Things You Should Know When Travelling to the US
When I departed Perth en route to JFK International Airport in New York, I thought our Australian culture would be somewhat similar to the American’s.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
While we speak the same and seem the same at a glance, our two countries couldn’t be more different.
Here are a few things I learned travelling through the USA that could help you if you are heading that way soon.
Tipping confused me from the second I stepped foot on American soil. I’ve never been great at maths, so having to calculate 10-20% on the spot under pressure saw me accidentally tipping too little, or getting stressed out and tipping way too much.
As annoying and stressful as it is, it is completely necessary. Minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour. For perspective, I earnt a large percentage more than that working in a supermarket delicatessen when I was barely 15. A lot of workers in the US feed their family, or pay their rent/mortgage almost entirely off tips.
While you don’t HAVE to tip, it is incredibly rude not to. Traveller.com says “it is almost never okay to withhold a tip; if you’re considering doing that, you should also be considering complaining to the manager.”
Heading to the US? Check out this guide on default tipping amounts.
Trying to beat jet lag on my second day in New York, I walked into a coffee shop and asked for a ‘flat-white’ when I couldn’t see it on the menu. The cashier stared at me blankly, and I ended up having to order an ‘Americano,’ their equivalent of a ‘long black.’
Coffee in America is bad, and you will almost never find what you’re looking for unless you see a specialist ‘Australian-style’ coffee shop. I was lucky enough to find Little Collins in the heart of Manhattan which served me well for the time I was there.
Outside New York, I unfortunately had to grin and bear with the ‘Americano.’
Large is LARGE
American portion sizes are some of the biggest in the world.
Order a medium, and you will basically end up with what we consider a large. Order a large, and you could end up with over 1L of soft drink in your cup.
I learned the hard way at a New York Mets baseball game when I ordered a large Pepsi, and ended with a cup that could only be handled with two hands.
There are 50 states, not two
A lot of us limit our visits to New York and Los Angeles, maybe Las Vegas if we feel like spending a bit of money.
The 50 states in America are all so unique, and each one truly does have an individual identity.
One of the best places I visited in American was Washington DC , and also Willmington, Delaware. In Delaware, I saw a handful of minor league baseball games, and even at minor-professional level, they know how to put on a show.
Other great cities to visit based on recommendations I’ve been given are Philadelphia, Nashville, Seattle, and Texas.
Americans love giving directions
If I stopped and looked at a subway map for more than six seconds, I would have six New Yorkers trying to give me directions with 11 different methods of getting to my destination, all equally as effective.
This may be unique to New York, but the people there are so proud of their street knowledge, and are also proud of the trains they catch, whether it’s the 1, 7, A, B, C or D (yes they are all different). My favourite train was the 1.
When you land, you need to recalibrate your muscle memory to ensure you walk on the right hand side of the road, walkway, or footpath.
Americans (especially in big cities) will show no mercy if you’re on the wrong side, or even worse, if you’re being too slow/stopping.
I heard people yelling at people to ‘get out of the way!’ and on my first day even got a gentle shove when I was lost on the footpath in Manhattan.
Have you travelled to the US? What are your tips or tricks? Leave a comment below.