I often get asked why do I like visiting America so often. My colleagues tease me about there being a whole side of the world that I am missing out on. Do you know I don’t mentally regard going on holiday unless I am travelling West. I only ever have the map of North America in my mind when trips are mentioned. The question is why?
The only family I have is in Chicago and had friends in California but I am no longer in touch with them. We have visited the family a couple of times but as there isn’t anything drawing to any particular area the most influential reason is air prices. The hotel prices do fluctuate but really haven’t changed too much over the years. The best times to go are when the exchange rate is in UK favour and I have only once experienced it at over $2.00 to the pound. If you think that clothes tend to be pound to dollar anyway then a great exchange rate is a great time to travel. With the uncertainty over ‘Brexit’ the pound has weakened against most major currencies and visiting America is now expensive. Fuel is on the way up again so flight bargains are to be researched very carefully.
In no particular order these are my Top 10 reasons
- Cinnamon Flavoured anything including Dolce Latte
- Pumpkin Spice
- Aroma of an American Mall
- Turning right at a red traffic light
- Clean accessible toilets
- Quality of service
- Empty supermarkets
- Bargain Rails
- Iconic Landmarks
- Wintergreen Flavour
Putting that list together quickly made me realise how sensory most of it is. I try hard to compare my day to life with that of being away in America and there is little to compare. Perhaps because I live in a busy suburb and work in an equally busy suburb and there are lots of people everywhere. I think I have been in a busy mall once and never had to queue in a supermarket. They only time I have waited to pay is at a Walmart and the disorganised chaos of a department store without enough payment points.
I know it is a strange thing to highlight as a good point but toilets outside of the UK in Europe are often smelly, ill kept and really for emergencies only. Some European countries you can’t even put toilet paper down the pan and I hate to even think about what happens further east of Europe. So being a bit of a princess about such things I thought it was worth a mention.
My criticism of toilets in America is that the toilet doors don’t reach the floor by a long shot and the gaps between the doors and frames are often very big. Generally they are well maintained and can be found in most large shops. I think only once have we had to mention that the toilets needs looking at and even then the store assistant exaggerated the situation to get some attention from the unfortunate colleague.
Traffic varies just like in the UK and some red lights are so long you question if there is something wrong with the mechanics. So being able to turn right (when it is safe to do so) allows traffic to flow freely. Also there just isn’t the road rage that there is over here. No racing off the lights or jockeying for position, just pull away gently and you realise that you will get there calmly. We, well I say we, I mean my husband has been stopped twice for speeding. Once in Virginia where the officer issued a fine and was incredibly respectful and the other in Pennsylvania when he didn’t get a ticket because the officer couldn’t understand what passport he was travelling on and thought he was resident in Northern Ireland. The speed limit does vary from state to state and an up to date Sat Nav will help keep you legal. Also you can overtake or undertake which is really useful.
Service in stores especially is top notch. You are made to feel like you are most important thing in that store at that time. Having a cute English accent helps a lot. No question is too big or outlandish. You know in England when you are looking in a shop window and there are no prices on display or no other customers for that matter? Over in America somehow your inhibitions disappear and you are able to walk in and ask how much items are without feeling pressurised into buying something. You can wander around browsing and they thank you for visiting. As a tourist you get into the habit very quickly in thanking the store as you leave.
On occasion we have had to return items to stores and there has never been an issue in getting a refund. If you have to take food back up to the counter at a fast food outlet they just offer a replacement or refund immediately. America just has it nailed in comparison to the largely miserable and poorly trained staff in the UK.
There are 4 reasons that can be combined into scents and flavours but I can’t replicate those flavours in the UK. Cinnamon isn’t very popular and is commonly used in bagels. Pumpkin Spice is around for Halloween and then disappears. Not even Starbucks has it beyond 31 October.
Wintergreen is an artificial flavour and the only thing that is close is a throat lozenge. It is an acquired taste and I think is better is a hard sweet or mint and not in chewing gum form.
I know some of these reasons might seem random and they definitely were not that attracted me to the States in the first place but they have become favourites over the years.