America, the land of the plenty, the free and the most annoying tipping system in the world. While many Aussie travellers may have become accustomed to the bigger serving sizes, tried our hand at tipping correctly and done an obligatory road trip, there are a few things that are still hard to grasp about this great big nation.
I arrived on US soil a month ago, arduously travelling from Adelaide to Sydney to Hawaii and eventually landing in my new home of Oregon to study abroad. While the US is a wonderful and crazy place in its own right, there are a few things I wish I’d known about before I’d arrived. So, in an effort to educate the masses, here are seven of the strangest things about the States you won’t learn from watching Seinfeld.
#1 There are drive through ATMs
Welcome to the land of convenience, where the majority of activities are available from the comfort of your car. My personal favourite? Drive through ATMs and tellers where you can skip the stuffy Bank of America lobby and crank AC/DC instead. The drive through ATM was invented in, and has been enabling, the US since the 1930s (why do we not have this yet?). Other drive through innovations include post boxes, coffee shops and even a spot where you can pull up to dump your utility bills.
#2 Dogs can go anywhere. Anywhere!
Big dogs, little dogs; you name it and I’ve seen it in a crazy setting. I’ve spotted dogs on trains, buses, in a radio station, at Macy’s, inside a bar listening to a band and at a legal cannabis dispensary. There seems to be no restrictions on where you can bring your pooch in America, which sucks if you’ve got allergies, but it’s great for those of us who like to dispense tummy rubs.
#3 American alcohol has confusing limits
Say goodbye to the ‘standard drink’ and hello to a confusing measurement system. Alcohol in the US ranges from 8 to 14 percent while beer in Australia is around the 5 percent mark (VB, for example, is at 4.9 percent). To make things more dicey, alcohol comes in pint cans often at prices as low as $2 a can. With no standard drink labels, it’s anyone’s guess as to how much alcohol you’re putting into your body, which spawns potential for embarrassing yourself in front of your new friends and colleagues. Beware the beer, and take it easy when you’re out.
#4 They’re masters of the frankenfoods
Get the antacid ready, the US boasts a certain level of creativity when it comes to food. While no one does a meaner pizza (sorry, Italy), we reckon the things at the experimental end are worth a try too, if only to say you’ve done it. You can sample such fine specimens as the ice-cream taco, the lobster-stuffed lobster with shrimp, chicken fries and pizza-cross-garlic bread.
#5 Bigger is better
The normal supermarket in the States is really more of a warehouse, averaging 45,000 square feet (that’s 4,200 square metres). That means more varieties of soda than you thought possible. For health reasons, you probably shouldn’t spend too long in the infinite and sprawling snack isles, but everything is so fun and delicious looking that it’s kind of hard not to.
#6 Coffee isn’t just coffee
Coffee is just a vessel for flavour. Enjoy delights such as honey lavender lattes, birthday cake breves, caramel mocha frappachinos, red velvet, peanut butter or pumpkin-spiced coffee – you name it, you will find it brimming with caffeine at your local coffee shop.
#7 We have them beat in one thing
Sure, the drive-through convenience is great, but I’ve discovered that things are not always better here. The Australian toilet may potentially have a spider under its lid, but its flush is also far superior. Americans use a ‘suction’ system that sucks down the waste while Australia uses a ‘push down’ system. So as not to belabour the point, let’s just say there’s a reason why there are plungers aplenty over here.
(Lead image: Varin/Flickr)