Ten Random Things I’ve Noticed About The States

Well, technically, things I’ve noticed about Northern Virginia.

1.) People wear flip-flops. A lot. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it sure beats stilettos.

2.) Dress is casual. Very casual. I have always dressed like an American wherever I live, but I like that here I can go to the grocery store in shorts and t-shirt and not look out of place. Yep, these are my t-shirt wearing, flip-flopping peeps, right here.

3.) My gym is amazing. It is big, clean, doesn’t smell like unwashed gym clothes, has tons of equipment, and there is air conditioning that they actually turn on!

no smoking4.) Hardly anyone smokes. You can’t smoke in any restaurant or bar, and many buildings have signs saying no smoking in the doorways. No more walking through a cloud of smoke to enter a store or office building. Even public parks have no smoking signs. I never cared much one way or another about cigarette smoke until I got to Vienna and the smell (and the butts) were everywhere. Now, I really appreciate getting away from the filthy habit!

5.) Public transportation is lame, but well-used. If you build it, they will come. And they even get very excited about a new subway line. Last weekend, I saw whole families riding the Silver Line together just to say they did. It’s kind of sweet.

6.) The food is both awful and wonderful. At our temporary apartment we were greeted with a basket of junk food on the kitchen counter, and they were giving away cupcakes and sugary iced coffee in the lobby at happy hour for some reason. But on the other hand, there is great produce at the grocery store, lots of healthy, tasty, not-schnitzel food in restaurants, and the salads don’t have potatoes in them. You can have a chicken Caesar salad or noodle bowl for dinner or you can scarf free cupcakes. Your choice.

7.) At grocery stores the cashiers are friendly, and they actually bag your groceries instead of shoving them at you as fast as they can, then glaring at you while you frantically try to get them bagged before paying. I freaking love American grocery stores.

8.) At all stores they will give you approximately 937 plastic bags at the checkout unless you bring your own and/or plead with them not to give you so many bags. (It’s a lot more difficult to plead with a self-checkout terminal which is why I hardly ever use them.)

9.) Beer is really expensive compared to Vienna, and they won’t let my 18 year old drink it. But they will let him buy cigarettes. Go figure.

10.) Everything else is very cheap compared to Vienna. Everything.


  1. Thank you for writing #10. We moved from D.C. to Vienna two years ago and I am still grousing about how expensive everything is here. I once had a very animated conversation with a Viennese blogger who claimed I was living in a parallel universe, as she had lived in D.C. and found it to be far more expensive than Vienna!

    Off topic, an eatery suggestion: Big Buns on Wilson Boulevard near Ballston. Excellent burgers served on lettuce (or bread, your choice) and even better sweet potato fries.


  2. It’s fun to get people’s impressions when they arrive in the US. Some of yours are even positive!
    When I returned to the US after a tour in Italy in 1984, I was struck by all the fat people I saw. During my 2 years in Italy, I saw exactly 5 morbidly obese people (it was so rare, it really stood out.) 4 of these people were an obese couple and their 2 kids.
    On my return from Italy I wondered, “Why can’t you get good coffee (espresso, cappuccino, etc.) in the US????”
    Nowadays, we not only have espresso drinks, but a thousand variations of them. So some things have changed.
    We still have a lot of fat people though.


  3. You came back from Vienna so the surprise for your wallet was positive. 2h30 south is Budapest where things are about half price from Vienna, so imagine our reverse price shock after three years! For us everything is outrageously expensive – and homeleave was in AZ which is also much cheaper than DC. I have noticed the flip flop addiction!!!


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