Thursday, 18 May 2017

What Every First-Timer Should Know About America

There’s nowhere else on earth quite like America. The sheer size and diversity, and the constant state of change spurred on by the country’s pioneer spirit, puts this country on the hit-lists of almost every avid traveller. Though you certainly won’t forget throwing yourself headlong into the country, like anywhere, it pays to do a little research. Here are a few things every first-time traveller should know about visiting the United States.
It Has Incredible National Parks
Credit: Pixabay

America’s national parks, which cover a grand total of 84 million acres, boast all kinds of amazing superlatives. Death Valley, California, has the lowest point in the western hemisphere. Mount McKinley in Alaska is the highest point in North America, and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is, as the name suggests, the longest cave system in the world. Wherever you’re headed, there’s sure to be a national park within reasonable distance, so make sure you plan at least one day out.
The Customs Are Heavy-Duty
The customs system in America is probably going to be much more rigorous than what you’re used to, even if you’ve seen your fair share of the world. The immigration form you’ll get on the plane has all kinds of questions that can throw you off, and the TSA are infamous for their no-nonsense approach to airport security. Fortunately, there are various resources like the official ESTA website where you can clear up any uncertainties. Just make sure to do this in advance to avoid any upsetting mishaps during your trip.
Tips Are Pretty Much Non-Negotiable
Credit: Flickr

The official line is that tipping in the states is totally voluntary. However, one of the unofficial but very potent nuances of American culture is that 15 to 20 percent in most restaurants is more or less a given. Even if there was nothing special about the service you received, bear in mind that the minimum wage in the states is relatively low, and many restaurant workers will depend on tips to make ends meet.
There’s a Festival for Almost Everything
America is the land of weird and wonderful hobbies and societies, at least one of which you’ll be able to get up-close to wherever you are. From the chainsaw carving festival in Pennsylvania to the testicle festival (no, that’s not a typo) in Montana, you won’t believe the kind of events that could be going on a stone’s throw away from your hotel!
Americans Are Relentlessly Friendly
Credit: Pixabay

If you’re visiting North America for the first time as a European, you might come back and get the odd feeling that you’ve annoyed literally everyone in your home country. In the states, you may get a surprise when you walk down the street, and a complete stranger smiles at you, giving you a loud, chirpy “Hi!” as they walk past. Don’t worry, you’re not going to come off as rude if you don’t engage them in conversation. However, if you do, they’re going to be too polite to blow you off when they really have to be going! The point here is that you should try to come out of your shell a bit if you don’t want to stick out too much.

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