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I’m a Brit – here are the things that surprised me about the U.S on my first-ever visit (including service that made me realise how deprived of friendliness we are in the UK)


After years of America sitting on the top of my bucket list, I finally had the chance to visit in February – on a four-night, five-day trip to Nashville. 

Growing up in the UK on a steady diet of American pop culture, I had spent years building up stereotypes and misconceptions about the country. 

But my visit, although fleeting, opened my eyes to how different the U.S is to the UK in reality. 

From warm hospitality and overly generous portion sizes to the tipping culture and lack of public transport – here are the things that, as a Brit, I found surprising. 

Everything is huge 

Jessica Hamilton’s first visit to the U.S was a quick trip to Nashville. She explains the things that surprised her the most about America 

Size really does matter to Americans. 

As soon as I touched down in Nashville, I noticed how much bigger things were in the U.S. From the height of the buildings and width of the highways to the overly-generous portions of food – often practically impossible to finish – everything was larger than life.

Warm hospitality

It wasn’t until I visited America that I realised how deprived of friendliness Brits are in restaurants and cafes.

Whether it’s due to tipping culture or genuine care, American servers go the extra mile.

Tipping culture

Jessica reveals that she never did come to terms with America's entrenched tipping culture

Jessica reveals that she never did come to terms with America’s entrenched tipping culture 

Everyone knows about America’s forthright tipping culture, but figuring out how to negotiate it without offending someone is another matter.

When do you tip? When do you not? How much do you tip? Do you tip before or after tax? The entire thing is a minefield that I never did come to terms with. 

You pay more than the price tag

Think you have the exact amount of cash to pay for a souvenir? Think again. 

It turns out that U.S price tags don’t include sales tax. 

For the uninitiated, this makes for a surprise when you’re forced to cough up extra dollars at the checkout counter. 

Public transport 

A five-minute walk or a 30-second drive? The answer is obvious to most Americans. 

Like many U.S cities, Nashville isn’t entirely walkable. Although there are some pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods, especially Downtown, most people rely on cars to get around. 

It made me long for good old unreliable British transport. 

While visiting Nashville in the U.S, Jessica discovered that not all areas were walkable

While visiting Nashville in the U.S, Jessica discovered that not all areas were walkable


Perhaps it’s something to do with British modesty, but I found the adverts, or ‘commercials’, more blatant in the U.S. And, as a result, much more enjoyable. 

I was lucky enough to witness the extent of America’s unashamed commercialism during the Super Bowl, which I watched from a local bar. 

The ads, which cost roughly $7million (£5.4million) a pop, featured everyone from Christopher Walken and Kanye West to Jennifer Coolidge and Victoria Beckham, and each played like an Oscar-nominated film. 

To my surprise, these 30-second clips commanded more attention than the football. 

Sports games 

From American football, baseball and soccer to basketball and ice hockey, sports are a big deal in the U.S. And, dare I say, more enjoyable.

It wasn’t until I watched an ice hockey game at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena that I realised how exciting a sports match can be. The thrill, unpredictability and atmosphere of the arena were like nothing I’ve experienced at UK football matches, which mostly play out in bitterly cold weather and attract insufferable fans. 

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