Let’s start off with the most interesting points about America:
- Starbucks is on every corner.
- What do they wear?
- He wears a t-shirt with some branding of the local garden centre.
- He wears a cap, forward or backwards (actually I quite like this, you may have noticed).
- She wears a yoga ‘pants’ to every class. And a cap as always. With her starbucks cup in her hand, and the name will be… Alyssa (with a y)?
- What do they eat?
- Food trucks are everywhere. Most students are on meal plans. The diet consists of lots of meat and carbs, and a serious lack of veg. For my first 3 months I put on more fat than I have ever carried before.
- Frozen food, takeaways, bad coffee and caffeine everywhere. Some of them sustain this diet while going to the gym and wonder why they don’t see results.
- Starbucks don’t give you real mugs
- At one of my first visits to Starbucks, I told the cashier I wanted my coffee to take away. He didn’t understand. I proceeded to explain that I wanted to take my coffee and walk out of the front door with the coffee still in my hand. It was to my realisation later on, that Starbucks in the USA do not give you proper ceramic mugs… ever.
- Red lights don’t mean red lights
- Cars can turn right on red. Prepare to dodge the cars.
- Are you paying for that with credit or debit?
- You have to tell the machine what kind of card you’re using. You never know if you should swipe it or insert it into the machine. You never know if you’re going to have to sign or if you’re going to have to put in your pin. Get your card stolen and a Spanish man is going to spend $60 on greasy steaks and tacos at the 200 takeaways 100ft down the street, as happened to Daniel Reeve.
- •’The customer is always right’ doesn’t apply here
- Be prepared for rudeness from most staff.
- Waiters and waitresses in restaurants will earn something like $3/hour and the rest of their wage comes from tips. Even if the service is poor, to not tip would be offensive.
- What really got me was when I was ordering at bars and not tipping, because literally all they did was turn around and pour my drink. If 30 seconds is worth my $2 tip, they may as well be working on Wall Street, sorry, but if your time is that valuable I’d be happy to pour my own drink. Anyhow, due to the disgusted looks I gained in my first couple of weeks, I do now tip barmen/girls.
- Prices on everything
- Look at a price tag and see it costs $10. Get your $10 note and line up to pay. Then they ask you for $12.27 and it’s like sorry has there been some major inflation in the last 20 seconds that I should know about?
- Americans don’t publish the tax price on the price tags because the taxes constantly change. One month your phone bill is $30, the next its $27 and the next it’s $31. There’s State tax and City tax.
- Male dress sense
- Chips, fries, crisps… plz help
- The American flag is EVERYWHERE. I actually have my own in my bedroom…
- They say “pre-game” rather than “pre-drink”. What game am I about to play?
- Everybody wears caps, even indoors. And now I do too.
- The general reply to “thank you” is “yep” or “mmhmmm”.
- The toilets are SO low down omg. And how much water do you need in them?!
- Why is it so hard to get hold of pork sausage? Chicken sausages are everywhere.
- Ask for a pie… you’ll get given a full pizza.
- They say “check” not “bill”, and “bill” not “note”. And no they don’t spell it “cheque”.
- Gotta withdraw money at your bank’s own ATMs, or be charged. Also, drive through ATMs are real.
- Every lecturer is called a “Professor”, regardless of if they actually are a legit Professor.
- University National finals and playoffs are aired on ESPN, whereas in England they’re uploaded to YouTube on someone’s Nokia brick. Oh, and actually they call it “college”, even if the uni has “University” in its name.
- Imperial measurements – what a pain.
Buttttt, what is living in Philadelphia like?
Get an Uber in 2 mins. Get someone to deliver your groceries in 30 mins. Get your package order the next day. Grab food and drink to go on every street corner. Philadelphia, and the US in general, live in an on-demand world which makes life ever so much easier. That’s the biggest difference I’ve faced since coming home. Chicago, New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, Miami… these are all huge global centres that become within a few hours reach on the East Coast. Hop on a short flight to Dallas, slightly longer to New Orleans or even longer to Las Vegas. The US lifestyle is one of fun and … freedom?!
Returning home, after taking 24 flights in 11 months, spanning 18 time zones, feels very uneventful. You will realise in the states that so much becomes just a short journey away. Every type of climate you could want, every type of scenery, and every type of city. Spending only 12 hours a week in class, I had a lot of freedom to explore Philadelphia and the states.
Never once was I homesick, because ultimately this is the lifestyle I had always wanted to live. Philadelphia is the 5th largest city in the US, and the largest city of choice for Study Abroad in the USA from The University of Sheffield. Additionally, the campus is unlike most other college campuses, being in the centre of Philadelphia. With a 3 minute underground ride, you are right in the centre of the city. Therefore, the city becomes your playground and it never ever gets boring.
Philadelphia was once a city of little hope, topping the US murder and homicide charts for years, earning itself the nickname “Killadelphia”. Today it is a thriving city of young professionals, often now referred to as the new Brooklyn. It’s hip, it’s cool, it’s young and it’s cheap(ish). You get (let’s say 3/4) the lifestyle of New York City for a fraction of the price. Oh, and NYC is only 2 hours away anyway. Here’s Philly:
I could bore you with the details of what I did, what Philadelphia is like etc etc, but honestly, there is too much to talk about in this one blog post. If you are interested, my travelling companion and main homeboy Dan wrote an awesome blog about most of the stuff we did throughout the year.
Here is a list and photos of the most prominent places I travelled:
(click on the photo to see the names of the places)
Other places seen:
Abingdon, VA; Louisville, KY; Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; Pittsburgh, PA, Blue Mountain, Upstate PA; New Hampshire State; Glenn Onoko Falls, Upstate PA; Brooklyn, NY; Long Island, NY.
While we are on it, here’s my list of the best places to visit in the states:
- Best State: Vermont – hands down the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen.
- Best city to visit for vacation: New Orleans – an awesome cross between typical southern USA and central Paris, then chuck a few palm trees on the main roads. Oh and it’s also a swamp.
- Best city to live in: Chicago, IL or Philadelphia, PA.
- Best meal: The Bone Fire Smokehouse, Abingdon, VA – best ribs you’ll eat, and yes better than Texas.
- Best for partying: Las Vegas (sorry, Miami).
- Best sunset (I LOVE sunsets): Dallas, TX
- Best skyline (I also love skylines): Dallas, TX, again.
Even after travelling so much, you end up trapped in a world of ‘Murica. Most Americans don’t have passports and I can understand why; you simply don’t feel the need to leave this country. On the news, it was barely about events outside of the USA, and so most of the TV covered Trump, Sanders, Clinton, College Basketball and the NFL.
Anyway, enough on my love for America (yes I do now have a large American flag and I do wear baseball caps). What is it like to move to a new country, and then to come home?
Pack your bags up and move your life in a suitcase abroad, and you’ll soon realise how simple everything becomes, it’s wonderful.
The friends you make are based totally on the person you are right now in your life, and so they will be some of the best friends you ever have. Just as importantly, this time will teach you who are your most valued friends back at home!
The place you move to becomes the main thing that shapes you over the next year, do not underestimate the influence this will have on you.
It’s tough. Simply put. There will be a down period where you will miss the weather (remember, this is England we live in), the food, the people and the places. The best thing to do is to do something that will keep you very busy; get a job, go to the gym, meet your close friends.
But anyway, for now I will continue to plod through the English countryside and pretend that I’m as content as I was in the concrete jungle of Philadelphia; but for me, I’ve always wanted to live in the city (by that I mean a real, big city), and to have only grasped it for a year is not enough – I’ll be back!