Friday, April 24, 2009
( 1:05 AM ) teahouse
There's No Place Like Home
Sometimes when it's late at night and I can't sleep, I like to engage in one of my favorite, and strangest, past-times.
I like to read my travel guidebook about the United States.
It's fun to read travel tips for foreigners visiting my country. They always make me smile!
Among the more entertaining passages:
Americans consider it improper to discuss politics and religion with strangers. Also, avoid asking an American (adult) how old he or she is, or what his or her salary is, as this is considered very rude.
American highways are dangerous. Avoid letting your children go to the bathroom alone at highway rest areas, and try to avoid them at night. Hitchhiking is a serious risk. Most Americans do not hitchhike, and drivers are reluctant to pick up hitchhikers. In rural areas, traffic is sparse and you could get stranded.
American Bed and Breakfasts aren't the casual, cheap accommodations available in Europe. Many B&Bs are operated out of old family homes and provide a romantic atmosphere with an elaborate breakfast and handsome furnishings, for a steep price. This is generally not appealing to families with children.
Many businesses in the USA give discounts to people who are age 65 or older. Sometimes, this rate (known as the "senior citizen rate") is available to people as young as 50 or 55. All you need is identification showing proof of age.
Beware that all American paper currency is the same size and same color, so make sure you check the denominations before inadvertently handing over a $100 bill for a newspaper!
The United States Postal Service is reliable and cheap, although Americans like to complain about it.
Drinking and driving is a serious offense in the USA, and the police enforce it zealously. Even just two drinks can make you legally too intoxicated to drive. Also avoid using a mobile phone while you drive, as several states have banned it.
The USA has among the finest health care in the world. Unfortunately, unless you have good health insurance, it is shockingly expensive. You may find that many medications available over the counter at home require a prescription in the USA.
Smoking has not permeated American culture to the extent it has in some other parts of the world. Many cities have banned smoking in bars and restaurants, and Americans will not think twice about voicing their displeasure at smokers (even outdoors), either through exaggerated coughing or dirty looks. Never assume that it is acceptable to smoke in places of business or people's homes.
There are varieties of venomous snakes in the USA, but unlike in some countries, there are none that cause instantaneous death. If bitten, stay calm and get medical attention as soon as possible.
Tipping is a uniquely American wealth-distribution custom. You should tip 15-20% for sit-down meals and taxi rides. In bars, it is customary to leave $1 per drink for the bartender. It is not unusual to see a row of beer bottles on a bartop next to a pile of bills as customers buy several rounds of drinks.
If you're a woman traveling to New York City alone, stay in Chelsea, a predominantly gay male neighborhood, to avoid unwanted advances.
I hope everyone enjoys their trip!#