I just got back from my trip to New York & Los Angeles and as usual (like when I got back from Iceland), I feel weird. Not because of the jetlag, the tons of unhealthy food I’ve put into my stomach or the shitty flight between LA & NY, I have an unfamiliar feeling because I got to know a different country. Different people. My life got spiced up with new experiences that are totally different from the ones I knew before. And that is exactly what makes me feel weird. But also excited.
Here is my lists of amazing and less amazing lessons I learned when traveling to the USA.
1. Americans are open and spontaneous
All (really all) the people I met during my journey were amazing. They took the time to show me around, making sure my trip was a success. From midnight walks on Brooklyn Bridge to midnight walks along Venice Beach. From taking me to Spanish brunch places to taking me to a corndog stand at the pier. From endless subway rides to endless car drives across Nevada. One by one they proudly showed me their America and city. I was blown away by the effort they did, their openness and their generosity. But I was also blown away by the friendly talks I had with strangers. From the lady at the Converse store telling how she’d spent Thanksgiving to the Rite Aid cashier that addressed me with ‘my dear’. Every American (friend or stranger) made me feel welcome.
2. Europeans are highly appreciated
America has a high ‘superficial people’rate. Europeans with an ‘I don’t care what you think of me or what I wear’mentality are a rare species in America and are therefor highly appreciated. And the best thing: Americans have no problem communicating their feelings about others, so as a European I felt very loved & appreciated during my trip.
3. The image we have of the USA is so wrong
had lots of talks with native Americans. And I soon discovered that the image we have of America and its inhabitants is so wrong and build on that little piece of information media are serving us. No, not all Americans are fat. Yes, you can buy vegetables and fruits in supermarkets and not even overpriced. People in America are not only looking for success & the realization of their American dream. Just like you and me they want a healthy work/life balance with fun, friends, family… Greg told me when he was traveling to Ghent, he was treated differently when he was alone in a bar then when he was in a bar with me. Probably because of the way we look at Americans. From now on: if you see an American in a bar: buy him/her a good Belgian Beer and talk to him/her and you’ll notice for yourself…
4. Police is watching you: don’t misbehave! Follow the rules!
In Belgium it’s normal to walk on the streets with a bottle in your hand. Imagine de Gentse Feesten without alcohol in the streets. In America it is absolutely forbidden to drink when you are not in a bar and Americans are very aware of that. Ideas like ‘let’s go to the beach and bring some beers’ are no go. I heard stories about people getting a fine because they were drinking a beer on their front porch. The attitude Americans have towards police officers is therefor very amusing; they are afraid of them. When cops come nearby, it means you are in trouble and will be fined. When being in America, you should follow the rules and respect authorities. There is absolutely no room for ‘let’s do something crazy’ if it means balancing on the edge of illegality. And if drinking in public is already illegal…
5. You don’t value airline companies unless you have a shitty experience
I am used to flying with Brussels Airlines. And I took their services for granted. Until I flew with American Airlines. Here is the thing: I flew with Brussels Airlines from Brussels to New York and back for 380 euros. I flew from New York to LA and back for 345 euro. Same price, almost the same flying time (around 6 hours). But the difference is the service. Brussels Airlines offered me decent food, 2 seats, friendly staff, touchscreens for every seat… American Airlines offered me a seat in the middle of the row that couldn’t be changed, no food, no movies, no service and a piece of luggage I had to pay for. I never fly American Airlines again.
6. Art as a product not as a service
While being in NY, museums gave me the impression of being a company without boundaries & with creative views instead of being governmental institutions. In the MoMA you can enter for free on Friday Night because they have a sponsorship with UNIQLO (a fashion brand). In the MET you can contribute the amount of money you want as entrance fee. The shops of museums are attractions; massive amounts of books / design objects / gadgets of art pieces… Museums in NY know how to make money. By treating art as a product and not as a governmental service.
7. You cannot compare NY to LA and vice versa
The two cities are totally different. East coast vs west coast. There is no reason to compare both cities.
8. America does have some amazing food
Try jerky and you’ll understand! And bagels with raisin and walnut cream cheese!
9. The amount of food getting wasted in America, makes you sick
In LA & Las Vegas I got a clear view on how quantity is more important than quality. Especially for food. It made me sick how much food is wasted because of the massive portions they serve.
10. Get used to the level of fake
From the perfect red apple in the supermarket to the way people are dressed up. From the boob implants to the chest implants from guys. From Venetian casinos in Las Vegas to the stars on the Hollywood Boulevard… There is a lot of fake in America. Hiding true colours and/or manipulating reality. Get used to it, it’s everywhere!
11. It’s a luxury to live in a small country
If you want to go on a holiday (when living in Belgium or Europe), you take your car and drive to Paris. Or you jump on the first train to Amsterdam. In 3 hours you are in a different country with different people with different mentalities. In America it is different. A lot of Americans don’t know their own country because they haven’t traveled to more than 5 states. It’s a bless countries in Europe are so small you can travel everywhere and discover new things outside your country without having to fly 6 hours only to step outside your borders.
Overall… America; you hate it or you like it. I liked it, but maybe the gigantic stack of waffles and strawberries made me biased.