Despite the fact we use the same language, share the same television shows, and profess brotherly love, the UK and the USA couldn’t be more different, and it can be a bit of a shock to the system for first-time visitors. Thinking of them more as our massive, weird younger brother than a twin is closer to the truth. Everything from their food to their patriotism can take some getting used to, but that’s probably why some four million Brits travel there every year. Here are a few things the first time traveller might find useful before they embark on their own American dream.
- The portion sizes are huge
You don’t have to eat everything they put in front of you – as for a doggy bag, and you’ve got yourself a free breakfast for the next day.
- They’re tight on border control
Their immigration officers at customs take their jobs very seriously, so ensure you have your itinerary, including addresses or any accommodation, to hand when you leave your plane. Be sure to fill in your ESTA visa waiver, which can be found here https://www.official-esta.com/ before you travel, as this is a legal requirement for entry to the country.
- Everyone is just lovely
Americans are just so darn pleased to see you, with wishes of “have a great day y’all” being commonplace. They do get a bit confused by the traditional British greeting of “alright?” which they tend to offer a full and detailed answer to, so be prepared for that.
- Healthcare is expensive
Make sure you sort travel insurance before you go – if you don’t, you’ll seriously regret it if anything goes wrong.
- They don’t add tax to advertised prices
Any price you see in a shop or cafe is before VAT, and each state has a different rate of VAT, so be sure to do your research for each state you’re visiting, and mentally add it on before paying – it’s a bizarre system, but who are we to question it?
- Tipping culture is serious business
There are stories of patrons being chased down the street by confused or annoyed restaurant servers after they forgot to tip their service. Unlike in the UK, American servers get paid very little, and almost all of their income comes from tips, so it’s important to be generous. Between 15 and 20% on a food bill is typical, and around a dollar a drink is usually tipped at the bar. It takes some getting used to, but it becomes second nature after a while.
- They really are as patriotic as they seem
The American flag flies from every possible post, and they pledge allegiance to it pretty frequently. It takes some getting used to, but it’s quite sweet really. Just never ever bad mouth their country to anyone, and you’ll be absolutely fine.
- It is absolutely gigantic
If you’re not planning on hiring a car on your trip, you’re going to want to thoroughly research public transportation – it’s just vast, and the cities are sprawling and very car-centric too.
America is a great holiday destination, just don’t expect it to look quite as much like the UK as you might anticipate.