Top 5 (true) American clichés
Last May, I had the chance to travel Western USA with two European friends.
At the start of our trip, I asked them to list the main clichés and stereotypes Europeans have about America and Americans.
During the trip, we realized that many of these ideas were wrong...
But not all of them.
#1. You can find fast food everywhere
Now I'm not saying that you can't eat well in the United States. That is a stereotype that is completely false, take my word for it.
There are plenty of good restaurants, famous chefs, cooking shows and specialty grocery stores.
That said, it would be wrong to say that there is not a constant temptation to eat junk food. Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, A&W, Dairy Queen, KFC, In N Out… you'll find one or more on every street corner.
And most are open 24/7, like the famous diners.
People who know me know that I'm not patient when I'm hungry. If you're like me, it's very easy to fall into the fast-food trap during a road trip.
Pick up some things at the supermarket and prepare a lunch. In addition to eating healthy, you can stop and eat wherever you like along the way.
My favourite grocery store? Whole Foods Market!
It's a little more expensive, but all the food is organic. Eating well never tasted so good.
Psst: try In N Out at least once...
#2. Americans are extremely patriotic
Want some flags? No problem!
They are literally everywhere: in front of houses, office buildings, stores, everywhere.
Americans are a proud people. Everyone (or almost everyone) knows their national anthem by heart.
In comparison, ask a Canadian to sing "Oh Canada" from start to finish… I don't know many who could do it.
I'm pretty sure the same is true for "God Save the Queen" in the U.K. or "La Marseillaise" in France...
Politics is not a taboo subject of conversation in the U.S., although maybe it should be...
While we were there, the election of Donald Trump was still very much in the news and his supporters were very comfortable displaying their support.
When it come to fashion, it is still popular to wear United States-themed clothing: caps, T-shirts, coats; there's something for everyone.
#3. Everything is big. Everything.
The average plate size is huge in fast food and casual restaurants.
The size of sodas is even worse!
Highways are extremely wide and have many lanes.
Speaking of driving, the cars are large and imposing. It's a little less surprising for a Canadian like me, but it's pretty impressive for Europeans.
Like anywhere in North America, the distances to get from point A to point B are often very long. There's a reason why the term "wide open spaces" is used when talking about nature.
In fact, if you're planning a road trip in the United States, don't underestimate this aspect. Always allow more time than Google Maps suggests.
Finally, think of New York stores and Las Vegas hotels.
It ain't small, as they say.
#4. Americans are friendly and welcoming.
Except customs officers.
In the United States, you will hear cute little nicknames everywhere: sweetie, cutie pie, love, honey.
Whether it's the saleswoman at the clothing store or the grocery clerk, you will be entitled to a friendly nickname.
Especially if you're a woman.
For men, it is more likely to be "hey man" or better still, "hey buddy".
Also, everyone wants to know how you are doing.
Be ready to hear "hey, how is it going?" or "how are you honey?" every time you enter a restaurant or store.
When hiking, everyone greets and encourages each other. It's nice to see and it's heartwarming. You'll see, you'll quickly get used to it!
#5. It is the land of overconsumption
Many stores are open all night, 7 days a week.
Examples include Wal-Mart, pharmacies and supermarkets. Shopping at night in the United States is nothing unusual.
Many Americans also have a Costco membership card. Do you know this chain of stores?
In short, Costco is a wholesaler. To take advantage of their deals, you have to pay an annual membership fee.
To buy toilet paper at Costco, you practically have to rent a trailer. Can you imagine buying a package containing 30 rolls of 425 double-ply sheets of toilet paper?
And are you familiar with couponing? If not, it's an extremely popular activity involving hunting for discounts.
The goal is to get as many discounts as possible in order to pay the lowest possible price for an item. Some even manage to get items for free!
The problem is that couponing enthusiasts get hooked and end up accumulating products at home that they don't really need.
This is a place where you buy in bulk and stock up.
And there you go!
After a 3 weeks USA itinerary, I can tell you that I fell in love with the country and the people who live there.
I will have the opportunity to tell you about my adventures and the kindness of the locals in a future article.
In the meantime, do you know any other (true) American clichés? Don't hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments below.