All of my blog entries about my trip to the US were in German but I also wanted to share some of my thoughts with my English speaking friends, especially those from the US.
I actually wrote this blog post while flying back to Germany but only about one month later did I find the time to finish it. But as it’s July, 4th today, I think it’s perfect timing. So Happy Independence Day!
That said, don’t take anything I’m writing too seriously. I tried to write this text with some humour. Anyway, here comes my list of what I found remarkable during my first ever trip to the US.
1. Everything is HUGE over there. You always hear this from other Europeans travelling to the US, from journalists, writers etc. but you’ll never know the true meaning of this unless you see it with your own eyes. First of all, the landscape. You will not find anything comparable in central Europe. We saw huuuge, absolutely flat and empty streches of land while driving from Colorado to Wyoming. The emptiness appeared to be pretty much endless. Kind of boring but at the same time impressive.
Of course, the cars are gigantic, too. We neither saw an Opel Corsa, a VW Polo nor a Smart. But we saw numerous Ford Pick-Ups. Must be something like the most popular car in the US. And I wonder if people really need this kind of car (because they are farmers, do heavy construction work or whatever) or if people just think it’s a cool car.
The supermarkets are biiig, too. Same goes for what they sell. There are packages of cereals the size of fertilizer in German farming. Or you can buy water in gallons. The “bottles” look like the destilled water packs my mom is using for her flatiron…
People also seem to be bigger than in Germany. And with bigger I don’t mean fatter as we didn’t see many obese people. More like the women are taller and a bit broader. I’m of average German height and weight and it was the first time I felt kind of “fragile”.
2. Apart from the huge cars, there is an environmental issue we found a little bit disturbing. And I don’t want to sound patronizing, this is just a small thing which could be changed so easily for the better without causing any inconvenience or costing a lot of money. I’m talking about the intense use of plastic. A lot of stuff in the supermarket comes in some kind of plastic box. Strawberries, for example. Why not put them in a card box instead? Or how very few items are kind of automatically packed into plastic bags while you’re paying. My favourite incident happened in New York when a gallon of water (which comes with a handle!) was packed into two plastic bags for carrying. I’m glad plastic bags are not for free in German supermarkets. I always carry an extra bag made out of fabric with me in case I go food shopping during lunch break, for example. And it’s also common to bring a basket with you when you go grocery shopping. There is also so much plastic stuff used in restaurants, ready to be thrown away after just one time of using it. Yes, it’s great that you do not throw away food but ask for a box and carry it home in order to be eaten the next day. But why always a plastic box?!
3. You always hear about US Americans being friendly and open. This I found to be true for about 90% of the people we met. Everyone is always asking “how are you?”, saying “sorry” when passing and I had to tell the story of why we came from Germany to the US numerous times because people were asking about it. Yes, I’m a typical example of German efficeny which means I usually only ask people stuff when I really want to know something. I’m terrible at small talk. I always fear I’m bothering people with my questions. At the same time, I wish I could be a little more American extrovert. A little bit more “amaaazing”, “fabulous”or “aaawesome” and a little less “not bad”.
4. You have some amazing (hehe, I did it…) nature in the US. I loved the Grand Canyon of Yellow Stone, the lakes of the Rocky Mountains National park and the snowy mountains surrounding Vail.
5. I loved New York. And it was so easy to adjust to this city as big and as lively it might be. I don’t know exactly why but there was somehow a very European feeling about it. Kind of like London?!
6. Wyoming looked very conservative to me. We saw people wearing cowboy hats and Wrangler jeans as “everyday clothes”. Very wild, wild west. I can totally imagine some of them voting for Sarah Palin… And meat seemed to be the number 1 choice of food which doesn’t go so well with what I usually eat.
7. We loved Boulder/Colorado. The university is so pretty and the feeling of the city reminded me of typical German university cities like Heidelberg, Tübingen or Freiburg. Also many athletic people hiking, running or biking. But no Nordic walkers 😉
8. This being said, I learnt for sure that the US is a very diverse country. People from different regions are totally different. Just like you can’t say Germany=Berlin / Germany=Bavaria.
9. Driving in the US is so much easier than in Germany. The streets are way bigger and there was far less traffic at least where we were travelling. Parking spaces are huge, too. So don’t feel afraid to rent a car when visiting the US as a European. You’ll also need it because distances are huge. Eventually, you’ll end up doing crazy stuff like driving three hours one way to Vail for a day trip. Or eight hours one way for two days at Yellow Stone Park.
10. One more thing about traffic: where we have symbols in Germany, US Americans love to write texts. Like “yield” or “speed limit 50 mph.”. And there are human traffic lights especially when some kind of construction work is being done. Meaning there are people holding up signs with either “stop” or “slow” being written on them. We even had a “safety car” leading us through one construction site. And the “click it or ticket” signs made me smile. Great slogan but I hope most people do not need this reminder to buckle up anymore.
11. I really like the American efficency when it comes to restaurants. You’re seated, you get a menu immediately, you can order drinks not much later and eventually you order food. You never have to wait forever in between like it sometimes happens in Germany.
12. Some stuff tasted incredibly sweet. Or stuff you don’t expect to taste sweet also had sugar in it. Like bread. Eeew…
13. Avocados are way cheaper than in Germany. All of the other vegetables and fruits probably are more expensive. I loved all the food options they had with avocado. Like sandwiches.
14. I read a book of the US American wife of a German anchorman a few years ago and there she wrote how much she enjoys German “Gemütlichkeit” on Sundays. Now, I understand what she meant by this. Many shops are open in the US on a Sunday and that’s why it feels like any other day. Even Memorial Day didn’t really feel like a holiday because you saw people carrying groceries and other stuff out of Walmart.
These are my facts about my US trip. Did I enjoy myself? Yes, definitely. Do I want to go back? Yes, also definitely. I’m dreaming about a road trip through California…