I was born in Europe and grew up around the old continent.
Ever since I was a kid, one of my greatest wishes was to experience the American Dream. Life in the US is fascinating to the point that the rest of the world can’t resist tuning in on every occasion . I spent my teen years hooked on MTV, Blizzard’s games, and Hollywood-produced blockbusters.
Growing up in Europe I was marinated in American stereotypes. People who never came anywhere near the fifty states would casually mention that Americans are trigger-happy rednecks who believe Africa is a country.
I can’t place where this strange resentment comes from (It might be reality TV) because it's just no the reality.
This is my bitter-sweet recollection of the time spent traveling the United States as a European.
1. Smile bright like a diamond
Thailand might be called the Land of Smiles, but the United States is where the smile industry thrives. Every place in the US will greet you with a grin making circles around the head. Even casual shopping will get you an overwhelming amount of feel-good vibes.
The smile is contagious, and it’s hard to resist the urge to respond in the same manner. The thing you’ll instantly notice is how pearly their teeth are — they’re not just insanely white, they also shine brightly. It easy to spot the Americans just by inspecting their teeth. If it’s pearly white, they’re probably not from Europe.
2. You crack me up
This might be my favorite part of the American lifestyle. They value humor more than any other nation in 20 nations I had to opportunity to explore. You can always laugh with the Americans. And what I like the most, these guys know how to take a joke.
The United States has to be the ultimate heckler nation when it comes to its leaders. Imagine SNL or Daily show in Russia, Iran, China, Turkey, or even Italy — heads would roll, and people would be thrown to prison. The other place that has a fantastic sense of humor is England. Unfortunately, their sarcasm might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
3. The amount of ice in your casual drink can efficiently defeat global warming
I remember one bartender’s rant about foreign guests who demand less ice in their glass. He said, “You won’t get more drink if you ask for less ice.”
I personally have no idea how to drink if the ice constantly hits my teeth. It’s unpleasant, and it hurts. Also, I’d like to taste the thing I’m drinking. If you drop the whole Antarctica in my four-ounce glass, you might just ruin my night.
4. Forget the homeless people
I’ve never experienced a humanitarian crisis in wealthy environments. I remember my time in Los Angeles. Some of the most popular places like Hollywood were full of unlucky people surviving on the streets.
Most of the homeless were mentally challenged and in desperate need of medical attention, yet nobody seemed to care. It was disturbing to see there was no social system put in place to deal with such issues.
The truth is that bad luck could happen to any of us. It’s possible that we, like them, could easily lose most of our life.
I also found out about the mass let-outs from Mental hospitals. If you wonder where these people end up; I’ll tell you they get sucked into the land of the free to roam the streets until they face their final judgment.
Never before I had to deal with such a harsh reality.
5. We’ll make you eager to buy the stuff you won’t need
I remember buying six pairs of different shoes (because shoes) and wore only two pairs for the whole summer. I also remember the ads for condoms with babies smearing feces over themselves and questions like: are you sure you’re ready?
By the time I finished my trip, I had to buy one extra piece of luggage. But the two bags I had weren’t enough to take care of everything, so I had to throw away half of the stuff as well.
6. Who has the money to cook at home
In Europe, the cheapest option to buy food is in the form of raw groceries. In America, this might not be your best bet. It’s great if you want to keep an eye on the intake of refined sugar, sodium and all the big no-no’s when it comes to overall health, but it won’t save you any money. Going to WholeFoods can literally split your wallet in two.
Eating healthy food is almost a social status nowadays because some can’t afford to buy fresh groceries. Fast Food chains offer unimaginably cheap deals. I remember I’d spent $6 for a 2000kcal meal. On the other side, for six bucks I could barely afford a pack of carrots at Ralph’s.
7. Assault rifles are necessary for your everyday day life
I have to admit that I haven’t seen any automatic weapons during any of my trips across the US, but I’ve talked with opinionated people on the subject. The Second Amendment crusaders regularly go out of their way to explain the necessity of AR-15 in commercial sales at Walmart.
For me, just the fact that someone around you might have an assault rifle is frightening. In some European countries, not even the police have the authority to use firearms. And the gun issues are practically non-existent — go figure.
8. Enormous cars for grand guys
Europeans think America is all just one big land of excess. Well, they're not wrong. Everything's bigger in the US of A: cars, houses, skyscrapers, food portions- heck- even the clothes are bigger than anywhere else. It doesn't matter where you go or what you do here - if something seems big to American's then it's an impressive feat.
I remember standing close to pick-up trucks that had wheels as big as I was. I also remember feeling tiny wherever I went. And it wasn’t about the height. You could easily spot a European just by judging their size.
9. Come over for your dose of high-fructose corn syrup
America runs on sugar. I’d bet they even put it on clothes to leave sweet first impressions. Soft-drinks just don’t taste the same in America. I remember flipping a can of Sprite to read the label — which back home has ticks 5g of sugar per can — and to my surprise, I found out that half of that can is made from the addictive-white-cristal-powder (sugar, I mean sugar).
I also remember reading the menu for the Cesar salad in one of the local restaurants, and the bowl had 1800 calories due to dressing being stuffed with sugar. The food was delicious, my taste buds still crave that American-Mexican twist, but I’m also glad I didn’t develop any type of diabetes during my stay.
10. Hey you, let’s talk about the weather like it matters
If I get a penny every time someone try’s to sound smart by talking down on small-talks, I’d be able to buy groceries at WholeFoods. Kidding aside, I loved every interaction I had with random pedestrians.
Americans have the know-how about leaving good first impressions and turning any boring conversation into something fun. I deeply respect when someone puts an effort towards the brief moment you spent talking to strangers. You wouldn’t get the same level of devotion in Europe. Most of us might even come off as rude.
11. Who cares about the rest of the world
General lack of understanding about the rest of the world might, at times, is utterly ridiculous. I know the United States are number one in most categories — the highest number of Nobel prize winners, most medals on the Olympic’s, most inventions in the last hundred years, and biggest CEO salaries are just that come to mind — that it’s easy to become oblivious to the other 194 countries.
I constantly had to provide answers like; “You can buy chips in Germany,” or “There is Italian Food in Europe.” I have to admit, it was all fun and games and we all had our fair share of laughs.
12. Don't call 911 If you’re injured; it’s cheaper to bleed out
I’ve seen a guy wrap cardboard around his bleeding leg and tape it with ducktape. The sight resembled something I would expect to see in the back alleys of Mogadishu and not in Central Hollywood. Drunks, right before they passed out, would urge you not to call the ambulance, because they still cared about their credit scores. Regular folks don’t want to visit the hospital under most circumstances.
Even though the US has probably the best technology and most educated personnel, the health system is not helping the majority of the population.
I can't wait to come back
I loved every second of my trip to the States. And if given another chance, I’d do it again. I also have to admit the country is one of the most confusing places I’ve seen. The reality of life in the United States is intense.
On the bright side, Americans are friendly, funny, and hardworking people. I feel like a well-rounded person after coming back to Europe. I know I’m more understanding of complex social issues I see around me.
Maybe the US is not the best place in the world for everyone, but where else would you find bacon-wrapped-cheesy-stuffed-japaneños and chocolate-dipped churros for $1.89? Only in the US of A.