There’s often great misconceptions about the US when it comes to visitors from other parts of the world. We’re so clued into their TV, their movies, even their news and politics that we think we know everything we need to and will fit in like a hand into a glove once we arrive. Yet when people visit, they often feel woefully out of the loop and realise that there’s SO much more to the states than what we see on MTV or Sky News. Before you go, there are a few things you need to remember that will definitely help you acclimatise.
The stereotypes don’t apply
Remember that the US isn’t one big monoculture. No country on the planet really is, but remember that it’s the United States of America. There are fifty of them, each with distinct cultures, traditions, and their own diversity of populations. It’s great to have a little bit of banter about how they beat us (the British) back from oppressing them, but the one way to out yourself as that really annoying tourist is to make assumptions and jokingly use stereotypes about the country. They’ve heard it all before and It’s bad travel etiquette too… A lot of Americans are notoriously proud of their country, which isn’t surprising given it’s one of the few true superpowers of the world.
They can be terrifyingly friendly
They might love their country, but it also seems like a lot of Americans love visitors, too. You can expect hosts to be very friendly and for small talk to be struck up like nowhere else. I’ve had many Americans that I’ve known for just a few hours offer me a place to stay when I’ travelling around the country. I honestly think I know one person in most states who has offered me a place to stay! However, you have to be aware of their boundaries too, don’t go hugging everyone just because they started talking to you 😉
It’s not all in the cities
The US is not just New York and Los Angeles. Yes, every state has some cities that are jam-packed with stuff to do and are absolutely a must see. But one of the biggest points of pride for the country is their vast selection of National Parks. There’s a long history of preserving breath-taking natural beauty so you owe it to yourself to see some. The thousands of small villages and own that dot the highways between cities often have attractions that you never thought were possible and may become the highlight of your trip – for instance, Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo Texas!
You can wave goodbye to metric
This might seem like a minor point to some, but it can almost feel like a language barrier when you’re visiting. By and large, the US does not use the metric system. You’ll be dealing with miles and inches instead of km and cm. Similarly, you better have a weather app to help you translate what the temperature is going to be. 59 degrees might sound huge to a Celsius user, but it really means you should wear a jumper.
You need to prepare in advance
This is a mistake that can stop many trips before they happen. Before you book your flights, ensure that you’ve got your ESTA and that you’re actually allowed to visit the country. You can find out more about this here. In general, depending on where you’re from, you won’t have many issues applying and getting a successful response in a few days. But travelling in America without the proper verification is dangerous. Tourists can and do get stopped and asked for it.
As much as it might seem that people the US are just like us, there are fundamental differences in culture that will always create a bit of a culture shock. Keep an open mind and enjoy the beautiful country!