I’ll be straight up here – the United States of America blew my mind. To be honest, I am not really sure what I expected, but I was determined to go over there with an eagerness to make the most out of it and to leave any prejudices I unknowingly had at the door.
Speaking of prejudice, if you happen to be Australian and want to see a perfect example of it in motion, just post a status on Facebook that you are going on a holiday to the US. I guarantee you will find at least one or two responses to be from laughingly ridiculous to unashamedly bigoted. It’s also highly likely that you will be disappointed by at least one family member, friend or colleagues reaction. If not, congratulations on having a less dysfunctional network than I do!
Nah, I’m joking (kind of). Most were happy and excited for us, but then came the questions. The type of questions where you roll your eyes so far in the back of your head that you can literally see your brain shriveling up inside of itself.
Here are some statements about the USA that I had to endure before I left.
“Please please please be careful!! It’s so dangerous over there!”
“Do not go near the subway. You don’t want to be murdered.”
“If you can afford to go to America, why didn’t you choose to go somewhere more beautiful and interesting instead?”
Anyway, enough of that. Here are some of the small things I thought was great about the states. But first, you’ll probably notice comparisons to Sydney as a reoccurring theme. Deal with it.
1. Cream in coffee
Who the hell came up with this amazing idea! Now when I do this at home and at work people look at me as though I have lost my mind.
If anything, Sydney has turned me into a bit of a coffee snob. I can’t help it, we have great coffee here. I still know that my roots lie within a tin of instant Nescafé Gold and if necessary I’m even down for those 10-year-old sachets you get in hotels.
I will go to lengths to seek out great coffee and admittedly own a machine that has used up all of my birthday and Christmas presents for a very long time.
The other awesome thing about coffee (and its creamy BFF) in the US is that it was often complementary at restaurants and cafes.
I now think about this every time I order my $4.40 coffee across the road at work.
2. The New York City subway
So the first thing I noticed about the subway is the shocking difference between the cost of using it compared to Sydney. In NYC it costs $2.50 to travel anywhere on the subway. Manhattan alone covers an area of 56km2. In Sydney it costs me $4.40 (seems like a magic number in this place) to travel 7km on the train from the city to my suburb in the inner-west.
For a travel pass throughout the Sydney metropolitan area you will have to fork out up to $65 a week compared to NYC’s $30 a month.
Now I’m not here to discuss the reason for this insanity. I just want to say that when I found this out this effing delightful fact I was over the moon when I realised just how much money I was saving on transport here.
Some of the people who gave me ‘advice’ said that the NYC subway was a total shit-fight to navigate and was probably where I would end up being murdered. Well it was a breeze to navigate and I’m still alive so jokes on you.
3. Custard thick shakes
Yes they are a thing. Yes they are amazing.
4. Orange County Outlets
Orange County isn’t just Disneyland and Newport Beach. It’s the place that literally cured my shopping addiction.
One day we had some time to kill in LA (yeah I know – how is that even possible) so we decided to jump in a cab and go to the Outlets at Orange County.
The first thing I saw walking into this place was that the $80 polo shirts I buy from Tommy Hilfiger were $12. The $110 jumpers I buy were $20.
Repeat this scene over and over a few times until you see something snap in my brain. I should never have silently calculated my monthly clothing expenditure and compared it to American prices.
No wait – that was the best thing I have ever done. Because now it means when I go downtown nowadays it’s for normal things like milk and bread, not a damn overpriced wardrobe.
5. Respect for the weather
It’s a given that being a kid from the bush has its advantages. For starters, it hardens you up in ways that city kids don’t quite understand. It was as if everything in our little world was out to kill us. You couldn’t even get a drink without some sort of spider hiding in the hose (my sister finding out the hard way with a redback spider).
We would walk to school everyday from one end of the town to the other through snake-infested grass. There were at times cheeky dogs to contend with and even worse, the sun. God that heat. It was as if there was a magnifying glass over this place and I was a little ant with schoolbag.
So, equipped with a lifetime experience of bushfires, floods, storms, hail so big it smashes your roof – not to mention plagues – I guess you could say that when it comes to freaky weather or random encounters with wild or poisonous animals, I am a little bit desensitized to the world around me.
So when we saw a warning for an imminent polar vortex heading toward NYC, we did what any normal Australian would do – go for a walk downtown to see a movie.
We were staying near 77th and Broadway, and at the time it didn’t occur to me that things were pretty quiet in NYC… there was hardly any cars or people around. As we sat in the pictures (cinema, theatre, movies – jesus there’s a lot of names for this) we started to realise our rookie error after noticing that only one other person was in the entire room.
But stuff it, we had American candy to eat and not enough pockets to take it home.
The walk home was brutal. I’ve never seen so much snow away from a ski field before. I wasn’t entirely stupid as I was wearing some of my snow gear that saw us through -35°C in Canada the fortnight before; but that is still one weather event I never want to be stuck in again. And I was definitely worse for wear the next day, so as an almost instant karma I had to experience the horror that is going to an American health clinic.
I really loved what I saw of the US. I know with certainty that I will return, which is funny because I always thought I would only ever want to go there once.
I was originally going to write about loving Disneyland and being disappointed in Hollywood and Universal Studios. I wanted to talk a bit about awesome cab drivers, and the one who thought we wanted to buy weed because we kept asking for a chemist or pharmacy (instead of drugstore). I was going to comment about how tipping wasn’t as bad as I thought and how excellent the service is wherever you go to eat; why LAX is the most insane place on the planet and how freaking intense health inspectors are across the whole country.
Maybe ill get to it another time, maybe not. But I definitely think that when I flipped a coin on whether to go to Canada/US or Europe, it sure as hell landed on the right side.