How to make the most of your stay in the US: 5 tips
The US is a massive country and it’s often easy to forget that. For instance, 30 European countries can fit into the US alone. Because of its size, there are a lot of distinct regional accents, culinary experiences, historical monuments and jaw-dropping landscapes that almost make each area feel like its own country. Nevertheless, there are some basic tips you can arm yourself with, in order to get the most out of your stay in the US.
1. Learn the Language
Studying English in the US or living with a local family is a great way to bolster those language skills. However, even if you’re just headed to the US on a short jaunt, it’s important to learn some key phrases beforehand. The most important word to learn in advance is “thank you.” Pretty easy, right? Others words or phrases to try to learn are:
Where is the bathroom?
I don’t speak English
Bonus one: Where is the closest In-n-Out?*
*This is only possible for a trip in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas and/or Oregon.
2. Tip Your Waiter
The general rule is to tip 15%, unless you find the service exceptional, in which case you can tip 20%. I know for many people who come from a nation where tipping isn’t the norm, this can seem crazy, but a large portion of waiters’ wages come from tipping. This is also why I believe customer service tends to be above average in the US – you really feel cared for, even if it seems a bit over the top.
Constantly checking in if everything is alright, if you need ketchup for your fries, more water, a back massage (okay, this was just a dream) is their way of becoming friendly with them over the course of your meal. Think of it this way: you’re more likely to help out a friend with a tip than a stranger.
Please note, however, this standard isn’t everywhere. In New York City (New Yorkers will agree with me here) they like their East Coast attitude. You can also give just a dollar or two for an expensive coffee, getting help with your suitcase and other smaller services.
3. Get up early
Unless you booked a vacation to stay at an all-inclusive resort, you have to make the most of your trip! Getting up early will ensure that you take advantage of the whole day and can avoid mass groups of tourists. You can also then indulge in breakfast – avocado toast on the West Coast, bagels on the East Coast, biscuits and gravy in the South or bacon, eggs and toast just about everywhere.
4. Talk to locals
There is a behavioral psychology concept which breaks down the world into coconuts or peaches. Coconuts are people, like Northern Europeans, who take a while to warm up to you. Once they do open up, and you manage to break through that hard shell, it can be a very sweet experience. Americans, or peaches, on the other hand, are very easy to open up. However, having a deep relationship with them tends to be much harder, especially once you hit the core.
That being said, the US is one of the easiest places in the world to talk to locals and make small chit chat. You can start by asking for directions, a tip for a restaurant, or asking someone if you can pet their dog and then asking various questions about said dog. The possibilities are endless and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to break into the core of the peach.
5. Rent a car
Unless you’re in San Francisco, New York City, or Boston (to name a few), most places in the US are not walking-friendly, let alone public-transport-friendly. And to get to any other city, national park, or even to your neighbor’s house (I’m not always exaggerating here), a car is needed.
It’s also pretty common that if you need to go to the grocery store and it’s a few blocks away, you drive there. I know it may seem ridiculous, but it’s just an American norm, so embrace driving a car. Just be sure to note that prices are more expensive if you’re renting a car and you’re under 25 – unless you befriend a local with a car.
With this in mind, have an amazing stay in the US!