I’ve had the amazing opportunity to travel to lots of places in the USA, and every time I’m here, I notice things are totally different than in Belgium. Today, I wanted to list up some differences between the USA and Belgium.
1. Everything is bigger in the USA. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it is a really big country. But literally everything is bigger here: airports, hotels, streets, concert venues, grocery stores, sidewalks, bags of chips, cars, cross-trainers, … See how this list never ends?
2. People are always nice. Whether you’re staying at a hotel, going to a restaurant or shopping, people always try to make your stay as pleasant as possible. Sure, you could say that that’s just service and that they’re just being nice to get tips. But I’m also talking about people on the street and they don’t expect us to tip them, right?
3. You can spend hours in a grocery store. As I said before, grocery stores are huge here. But there is a huge selection of everything you need. You want to buy peanut butter? There are 50 different kinds of peanut butter in 1 single grocery store. And this goes for everything: chips, cheese, olive oil, cookies, …
4. Taxes and tips. Okay, this is a pretty well-known one. When you’re shopping or eating out, the prices you see are never what you’ll end up paying. Taxes are added at the end of your check, so you’ll always end up paying more than you expected. Also, when you’re in a restaurant or when you’re asking for any other service, people expect you to tip whoever’s helping you. So some extra cash is always handy to keep with you.
5. TV-commercials take forever. If you’re already sick of the long commercials in Belgium, wait until you see them in the USA. Also, they broadcast commercials way more often than in Belgium. I’d say about every 10-15 minutes.
6. Most states and cities actually experience every season. In Belgium, we don’t really have fall or winter. We just have rain and cold winds. In the USA, most states and cities have a beautiful, sunny, colorful fall and a white, snowy winter.
7. Americans are pretty serious about their holidays. As I’m writing this blog post, it’s actually Labor Day in the USA (September 5, 2016). We celebrate our Labor Day on May 1 every year, but I’ve never really seen anyone celebrating Labor Day in Belgium. Here in the US, every holiday is celebrated thoroughly.
8. Shops almost never close. In Belgium, it is a custom that shops and grocery stores are closed on Sunday. People in the US give me a strange look when I tell them that. Grocery stores and shops almost never close here. Even on holidays, most grocery stores and shops are open.
9. Opening hours are also way longer than in Belgium. We know opening hours to be 9 AM to 6 PM. But here, shops, malls and grocery stores are often open until 10 PM. Even more impressive, some grocery stores simply never close.
10. We Belgians sometimes have to pay to use the bathroom. I’m talking about when you want to go to the bathroom in a mall, during an event or a concert or such. That’s something that the Americans simply don’t understand. Using a bathroom is always free here.
11. There are way more fast food chains than you think. When you watch the commercials on TV, you realize how many fast food/restaurant chains there actually are in the US. We all know Pizza Hut, Domino’s, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, etc. But there are way more fast food chains than that. So many, in fact, that I can’t even list them all up in this blog post. So if you want to know what I’m talking about, visit this page.
12. You never know who’s carrying a weapon in the US. The day I arrived, I saw two men, sitting at a table, wearing their guns. Of course, everyone already knows that this is a thing in the US, but when you actually see it and when you’re sitting very close to it, it’s really frightening.
13. Lastly, I wanted to talk about water. When you go to a restaurant in Belgium and you order water, it will end up on your check at the end of the night. Here in the US, ordering water in a restaurant is always free. Most of the time, everyone gets a glass of water without even asking. Also, waiters will keep filling up your glass of water for however long you let them.
So as you can see, there are a lot of differences between the USA and Belgium. And I haven’t even summed up a third! But, both countries have their strengths and their weaknesses. Personally, I’m really happy that I grew up in Belgium. But I also love being in the USA. Thank God for airplanes, right?