While I was preparing for my first trip to the USA, I was very ecstatic. I felt the experience was going to be nothing less than a leap in to the future – especially coming from a third-world nation. In fact, the journey from Singapore to San Francisco actually put me about 30 mins back in time!
To be very frank, not everything I saw in the US was glitter and glorious. The actual experience in the US was a fair mix of good and bad – mostly good though. Let’s go over it.
My Top 15 Impressions of the USA
1. USA is much less noisy
If you ever been in India or seen videos from India, you must know how noisy Indian towns and cities are. You can never escape the blaring horns of vehicles, and noises from shops and markets when in Indian streets. During my entire time in the US, I may have heard horns maybe less than 5 times. Apart from the noises of vehicle engines, there was barely any noise even when outside. There was a peaceful beauty to that atmosphere.
This was a weird experience for me since I am mostly used to noisy environments in the Indian streets, Sometimes I really missed those noises of vehicle horns – it felt like something was missing.
During the lockdown in 2020, I got to experience how the streets of India would be without vehicles and horns. It was so peaceful. I never ever thought I would get to see that in my lifetime.
2. Lots of cars everywhere, but barely any people to see
The towns and junctions in the USA felt like a ghost town at times. There were barely any humans to see, but there was no lack in cars – it was everywhere!
3. Pretty great traffic manners
I read online that traffic in Los Angeles is pretty bad and driving manners is bad compared to rest of the US. However, from my perspective, the driving manners is much better than what I am used to seeing in any Indian roads. No surprise there!
Drivers actually stop for you at the zebra crossing. I think this experience is something every Indian who has been aboard can agree on. Drivers will actually stop for you even before you step your foot on the zebra crossing. Having used to the non-existent traffic manners in India, this was a weird experience and it was quite difficult to make judgement on whether it was okay to cross or not.
4. The sky and sunsets are very beautiful
Maybe it’s because of the fairly better air quality and cool climate – the sky is so blue and the sunsets feel magical.
5. Houses are pretty small but Very Beatutiful
My Airbnb house was a proper wood house. It was quite small, but looked big enough for a small family with one kid. The wooden floor creaked with loud thumps when someone walked in the house! However, this house was very beautiful and made an ever lasting impression on me.
6. Everyone says “Thankyou” all the time
This has to be the most common word I heard in my time in the US. I heard it all the time from people even for little things that are usually taken for granted. For example, it seems you are supposed to say “thankyou” to the bus driver when you get out of the bus. And most of the time, bus driver would acknowledge it. I think in India, people don’t thank each other enough.
7. Switches are upside down
Yes! The switches in the US are upside down and I found it mildly infuriating. It doesn’t make sense at all – confusing UX!
8. Toilet paper is a big deal, and there are no water source near the toilet
Toilet paper seems to be the one of the thing that people in the US keep dearest to them. I understood that when I saw a creepy homeless guy at the San Jose Diridon Railway station having a deep conversation to the roll of toilet paper in his hand. Also, the toilet paper situation in the lockdown days confirmed that understanding.
The most frustrating thing about toilets in the US is that there is no water source. It is basic common sense that water is much better than a tiny piece of toilet paper any day.
9. Coffee and tea were horrible for my taste
The coffee and tea were too bitter for my taste. No matter how much sugar I put in, I couldn’t make it taste sweet.
10. Cats are very friendly
When I entered my Airbnb, the two cats in the house were the first ones to welcome me. Both of them jumped into my arms as if they were expecting me. In my entire life so far in India, I couldn’t get a cat to come to me no matter what I tried. The friendliness of the cats was an unexpected experience. They were walking all over me!
11. Interesting and unique vehicles
The streets of Los Angeles always surprised me with something cool rolling down every once in a while. I saw a couple of nice and unique vehicles. Some of the ones I remember are – a pretty long limousine, an uplifted pickup truck, cars that reminded me of pimp my ride show, etc.
12. Crazy people are hard to tell
It is very difficult to tell who is crazy or not. I have came across at least four incidents with crazy people during my 7 days in the US.
The craziest instance was when the man who was sitting beside me flipped out and went on a rant just because the metro took few extra minutes to depart.
In India, you can easily figure out from whom to keep distance with based on their dressing. That was quite difficult in the USA.
13. There is a clear racial divide in the society
All it took was a subway ride from Los Angeles to Long Beach. I saw a couple of shades of racial divide through the neighborhood it went through. The attitude of people that boarded from different stations and the us vs them attitude among the people made it too obvious to not see.
14. It gets creepy and eerie by night very quickly
The nights in the streets of US can get very creepy very quickly. It was probably more creepy because of the cold night and the creepy silence in the streets.
I think the San Jose Diridon Railway station at night was the most creepiest environment I have ever been on. I have never seen a public building that was so depressing with bad vibes all around.
15. Election day in the US
I accidentally learned that bus rides are free for everyone on the election day. I think that is a pretty cool thing.
But even more impressive thing was that, even though it was an election day, there were no crazy banners or political posters in public places like you would see in India even on non-election days. Everything looked calm and peaceful.
Election days in India are too crazy. There won’t be an inch of space without posters of political candidates or flags of political parties on the election day.
That’s all I can recollect for now from my trip to the US back in 2018. I had big plans for the year 2020 – I had the opportunity to visit US twice. But as you can guess, the pandemic ruined all the plans. Here’s to hoping I can continue with my travels in 2021 🤞.
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5 responses to “My Top 15 Impressions and Thoughts About the USA”
Fascinating recount if your trip from a very different perspective. Why was the station creepy? And the clothes of a crazy person in India? What would they look like?
The chilly night and eerie silence in the dimly lit station was uncomfortable enough. But what really creeped me out was the few crazy ( and homeless ?) people in that building. Being person of different color with a huge backpack, it obviously grabbed the attention of some of them. One guy was checking us out from the entrance as if he was plotting something on us.
And then there was another guy was having a serious talk to his toilet paper roll as if he was talking to his son. After some time, he creeped close to the magazine stand nearby our bench as if he was checking them out in a weird way but kept looking at my backpack.
At one point, there was a staredown contest going on. I wish I was kidding, but I summoned all my energy and stared back at him with anger. He moved away and left us alone after that.
In India, it is very easy to tell a crazy or unsafe person. They will easily stand out from the rest because of their unclean and torn clothes, bare feet, etc. You would easily understand if you visit a public transport station in Indian towns.
To expand a little more on the crazy instance I faced in LA metro..
It was my LA metro ride – from downtown to airport. I was all alone with a huge rucksack. Keeping in mind about the previous crazy experiences in the metro, I took extra care to not sit near someone who might look out of their mind. I ended up sitting near this dude with a nice red leather jacket in his hands and he looked well dressed. He was silent, like everyone else typically you see in the metro. But at the Hollywood Vine station, there was some delay in closing the doors. Suddenly, he jumped out of his seat and started walking around and went on a rant to nobody about things. He didn’t stop even after the doors closed and metro moved again.
Thankfully, another dude behind my row was nice enough to lend his ear to listen and this dude kept going on and on. At one point, I heard him say how education is useless and how he was glad that he dropped out of high school.
It was a very stressful 45 mins ride to the airport – hoping that he didn’t have a gun with him..
This is the frightening thing about America. Who might have a gun and be some unstable that a small thing might set them off. In Australia, this would be an extremely rare occurence. India is lucky in a way that the people to avoid are easily identifiable. Having said all that, I had a similar experience with a backpack watching dude in the Copenhagen railway station. For some reason, lots of strange people hang around in railway stations, no matter which country you are in. They can be dangerous unpredictable places I think, especially at night. I am glad your ended up safe. It is hard to know who to trust in a foreign country, but sad that we have to distrust everyone who looks strange or homeless. Homeless folks often suffer mental illness and are unstable and need our compassion too.
Yep, agree. It’s the unfortunate reality. Our own safety and security should be given more priority before we can help others, especially a total stranger. Also, feeling like a stranger in another country is not fun, and I made it a point to have at least a friend in the country I’m going to visit next.
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