NEW YORK & WASHINGTON DC
Most people have an idea on what America is. America is the land of opportunity, the land of obe-sity, the land of both extremely wealthy and extremely poor people and the land of an endless number of skyscrapers. We associate America with things like Mc Donald’s, skyscrapers, The Statue of Liberty, The White House and Beyoncé. Of course, there is a lot more to America. This is my experience.
Expectations and first impressions:
My first meeting with the big US was the capital Washington DC. I had imagined Washington as an enormous city, but still with mostly cultural and political importance. Washington was not the big city that I thought. It is only a big city in areal. Of course, it has the big buildings, but it is nothing like New York. The thing that surprised me the most about Washington was how clean it was. I have never been in such a big city with so little people on the streets and such a clean street environment. Almost all of the buildings were either grey or white. I think that a city has much more charm if it has street art, colorful streets and buildings, different people and is more old fashion. For me Washington became a bit too much of a political and historical city, which is sad because it also has some amazing spots. Like Georgetown. Georgetown is this great “little” area in Washington with mainly stores and restaurants. However, if you look up there are these amazing old industry buildings with small square windows and brick walls.
My expectations for New York however was sky high. I have seen movies filmed in New York since I was little, and I have always wanted to go to New York. Visit Central Park, Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty etc. New York is so iconic, and it is definitely a place you have to visit at least once. One of the most unrealistic things that I experienced in New York was arriving to Times Square. It is unbelievable how many people and lights there are. It is like walking into a modern fairytale where everything just feels bigger. We took the subway to Times Square and while we walked up the stairs from the subway, it was as if your body shrank like in Alice in Won-derland.
Times Square is one of a kind. You cannot really explain it in words. It is an entire world of bright and shiny colors. If you look up, you will be amazed. The coca cola logo brightens up the entire Times Square, while an endless number of “smaller” advertisements’ decorates the rest of the square. New York never sleeps, and Times Square is probably the reason why. The lights never stops shining, and the stores never closes. It is a world of its own. Nevertheless, like any other place, you get use to the lights and the enormous skyscrapers’ quite quickly.
In some ways, Americans are very different from Danes. The greatest thing about the American people is their obligingness towards strangers of all kinds. When walking down the streets of New York and Washington DC, you meet so many kind people. Strangers at the crosswalk just chitchat-ting. I think this makes a much more comfortable street environment.
Other than the extremely kind people, there are so many different kinds of people. So many dif-ferent cultures gathered in one place. It is not only because people from other countries moves to America. America is built by immigrants, and it gives the country such big cultural diversity. I think we miss that in Denmark. We are too private, and too afraid to let the amazing cultures of all over the world have an influence in Denmark. Some areas in New York and Washington DC would have a Chinese restaurant next to a Mexican and a Korean, Italian, Irish, Thai and Turkish. We do not have that the same way in Denmark, and especially not in Silkeborg. We could learn much from America on that perspective.
Another difference is our general life vision and political stances. America is very liberal and be-lieves that the state should play a small role in ruling the country. Their welfare system is very far from ours. In Denmark, we focus a lot on helping the lower part of the society. In America, it is every man on his own. We visited Washington DC and New York, which are very liberal cities. You might think of Danish parties now, and on our right-wing parties. However, the liberal party, The Democrats, is actually America’s left-wing party. But not in a Danish standard. When we vis-ited Bethesda Chewy Chase High School, they explained that Washington DC generally supported The Democrats, and that their school was very liberal. However, you will find the majority of more conservative opinions in America in the Southern states or in the Bible belt.
I love to travel and meeting other cultures. I really believe that you learn more about other cul-tures by actually experiencing them. I have been to Asia, Africa and the Middle East before, so I have seen cultures very different from ours. Nevertheless, I had never been to America. America has a very western culture like Denmark, but everything is just bigger and better in America. I would defiantly like to visit America again.
Coming home after a trip is always nice. I love the feeling of sleeping in my own bed, and being in my own room. You never think of how nice it is to be home, if you never travel. But often it is first when you are home; you realize how amazing your trip has been. I had lots of expectations and prejudices towards America. Some of them were confirmed others weakened.
There were just as many people suffering from obesity, as you might would imagine. We hear about America’s obesity problems all the time, and that prejudice got confirmed. At the same time, I get why so many people eat junk food in America. It is so cheap! A cheeseburger cost only one dollar plus the biggest soda you have ever seen for one more dollar. And if the clock is past 10 AM, you can get two cheeseburgers for one dollar. If you do not have any or many money, you would have to eat junk food, because vegetables and altogether healthy food is so expensive. The cheesy and unhealthy food is very visible in the school canteens as well. I was surprised by how unhealthy the food at Bethesda Chewy Chase High School was. One of the girls at the school told me that it was only the poorest ones that ate in the canteen, because they could not effort better.
Another prejudice about America was their high schools. To be honest, I kind of thought of High School Musical when I thought of American High School. I imagined the long halls with lockers, the cheerleader, the hot football player and the mean girl that ran the school. I was very wrong. Bethesda had cheerleader and lockers, but no one really used the lockers and the cheerleaders did not wear their uniform in other classes as they do in movies. Visiting Bethesda Chewy Chase high school is defiantly one of the most memorable and interesting visits on our trip. That will for sure be a lasting, very good, impression.
Overall I think America is in some ways just as I imagine, in others it surprised me. However, I think that is a very good thing. You do not really know what New York is like before you have walked the streets, seen the skyline and Time Square. I would enjoy coming back to America and visit other places as well. For now, I am very thankful and excited about the outcome of this trip.
See you later, America!