1. The lack of sincerity – Americans pride themselves on excellent customer service but it often comes across as a bit fake and insincere. Even just popping into a petrol station for a Diet Coke, the cashier might say “have a wonderful day” as you leave the counter. I’m not saying staff shouldn’t be friendly but instead maybe substitute another adjective for ‘wonderful’ that’s a bit milder.
2. Injury lawyers – Americans clearly enjoy litigating against one another. Advertisements for injury lawyers appear all over televisions, billboards and street benches all vowing to fight for your justice. What is unusual though, is that often it’s not law firms that are being advertised but instead actual human lawyers.
3. Vehicle size – So many of the vehicles people use to get around are truly beastly. If they were driving around on dirt roads you could understand it but that clearly isn’t the case. What doesn’t help the matter is that petrol over there is about 50 pence per litre so the incentive to get a car that doesn’t guzzle fuel is greatly reduced.
4. Fizzy drink value – There was nothing better than taking a break from the day’s cycling and cooling off in the shade with a huge fizzy drink. This was something I had no guilt in doing as nearly all petrol stations sold 32 oz (909 ml) buckets of any drink for just $0.79. What I also loved was that, at all restaurants, one is entitled to a free refill. In fact, at some you didn’t even have to ask – they spot the empty glass and promptly whisk it away to be topped up.
5. Fast food ubiquity – You don’t have to look hard to find the root of America’s obesity crisis. Aside from the fact that their portion sizes are larger and many things (including food considered healthy such as bread and bran flakes) taste more sugary than they should, the number of fast food options they have at their disposal is extraordinary. They have all the ones the UK has such as McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Subway but then they have never-ending list of their own chains. Off the top of my head, there’s Denny’s, Wendy’s, Checkers, Arby’s, Popeyes, Waffle House, Dunkin’ Donuts and Jimmy John’s – to name but a few.
6. Disregard for personal property – On my first cycling day I was very surprised to see one person pull up at a petrol station and walk into the shop with his car unlocked and the engine still on but I continued to spot this throughout Florida and Georgia. By the end of the trip I could have had a show room full of stolen cars if I wished.
7. Accent recognition – I’d back myself to quickly recognise an American/Canadian accent if I heard one. But many of the people I came across could only identify me as foreign and had to ask where exactly I was from. I’ve always thought my voice was unmistakably English-sounding but I suppose we’re not on their television as much as they are on ours.
8. The hobos name a price – Instead the familiar request for some of your spare change that you hear in the UK, the homeless (or sometimes just the poor) almost always ask you for $2.
9. The flag – At times, it seems that everywhere you look there’s a flag fluttering. It became quite useful as a way of telling whether or not I’d have to battle with headwind.
10. Conspiracy theories – Americans seem to love believing in the unbelievable. In my (admittedly small) sample size of people I met in the US, one girl believed the US government is systematically murdering vast swathes of the population by putting toxic additives in food and two had a strong conviction that extraterrestrial life not only exists but has been observed. Funny how almost all the reported UFO sightings are in the US…