America, I love you. But you continue to challenge me in the most surprising ways.
Last time I visited the States, I said I struggled with the country’s stubborn reliance on the outdated imperial measurement system, tipping, and the weird way that businesses move the goal posts at the last second by adding tax at the point of sale. (See 5 insane things I struggle with in the USA.)
This time, I still struggled with all those things and found some more strange things that I found surprising or challenging while travelling in the good ol’ US of A.
1. Getting a drink in a bar/restaurant
Sometimes it feels like a man could die of thirst at a bar or restaurant in America.
Seriously, it just wouldn’t stand in New Zealand or in the UK how gosh darn long you have to wait sometimes, between placing your order with the waitress and then waiting for the designated person whose sole job seems to be to deliver drinks, to walk around with a tray of drinks for what feels like the entire bar or restaurant.
No wonder so many Americans prefer to sit right at the bar itself. It’s the only way you’re able to get a beer when you want one – not 10-15 minutes after you ordered it. Pubs in England would go out of business if it took them that long to serve their thirsty patrons.
2. I have to remember to carry some ID
It’s been so long since I turned 18 (the legal drinking age in New Zealand) that I was shocked each and every time someone asked me to show some ID before they’d serve me an alcoholic beverage in the US.
I know, I know – the drinking age is 21 in America (it probably should be 21 everywhere, to be honest). Still, I’m bloody 30! Should I be flattered that I look so young? Or does the law in America really crack down on bars that serve minors?
3. American portion sizes are just so BIG
A pet peeve I have with restaurant reviews back home is when they criticise the restaurant for its portion sizes being too large. I hate that. No-one is forcing you to eat it all; some people appreciate having a larger meal.
Having said that, some of the portion sizes in America have got to be a joke. At times, it felt like you could feed an entire family with the plate of food that would be set down in front of me. Some of the best restaurants in Virginia Beach serve huge portions of delicious food – which is great for leftovers if you can’t finish it.
Mrs Man vs World and I would always have good intentions to share our meals, but when the time came to order we wouldn’t be able to reach a consensus, so we’d order separate meals and end up with enough food to feed a small army.
4. America is so cheap compared to NZ
Even with the New Zealand dollar weak – and weakening – against the greenback during the month of May, travel in the United States was as affordable as ever.
Even on a little island in the middle of the Pacific (I mean Hawaii in this instance – not New Zealand, which is also an island in the Pacific), we paid a lot less for food, drink, and clothing than we would back home. Accommodation was more expensive in Hawaii, but that’s not the case with most places we’ve visited in the US, compared to NZ.
It was even better when we were living in London, with the British pound’s relative strength against the American dollar across the pond.
The thing that I struggle with here is why in the world is New Zealand so expensive?
5. Why are there so many homeless people?
I feel bad mentioning this – especially so soon after bragging about how cheap we found things in the US. But I struggle to understand why there are so many homeless people in America.
In San Francisco and Honolulu in particular, I was shocked to see so much poverty in an otherwise incredibly wealthy part of the world.
We have homelessness in New Zealand, too, of course, and the gap between rich and poor does appear to be a growing problem here. I certainly hope we find some way to curb the problem before any shanty towns start popping up – like the one I saw recently at Kapalama Canal in Honolulu.
Come on, America – sort it out! It’s so sad to see so many people “earning a living” by collecting bottles and cans for recycling.
Note: for certain countries, citizens can apply for an ESTA online for tourism reasons. They do not need to visit the local embassy anymore. ESTA is usually valid for 2 years and it is a multiple entry visa. It is linked to your passport electronically. You can read more here.