? It seems really odd! Like.. there's always a space for them, but it just seems strange to only put one thing there! Also in some of the shops, more so in Nashville than Memphis I saw a loooooot of dumb bumper stickers for sale. I feel sorry for you there c.c.
And while not strictly related to cars, road crossings! Those.. confused the heck out of me the first time I saw one. As it had a red hand and a number next to it. Does this mean stop for this long? What's going on! Then it went to solid red hand, and then eventually back to white. The timer's i've got a mixed opinion of! They kinda make sense! But in some places it was like.. White guy 54321! It felt like it gave the cars a countdown to rev off from the starting block!
Yes it had to be mentioned eventually! I know a lot of people have issues with your notes and things, but I honestly didn't at all. They all seemed straight forward enough, and I had no problems at all differentiating them.
The coins on the other hand confused the heck out of me. Because all the prices don't include sales tax (seriously why do you do this?), everything came to odd prices, so i'd end up with loads of change. So occasionally i tried paying for things in coins! And yeah, your Dimes and your Nickels are silly sizes! They're like.. the exact opposite of 10p and 5p coins over here, so that threw me. Then you have quarters, which I kept mixing with nickels! To the uneducated the coins are super confusing c.c . Also getting one coin change when something ends in .75 blows my mind!
Then what's your deal with confusing prices in supermarkets. Why would something be 10/$10.00? I went into a supermarket and saw some Mountain Dew, which is pretty hard to get in the UK so I figured I'd try it while I was there. Why would anyone ever want to buy 10 bottles of it o_o. I kinda really hate 3 for 2 deals over here on drinks as, not being the owner of a car, it's impossible to carry everything back. But what on earth would you do with 10 bottles of the stuff! I was going to buy some American chocolate bars for curiosity's sake but they all had peanut butter in them. Seriously guys, stop with the Peanut butter it suuuuuucks c.c But anyway, while I wa there the 10/10.00 price tag confused me so I asked a lady if she was local, to which she replied yes, and asked her what it meant. She laughed and said she had NO idea.
I shouldn't really write about toilets and such, but I kinda have to as you guys do it so weirdly! Most people are right handed, so why is the handle on the left side. People standing in them in airports and things is weird, flushing urinals are weird, and I could never ever EVER get the hand sensor taps to work properly!
I don't have too much to say about the weather, as sure, it's silly that you guys use fahrenheit, but that one's too obvious. What wasn't obvious was the use of awful when describing weather. "You guys are lucky, the weather this time last year was awful!" To me that would mean constant rain, wind, cold etc. To everyone who used it while I was in America, they meant the complete opposite. Hot.
And another side note to the weather, you guys have a LOT of ice everywhere in your shops and such, keeping drinks cool and things, whereas we just have refrigerators and things. I guess it makes sense though as fridges put out more heat.
Now this one caught me completely off guard! Why don't you guys have stairs in your hotels and such? The first hotel I was in, in Nashville had no stairs at all. And both elevators broke and people needed to go up them. So we all had to pile in around the back to the cleaner staff elevator a few times. I was only on the fourth floor, so it wouldn't have taken long to use the stairs! I later found out they did have them, so out of curiosity I went down them to find out where they came out. Turns out they lead to a door which sets off the fire alarm if you go through, so I went back up c.c.
Also! You guys call what we call the Ground floor the first floor. And what we call the first floor the second floor.
I have no idea what your guys' problem is with internet! I was fortunate enough to have a phone contract which let me use it over there at no extra cost, which was great! ...except for the fact that I couldn't really connect anywhere useful! In both the hotels the wifi was meant to be there, but it just didn't work, and the 3g could sometimes JUST about connect but it certainly couldn't load a webpage. Fortunately it was good enough for me to sneak in an occasional tweet or such.
But the strangest part is.. Middle of Memphis? No signal. Middle of Nashville? No signal (even though the biggest building in Nashville is the AT&T building!), drive down into the cotton fields in Mississippi where absolutely nobody is? Fantastic signal! You guys need to sort that out!
But yeah, America was just a fantastic experience. And I enjoyed every single bit of it, even the weird and the wonderful. I sure as heck hope to visit again and hopefully meet up with a few of you guys!
Thanks a lot for putting up with this Brit 4000 miles from home!