A Brit Abroad: My First Impressions of the USA

So, this year, I’ve come over from the U.K to do a year’s study in the USA. I’ve been here about three weeks now, and in this time I’ve noticed a few things that are pretty different here from my home across the pond. 

 

1. American toilets have no privacy

So when I landed in America, I headed straight for the bathroom- I’d just got off an eight hour flight and had tried to avoid using the aeroplane toilets because they’re small and cramped and just pretty nasty. But when I went to use the bathroom in the airport I was even more taken aback. The toilets have zero privacy; there’s such a large gap in between the cubicles you could literally make eye contact with the person washing their hands whilst you’re on the loo. I’m guessing this is the norm, because it really doesn’t seem to phase my fellow toilet-goers, but I have to say even now I’m still getting used to it. Sometimes, you just want to be able to pee in peace!

2. Football here is like, a big deal

I’d heard a lot about American football before I came over, so even though I’m not exactly a sport enthusiast, I was kind of excited to see it in action. I wasn’t disappointed. Football here is not just a different game to the U.K, it’s like a whole different world. It felt like something out of Grease; there was the cheerleaders, the marching band, team colors and someone running round the pitch in a Wolfie costume. That was the first moment where I really thought to myself: Yep now I’m in a different country. It was a bit different to U.K football games where you have a load of people holding bottles of stella and getting crushed in the crowds. 

3. Everyone here is so friendly, and it really confuses me 

It wasn’t until I got to America that I realized just how standoffish and rude we British can be back at home. Over here, you get people letting you go through doors first, random compliments from strangers, and when you do your shopping the person at the checkout actually wants to talk to you about your day, and isn’t just asking because they’ll get the sack otherwise. My first week here, I must have ended up telling my life story to multiple different target and CVS employees just because they carried on chatting. I’m used to the awkward ‘Hello, how are you,’ and then a stony silence as I do my shopping, so this whole accommodating, friendly thing was pretty unnerving at first to be honest! 

4. Drinking culture is not the same…at all

To be fair, in the U.K it’s pretty much acceptable to have a drink whatever the situation; as long as the sun has come up, it’s never too early. You’ll often see people in pubs having beers before midday, especially during the summer months. You could say we take it… too far. And at universities, drinking is not really part of the culture, it is the culture. I mean our freshers events are literally geared to get students drunk; we get pamphlets for free club entry and drinks left right and centre. Over in America, of course the drinking age is 21, so it’s all completely different. Walking around NYC, it was clear that the whole getting casual drinks in a bar is not really a thing until you’re in your mid-twenties. And heartbreakingly, I’m yet to even see a single pub the whole time I’ve been here- do they exist in the U.S., because if not…why not? 

5. There’s a whole new way of language to get to grips with 

Never have I felt so out of place, as when my friend burst out laughing when I offered her a biscuit. ‘You call them biscuits??? Do you know what a biscuit is to us??’ Que the next half an hour of us comparing different words and realizing we might speak the same language, but we definitely speak it differently. Whether it’s chips versus crisps, sidewalk versus pavement, there’s a whole lot of American phrases I’m still learning to handle. But I still stand by the fact- a biscuit is a biscuit, no matter how many times you tell me it’s a cookie.