Strange things about America

In which our heroine discovers that she may not be in Kansas anymore, Toto.

1. Most of the coffee is drip-filter (or ‘dripolator’, as Mum likes to call it), not espresso-based. At breakfast at my hotel in Santa Fe, waiters would wander around with jugs of filter coffee instead of taking orders for lattes. Incidentally, most of this filter coffee is pretty terrible. My room in the hotel has a drip filter machine (!)

drip filter

but doesn’t have a kettle, so I can’t make tea. (I’ve just checked in to my hotel in Albuquerque and it’s the same—drip filter, no kettle. Yet they’ve given me teabags…)

2. All the light switches I’ve seen are either upside down or sideways.


Not a huge problem, just a slightly amusing spectacle for any hidden watchers, as it usually takes me a few moments to figure out why the light’s not turning on.

3. This one is probably peculiar to regions with a lot of Mexican food, but they seem to like chilli with everything. I went to a pizzeria for lunch on Sunday and managed to get a beautifully made, authentic Italian-style pizza

pizza with chilli

which was served with a shaker of chilli flakes, just in case I couldn’t handle the thought of food without chilli. I mean, chilli has its place, but it’s not often you find it in Italian food.

4. Tipping. How much am I supposed to tip? Can I refuse to tip if the service wasn’t up to scratch? Should I tip more at a fancy restaurant? Is it truly voluntary if restaurants enforce a tip for parties over 6 people? WHY don’t they just up the prices of the food, and pay their staff a fair wage???

5. There is almost no fruit or veg. I’m staying in a hotel in the middle of town, so I’m eating out for every meal. Most places don’t serve fruit or veg at all where I’m used to finding it (e.g. salad on the side when you buy quiche for lunch), and when you do get it, it’s often a tiny serve. Heavily processed or seasoned or dressed. And there are no supermarkets, grocers or convenience stores within walking distance, so I can’t even stock up on apples for snacks. By contrast, in the middle of Sydney and Melbourne, every corner has an IGA that at least stocks apples.

Mind you, I’m probably getting enough vitamin C from the lime juice in all those margaritas I’ve been drinking. No scurvy here. If it worked for Captain Cook, it can work for me!

6. Salad is served before the meal. In Australia, salad is served as a side dish to a meal. In Europe, salad is apparently served after the main course. Here, salad is your entree. I guess we all have our different ways.

7. Speaking of entrees…every restaurant I’ve been to here calls the first course ‘Appetizers’ and the main course ‘Entrees’. In Australia, we call the first course ‘Entrees’ and the second course ‘Mains’ (or something similar). During my first few days in the US I was involved in several conversations with waiters where we managed to just confuse each other about what size meal I wanted. I started to wonder who had the terminology right, but a handy francophone assured me that entree does indeed mean ‘entry’, as in, the start of the meal. A useful thing to know, but I don’t think I’m going to be arguing the case with any waiters—the less confusion the better!

I guess this is the joy of discovering a new country. There’s lots of wonderful things, lots of interesting things, and a few things that just seem strange. But as I said—it’s all part of the fun!


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6 Responses to “Strange things about America”

  1. Eduard Says:

    Welcome to the land of confusion! You and I both know British (or rather Australian) English… American English is a completely different language!! Imagine my surprises when I just got here! Entrees are entrees and come *before* a main. The Americans just got it wrong :P.

    The tipping is just absurd! I fully agree with you. Rule of thumb: minimum 16%, normal service ~16-18%, good service 18-20%, excellent service >20%, but that rarely happens.

    The salad is weird. They can deliver it as part of the mains if you ask them nicely. And no, in Europe they come with the main just as happily.

  2. Dad Says:


    Can’t say to you who you are or indicate who I am but there appears to be a relationship existing! (What’s this with all the security/privacy stuff?)

    Privacy prevents me from identifying to you what I did in my job this week but it was pretty good…went very far west, more than normal and into another territory to a place which has four letters and an R in its name (bet that stumps the cyber hackers for a nano-second or two!). Spent lots of travel time listening to music and singing along (sotto voice ony, to your relief).

    Home today in the usual but unspecified location. Caught up on some football watching (that could be any of four codes in this country to you cyber hackers! Dare you to find out which one?) Many of my players featured in the games (non gender specific reference there!). Weekend off (oops, unfortunate time reference there) for my team and many playing in the statewide competition. Typically, lost both games played so that was a bit unfortunate.

    Am taking other non specified person with whom we share a mutual relationship out to dinner tonight (drat, another time reference snuck in!) and hope this person (note clever non gender specific reference you cyber hackers!) will have a marghe, margar, marger… you, know, one of them things that jumps off tables and gets you another free one.

    Have you given up on food and knitting or do I have to read through and continue to view the same old, same old, for the rest of the trip???

    With love (oops, clear relationship identifier there).

    Dad (this clever psuedo nickname will have the cyber hackers stumped!

    • lacepetticoat Says:

      Ba ha ha! Oh dear I haven’t laughed so hard in ages…well, that’ll learn me for trying to tell you what to do :p

  3. mum Says:

    You will have to speak with an English accent to demand tea perhaps! Just have more fruit juice with your alcohol – you’ll get some vitamins that way. We usually eat too much food anyway – so a reduction in volume will mean more space for margaritas!

    Sounds like you’ve had a great into to America – I’ve heard from friends that Santa Fe is a great place(lots artists) and it seems to be so by your pics.

    Hope Boston meets expectations and you have a lovely time.

  4. EyeStamp on Ravelry Says:

    If you want hot water for tea, just run the water through the coffee drip maker with no coffee and no filter in the machine. Put the basket for the coffee IN as if you were making coffee and just fill the chamber with water, plug it in, turn it on and PRESTO! Hot water for tea is yours.

    Enjoy your trip!

  5. EyeStamp on Ravelry Says:

    PS–tipping in the states is assumed to be 15%. But if you are in a fast burrito place, there is no tip. If your service has been spectacularly good or bad, then more or less is OK. And yes, it is very frustrating to not be able to shop for apples and such closeby your hotel!

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