So You’re Traveling to the United States…
With vacation season in full swing, it seems like a good time to talk about the United States. Whether you’re going there for business or pleasure, your tickets are booked, you’ve taken the time off, and your bags are just about packed. Time to figure out some of the cultural differences.
While it may not seem like Germany and the US are that different, there are definitely things that you should be aware of before you go. From some very small differences, to some very large ones, here are your travel must-knows.
The US is Big… Really Big
If this is your first trip to the US, you may want to do everything you’ve seen in the movies: you want to be sleepless in Seattle, leave your heart in San Francisco, find out why everything is bigger in Texas, and see the New York skyline from the top of the Empire State Building. The only problem? You’re only there for ten days and the United States is big. Really big.
Unfortunately, you can’t do all of that in such a short amount of time. Europe is much easier to get around than the States are. My suggestion? Pick one or two cities that you really want to experience, and just see them. You’ll have a much more fulfilling trip that way.
Which brings me to my next point…
Be Prepared to Drive
Public transport in the US is almost non-existent if you don’t live in a major metropolitan area. And even then sometimes it’s pretty close to nil.
For example, I grew up about an hour and a half outside of Washington, D.C. Many of my neighbors commuted into the city on a daily basis for work. However, there was no train nor bus system to get them to and from the city, so they drove.
Driving is a way of life in the States. Be prepared to drive almost everywhere, and if you’re not going to be staying in the middle of town, also be aware that walking everywhere might not be feasible. Some roads just aren’t built for it. And we don’t want you guys wandering along a highway!
Tipping is a Way of Life
My German friends make fun of me sometimes when we go out to eat because they think I give too much Trinkgeld to the waiters. I pretty much forced a tip on a waiter in Amsterdam once. And my English and Irish friends said they would always fight over American customers when they worked in restaurants because they knew they would tip well.
Tipping service people is a way of life in the United States and there’s a reason for it. Waiters are generally paid well under minimum wage and tips help make up their wage. A good rule of thumb for tipping in a restaurant is to take the amount you’re being charged for tax and double that amount. This makes for a reasonable tip for wherever you’re visiting.
Another pro tip: sales tax changes depending on the state you’re in! For example, sales tax in Virginia is 5% on items, and 10% on food, while there is no sales tax in New Hampshire.
Fluff Up Your Pillows
Possibly one of the smallest differences, but one that I noticed straight away, is that German and American pillows are different shapes. German pillows are large and square, while American pillows are a bit thinner and more rectangular.
Make sure to take the time to make your bed nice and comfy! Having a wonderful place to lay your head will help fight your jet lag.
What are some differences you’ve noticed between countries? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!
Erin Duffin lives in Berlin, is an English teacher, yoga instructor, and is a great giver of tips!