Study trip to America
Before we arrived in America, I had a lot of expectations and prejudice towards the American lifestyle. I had only been to America one time before, and I was only twelve, at that time, so there was a lot about America, which I had forgotten. I could remember all the greatness and all the friendly people, who asked me “Where are you guys from?” Everywhere people seemed to be interested about our origin, but I was not sure, if it was a generally true interest or just a kind of politeness. I expected that there would be a big share of fat people in America, because I remembered an episode in a casino in Atlanta, at a food court, where I was very shocked, because the food court was packed with very fat people. They all ate as much as they could, and then went back to the casino in hope of wining some money. I also thought that an American high school would be like the movie “High School Musical”, where all the students, suddenly start to sing and dance in the hallways, and where the cheerleaders and football players only wore their uniform. I know my prejudices were typical European prejudices about Americans, but we really can’t help it, because the mass-media have such a grand effect on how we see other continents and populations. In the media, Americans are offend portrayed as superficial, religious and obese, so that was how I pictured the American people.
I was looking so much forward to New York that I actually forgot about the four days we were spending in Washington in the beginning of the trip. When people asked me where we were going on our study trip, I only answered; “We are going to the city that never sleeps, New York”. New York is one of the greatest and most exciting places on earth. The city never sleeps and it is full of so many different kind of nationalities and very multifarious.
New York is a melting pot and a home to so many different social and ethnic groups and that is what makes New York such a great city. You can get a piece of China in Chinatown and a piece of Italy in little Italy. This is so unique, and very rare, that a city can mange this multicultural diversity.
We arrived in Washington at 10 pm, but because of the time zones, my internal watch thought that the clock was 4 am. We were all very tired, so my first impression of America was an enormous king-size bed.
Otherwise my first impression of Washington was a very clean and reserved city, where the streets were empty after 7 pm, because all the working bees, was done with the work for the day. In the area where we lived, the only places to eat, was small coffee shops and junk food. The reason for this is that, beside tourist, it’s only people who work in the area that eat out in their lunch breaks.
Another thing that caught my eye was that the streets were so clean. Not even a dog-end of a cigarette could be found in the spotless streets. Frankly, I don’t even know if they clean the streets, or if people just don’t throw garbage in Washington, I was just so suprised that the capital of a country could be so clean.
The kind of people who dominated the streets of Washington were mostly businessmen, who were stressing to Starbucks between meetings. The whole city had a strange atmosphere of conceited power. Many of the people we met in congress, looked like they could be running for president. Everyone looked super important in their expensive suits and serious facial expression.
I found that there were a lot of cultural differences between Washington and New York. To me, Washington was a lot more stiff and formal than New York. The uniform of the people in the streets in Washington was mostly suit and ties, where in New York the dresscode were much more divers.
There are also a lot of cultural differences between Denmark and America. The attitude to the teachers on the high school in Bethesda was quite formal. They called their teachers by their last name, which is a big contrast to Denmark. Nobody in Denmark call the teacher by the last name. Some students even call their teacher by a nickname, so the atmospheres in the Danish schools are not as uptight, as in the American schools.
Another big difference was the food industry. In Denmark people mostly prepare their own food, and eat it at home. In America it’s a common culture to go out and eat two to three times a week. Therefore, the food in the restaurants is much cheaper, than in Denmark.
We also went grocery shopping sometimes, and I nearly had a heart attack. ONE banana would cost 1$ in a supermarket, where in Denmark, it would have cost 15 cents. All the healthy food like vegetables and fruit was quite expensive, while food like chips, candy and coke were very cheap. Also the food in McDonalds was like the cheapest you could get. Not even a normal yogurt was cheaper than a hamburger. I can understand why you would save your money on healthy food, and instead get enough food to feed your whole family. But it really isn’t good for the health of the American people that greasy and food with a lot of fat is cheaper than all the healthy stuff.
Cultural lasting impression:
The United States was almost as I expected. Very big and loud! New York lived up to all my expectations, and I fell in love with the Big Apple. New York is undoubtedly one of the most urban and pulsating cities in the entire world. All of the lights in the streets and the ever-beating rhythm was so overwhelming. Everywhere you could see different kinds nationalities gathering in the city that never sleeps.
Some of my prejudices about America were brought to shame, especially the prejudices about Americans being totally obese. In New York and Washington, there were almost no overweight people. But New York and Washington are not so representative for the whole United States, because the areas we visited, were very wealthy, and therefore the people living there had money enough to buy healthy food. I think that if we visited states like Texas we would meet more obese people. One of my prejudices that remained was the welcoming attitude that Americans own. Everywhere we met friendly people, who wanted to know about us. That is quite different from how we relate to each other in Denmark. In my opinion that is something we could learn to be in Denmark. It is quite magical that you suddenly can end up hearing about a life story, which is totally different from your own idea of life and I think that is so inspiring and motivating.