America is just across the pond and speaks plain English, as such, we expect it to be practically identical to the UK, and in some respects it is. Yet there are a few things that may be helpful to remember as you visit the popular holiday destination.
Be prepared to tip
The tips are often pre-calculated, for instance waiters and waitresses expect a 15% – 20% tip, 15% cab drivers, housekeepers usually $5 a night to be left on the nightstand, and bartenders $2 a round. Of course these tips can be lower or higher depending on the service received, but if the service is exceptionally bad, talking to a manager is better than leaving no tip at all. Shelling out on tips can be cut down if for instance you tell the bellboy you can take up your own bags or tell the doorman you can hail your own cab. Service providers in New York City will often be overly friendly and helpful in the expectancy of receiving tips, so sometimes it pays just to do things yourself.
Stay connected with your loved ones
Okay, so perhaps not the U.S, but when travelling across other countries – you might find certain websites or services are blocked. Use VPNs like ExpressVPN to access blocked websites, or to browse anonymously abroad. If you are bored in your hotel room, you can even watch services like BBC iPlayer with your VPN to watch like you were at home.
Never forget your insurance documents
It seems like an obvious one but following a broken arm during one visit, we had a nightmare in the ER when we realised our insurance documents were packed up in our suitcases nearly 20 blocks away. We may have had it a bit rougher just a little with the incredibly sarcastic and rude receptionist at the hospital, but then American healthcare isn’t exactly renowned for its caring nature. That aside, just make sure to keep a firm grip on all your insurance papers and information, or write it down on your phone.
Be wary of anything other than cold hard cash
On a last visit out to the states, we were offered travel money cards. These worked just like debit cards, pre-load your cash onto them and we were assured you could use them anywhere and to pay for anything when abroad in the US. On top of this, they were free to use when drawing out cash in cash machines. Our first warning sign should have been that when flying with Delta airlines, they had never heard of them – and sure enough upon arriving, we couldn’t use them anywhere. Upon leaving confused cashiers and waitresses in our wake, we went to an ATM and were immediately told we would face a charge if we wanted to withdraw our spending money. Despite all of this, we were told by our travel agent that nobody else had had a problem and that they were widely accepted overseas. Needless to say, we were left high and dry with barely any money and a hatred for some small pieces of plastic.
Understand the word differences
Americans have the obvious language differences, such as calling crisps `chips`, trousers `pants, jam is `jelly` and jelly is now `jell-o`. Some Americans won’t recognise if you ask to use the toilet instead of the `restroom`, and they most definitely do not recognise the word `loo`, (although these miscommunications can lead to some amusing conversations). Pronunciations differ as well, such as the way we say the word `route`. Although it may seem simple, an American consistently saying “what!?” at you isn’t because they are hard of hearing, so repeating yourself won’t help. A taxi driver we encountered once had never heard of the word “queue” – until we said the word “line”, there was a stupid amount of utter confusion. Most Americans will be happy and welcoming, and often intrigued by your accent. Saying you’re either from Ireland or London is a sure fire way to make friends – just remember to tip when you get the round in.