The land of Mountain Dew
The U.S. is like my second home and I’ll never forget how much I loved living there. Even though it was only for a year, I still feel a special connection to that country as well as the people in it. I love the way Americans greet and help strangers in the street, and I think we could learn a lot from their accommodating attitude.
Expectations and first impressions
The first time I went to the U.S., I expected to see a whole lot of fat people. I was very surprised when I arrived and realized that the obesity problem isn’t as obvious as it’s portrayed in movies and in the media in general. But then we arrived at Washington D.C., and we were picked up by a bus at the airport. The bus driver turned out to be the stereotypical American man. He was an extremely overweight black man, and he had a 32 oz or 40 oz soda by his side. It was certain now. After about 7 hours of flying and a whole lot of waiting in London, we had finally arrived to the land of the free, and the home of the brave!
I hadn’t actually built up many expectations for the trip. I just hoped it would be lots of fun. The program looked interesting so I did expect that to be good. I was really excited about going to Chevy Chase High School and having my “own” American girl for a day. We were all going to be paired up with one of the American students, and then we had to follow them around for an entire school day. Our teachers had joked about it and said that we’d be their shadow students. Because of that specific wording, a couple of the guys from my class thought that the American students wouldn’t be told that we were following them, and that we’d just be stalkers for a day. Since I knew that they’d know, I was looking forward to be able to talk to her for an entire day, and I knew that it wouldn’t be awkward at all, because Americans are extremely good at keeping a conversation going with people they’ve never even met before.
Maybe it’s because they drink so much soda all the time. Their caffeine levels are so high that they can’t stop talking. Nah, I’m just kidding. But seriously though, I had great expectations Mountain Dew-wise. I remember drinking excessive amounts of Mountain Dew the last time I was in New York. It kept me awake for 48 hours, and I’m not even exaggerating! I hadn’t expected to see 2L Mountain Dew bottles but when I did, I got so excited that I bought some right away. I drank it too fast and ended up feeling drunk. I don’t think I can handle all that caffeine ‘cause when I tested my pulse, it said 106. Americans must be built with some weird genetics to be able to survive while drinking all that soda. If not, I don’t know how they do it!
The picture above shows the absolute worst case scenario, for when you’ve had too much Mountain Dew. The caffeine levels aren’t healthy for anyone, and you should always behave yourself and be careful. You might just end up like this…
Anyway, as I mentioned earlier on, I love Americans because of their kindness towards strangers and others in general. When we walked around in New York with our huge map, people could easily tell that we were tourists and that we were probably lost. Instead of ignoring us or waiting for us to ask for help, they came to us and asked, “What are you looking for?” and they’d just show the direction. It happened several times, and I don’t think it would ever happen in Denmark.
The first morning in Washington D.C., we were walking around looking for breakfast, and a guy walks past us and says, “Good morning, ladies,” and I don’t even think we noticed fast enough to say it back. We were so confused that he was talking to us, but we all thought it was really sweet of him. We talked about it again later, and we all said, “If that had happened in Denmark, I would have thought, ‘Do I know him? Why did he talk to me?’” It sounds awful, but I’m afraid that would be my first reaction. I truly wish it wouldn’t be, and I wish we could have the same friendly norms as Americans do. I know that most of them don’t actually care, when they ask, “How are you?” but at least they communicate with each other that way. In Denmark we don’t even dare to talk to the people at the bus stop, and we would NEVER sit next to a stranger on the bus.
Another cultural difference is their eating habits. We went to a diner called Liberty Diner. Mostly because of the name. Anders even ordered a Liberty Burger. But anyway, once we had finished eating the waiter came and cleaned our table and soon after, we had the receipt. When you go out to eat, it’s not like in Denmark where we sit and chat for a long time after we’ve eaten, and then maybe decide to get a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate. Or maybe even dessert! In the U.S. they don’t expect you to hang around in their diner. I think it’s because a lot of Americans go out to eat because it’s easier than cooking their own food. To most Danes, eating out is an experience, and it’s something we do to have fun with friends or family. We like to have a cozy evening out. Americans just don’t feel like cooking. I know that’s a stereotype, but it’s also kind of true in some cases.
A third cultural difference I noticed was how the pedestrians just didn’t care about traffic lights at all. When there were no cars, they just walked right ahead on to the road. A fun thing is that we kept saying that they didn’t wait for the light to turn green, but the light wasn’t actually green. It was a white man walking, and when the light was red, it was just a hand telling you to stay back. It’s fun to think about how countries are so different that they don’t even have the same types of traffic lights.
After this trip, I’ve realized how much I love living out in the countryside. I’m not very good at handling traffic or just big cities in general. When we walked around on Times Square, I felt extremely uncomfortable. We had to hold on to each other so we wouldn’t get lost in the huge crowd of people. For a short person it’s an absolute nightmare to be in the middle of these big crowds. And on top of that, I’m a bit scared of cars. I’m always scared of getting hit by one, and in this city, they’re everywhere!
I know I just made it sound like I only like being at home, but that’s not the case. I really enjoyed this trip! It was so much fun, and I loved being around everyone all the time. I think this trip has brought us even closer together than we were already. On trips like these you get to talk to some of the people you don’t necessarily talk to every day in school. I loved hanging out at the hotel and in our free time, it was fun to just do whatever we wanted!
So to sum up. Going to Washington D.C. and New York is something everyone should try, because it’s amazing to see and experience such a unique and in many ways fascinating culture!