You are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.... a journey across the Atlantic ocean, 5000 miles from home (notice we are using MILES, not Kilometers!)
I have told you all the scary and ODD things about the US; the things that you need to know so that your 2 months there are as easy and comfortable as possible, but with each USA Lesson, I have seen the quizzical looks on your face and of course, I have heard the numerous times you asked that ever-present question....WHY?!
Today's lesson is not about the weird differences between our two countries or about the things you need to learn so you don't make some social faux pas in front of your new friends and family! Nope, today's lesson is about how WE Americans are JUST LIKE you Danes!
--We are as proud of our heritage as Americans, as you are of yours as Danish citizens.
--We fly our flag with pride in the same way you display your Dannebrog in celebration of the big things and the little things!
--We think our language, foods, and customs are the best, just like you think yours are!
--And we will defend our rights as Americans as vehemently as you will fight to protect your rights as Danes. WE LOVE OUR COUNTRY...just like you love yours!
So don't be nervous about your journey or scared about how DIFFERENT things might be! I am living proof that you CAN survive living in a foreign country; in fact, you can be QUITE HAPPY there! So instead of worrying about all the "non-Danish" things in the US, EMBRACE the differences you find! I promise, it will make you a BETTER PERSON in the end!
And above all else, remember we really are not that different from you... We also put on our pants, ONE LEG AT A TIME....
Living in a home in the USA First of all----Please know that no one expects you to CHANGE how you do everyday things; however as a person living in a foreign country for an extended amount of time, it will help you to know HOW certain, everyday things are done! 1. SLEEPING... Yes, we sleep just like you do. In a bed. Lying down. In the dark. At night. HOWEVER... (Have you noticed that there's always a "however"?!) Americans do not know what a "dyne" is. Our beds are made up with sheets and pillows and covers, but you need to be aware that your bed will have a bottom sheet (like in DK), but you will also have a TOP sheet....a sheet you cover with before you cover with your bedspread/comforter/quilt (our version of the dyne). You can choose to use the top sheet or not, but just be aware it's there for your COMFORT! :-) Also, our pillows are quite different from the Scandinavian version. Just be prepared. And finally, our beds are usually more decorative! Especially knowing that you are sleeping in a "guest room" in a "guest bed". There is a HIGH probability that your bed will have lots of small decorative pillows on it. Why? Because it looks nice! :-) 2. EATING... Yes, we eat just like you do. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Snacks... again, HOWEVER... BE AWARE that MOST Americans only use their knives for cutting their meat. After you cut one piece, you put it down and eat with your fork...only your fork. In fact, it would not shock me if, at some meals, you do not have a knife set out. It is quite common in your home to only set out a fork at the place setting unless there is a meat that needs to be cut. In the US, we are taught as young children that it is very rude to hold your knife in your hand while you eat and that it is very rude to cut all of your meat at once. You cut one piece and eat that piece before you cut another one. But remember... No one expects you to CHANGE how you do everyday things; however as a person living in a foreign country for an extended amount of time, it will help you to know HOW certain, everyday things are done!
The little things.... Here are a few LITTLE DETAILS that might help make your 2 months a bit easier. (These are the things that I was used to and had to change when I moved to DK.) 1. In the US, the week starts on Sunday, NOT Monday. 2. In the US, we write our dates as MONTH / DAY / YEAR so we will arrive in Seattle on 10/01/2010... NOT on 01/10/2010---that is January 10th! 3. When we write numbers, we put a DECIMAL where you put a COMMA so a price tag in DK that says 29,95 would be 29.95 in the US. The DECIMAL separates DOLLARS & CENTS. 4. Our clocks function with AM & PM, so if you say something about "18.00" to a person, they will most likely think your dad is in the military! :-) Anything AFTER MIDNIGHT (hence, the AM) is written like this : I woke up at 7am. And anything PAST MIDDAY (hence the PM) is written like this: I got out of school at 3pm (not 15.00). And we write our time with a COLON to separate the hours and minutes... so 3:30pm is your version of 15.30. 5. I know I have mentioned this to you before, but the word "PLEASE" is quite common (and often considered to be bad manners when not used), so PLEASE be aware of this and PLEASE use it so that those you speak to will be so PLEASED! 6. Phone numbers in the US have a 3 digit "area code" and a 7 digit phone number. You dial all 10 numbers to call someone. 7. Our "post code" is called a ZIP CODE and it has 5 numbers instead of 4; and our addresses almost ALWAYS have the house/apartment # BEFORE the street name, so if you are looking up an address on mapquest, you would write it as: 1532 Main Street, NOT Main Street 1532. 8. In the US the "ground floor" is the FIRST FLOOR. So someone tells you that the classroom is on the 2nd floor, that really means the 2nd floor...not the third floor like it is in DK! 9. And I have saved the best for last: The Metric System is almost NON-EXISTENT in the US! So have fun! :-) Seriously...here is a good site that converts things for you: http://www.worldwidemetric.com/measurements.html Our temps are Fahrenheit. We cook with cups and ounces. We drive with miles per hour. And we measure with inches and feet. Again... HAVE FUN! At least as much fun as I have converting TO the metric system in DK!
PEOPLE ARE TALKING! We have no idea if these people know each other or not.... but in the US, IT DOES NOT MATTER! On a bus, in a cafe, in the food court at the mall, at the check-out line in a store, walking on a sidewalk... it does not matter where you are or who you are, MOST AMERICANS will smile, greet you, and if you are in the same place for any length of time, they will start up a conversation with you! So get ready! SMILE and RESPOND!
When the cashier at the check-out asks you how you are, answer her and then.....wait.....yes, you guess it.... ASK HER HOW SHE IS AS WELL!
When someone says, "good morning" to you as you are walking down the sidewalk, smile, MAKE EYE CONTACT and say, "good morning" back!
When you are standing in the middle of a sidewalk, holding a map in your hand, looking lost, I am can just about GUARANTEE you that someone will stop and ask if you need help...so don't freak out!
When you speak to someone in public and he hears that you have an accent, there is a high probability that he will ask you where you are from...don't worry! He really does want to know so tell him!
When someone gives you a compliment, accept it graciously and maybe next time you will be the one handing out the compliments! There is no LAW OF JANTE in America! We LIKE to hear that we are doing a good job and for others to notice that.
And maybe before you leave to come back to DK, you will be the one making the first move because you will fall in love with SMALL TALK!
You are lucky you are going to an area where there is an actual focus on getting MORE people on bikes and MORE bikes on the road!
There are a few things you need to remember!
Although Washington residents are riding their bikes to work/school more, they are sharing the roads with people who do not share their philosophy about the road being for all... American drivers are RUDE (I can say that....you can't! LOL)
They will HONK, shout at you, and perhaps even flip you off. So be prepared!
In the US, CARS HAVE THE RIGHT AWAY... and you MUST look out for them because they will NOT look out for you!
In the US, cars are allowed to "turn right on red"...think about the implications of this when you are on a bike....
Also, theft is a problem for bikers all over the US. The attitudes are not the same as they are in Herning, Denmark. So be smart if you have a bike that you are riding on a regular basis!
And here is a note about the buses from a friend of mine living in Seattle:
If you cross the city limits you pay for 2 zones, otherwise you pay for just one. When you enter the bus, there is a sign saying either $2.00 or $2.25 depending time of day. If it says $2.00 that is for 1-2 zones. If it says $2.25, then it is $2.25 for one zone and $2.75 for 2 zones. If you are 6-18 years of age, you pay 75 cents no matter time of day or number of zones. Always carry quarters, as they only take exact money. If all you have is a 5 dollar bill, they will take it but can't give you back change.
If you want to take the bus to downtown, you pay as you enter. If you enter the bus downtown you pay as you leave. If you travel from one side of Seattle to the other, and go through downtown, you pay as you enter, make sure you get a transfer slip, and show that as you exit. And don't forget to say thank you to the driver. :-)
EATING OUT.... and trust me, at American prices, you WILL do it often!
I have good news and bad news...
First, the Good News! When you order something to drink in a restaurant in the US, you get FREE REFILLS! That is the same in a "real" restaurant AND in places like McDonalds! Drinks usually cost you a couple of dollars, but as you drink it all, YOU GET MORE! My husband's favorite thing to do before we leave a fast food place is to FILL IT UP ONE MORE TIME so he has a drink for the road!
(Only place this is not true is Starbucks! Sorry!)
Also, speaking of drinks... you will get ICE in your drinks so get ready! REAL ICE! The kind that makes your drink cold... amazing concept, huh?
Ok now for the bad news!
Did you know that in the US, waitresses are only paid $2.30 per hour??? Yes, that is about 12dkk... PER HOUR. The reason is because waitresses in the US WORK FOR TIPS! It is very important that you know this because #1- Not only is it VERY VERY bad manners to visit a foreign country and not know its tipping practices; but #2- If you ignore this practice, you are affecting someone's livelihood.
Note: IF YOUR WAITRESS IS AWFUL--- and you get no service whatsoever, you are NOT obligated to Tip!
As a STANDARD practice, it is considered normal to leave 15% as a tip. If he/she is GREAT, you leave 20%. Again, good thing you guys are good at math.... If you charge your meal on a credit card, you just write in the tip on your receipt. Otherwise you leave cash. Remember, TIPS are their salary! And even with the 20% tip on a meal, you are STILL going to come out ahead when you compare what you pay for a meal in the US compared to a meal in Denmark!
One More NOTEWORTHY Item related to Eating Out-- You are usually in and out of a restaurant (the real kind...you know, that you SIT DOWN in and have a waitress) in less than an hour!! None of those leisurely dinners like we have in DK! The minute you sit down, someone comes over to take your drink order, and within 20 min of your arrival, I guarantee you will have your food! So eat up! They need your seat for the next group!! :-)