Entry permits like ESTA USA have made it easy to enter the US. Provided you’re coming from one of the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries; border entry is as simple as applying online.
Of course, not everyone is eligible to apply for an ESTA visa. Only citizens of a select few countries. For those who’re not eligible, there are other visa schemes to try.
Whatever route you pass into the US, some experiences are bound to leave you astounded. This post wants to discuss these experiences. It’s our hope that the points discussed will help prepare your mind for your first US experience.
1. Same currency color across every mint
I bet you’re coming from a country where currency bills are differentiated not only by number but also by color. Coming to the US, you probably think currency bills will look different like in your country.
Well, you’re in for a shock. All bills look exactly the same in the US. Be it a $1 bill, $10, or $100, they all have the same shade of green and similar sizes.
While the country’s citizens are used to this system of currency denominations, foreigners find it extremely confusing. In fact, some even make the mistake of overpaying for products or services simply because the bills look the same.
You have to constantly double-check how much you’re paying every time. Otherwise, you may end up outstretching $10 when you mean to pay $1 for a service.
Our two cents: Before departing with your ESTA visa, familiarize yourself with the US bills. If you don’t have access to dollars in your home country, get them once you touchdown with your ESTA USA.
2. American flags everywhere you go
Everywhere you go in the US, you’ll always find a trace of the US flag. If not hanging somewhere in the street, you’ll find it on someone’s shirt. I don’t think there’s any country is as proud of its flag as much as Americans.
In short, it’s as common as the sand on the ground. From public grounds to business spaces, homes to recreational spots, and so on.
You must have noticed this trend on the US immigration website while applying for your ESTA USA visa. Even they paint their website with the US flag.
3. Iced drinks
I don’t know about you, but you don’t get ice in your drinks in most European countries unless you ask for it.
In the US, however, things are a bit strange. I mean, bartenders even offer ice cubes for beer drinking. Can you imagine?
Coming to the US, you should prepare your mind for lots of iced drink experiences. Whether at pubs, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants, expect plenty of ice to go with whatever you’re ordering.
If you’re not a sucker for ice, make sure you ring it in the ears of the waiter or bartender attending to you. Otherwise, you may need to order your drinks twice.
4. Bread are generally sweet in the US
I remember the first time I came into the US with my ESTA USA visa. The first junk food item I bought was bread. I wasn’t too surprised that it tasted so sweet. After all, that’s how junk foods are generally.
However, imagine my surprise when I bought bread someone called “Sourdough,” and it still tasted so sweet.
Indeed, US people love sweet things. If you’re not wired that way, you may struggle a little here.
Our two cents: If you’re coming into the US with an ESTA visa that will last for up to 90 days, you can bring certain food items along. However, if you won’t be staying at a home where you can make your own meal, prepare to spend a little extra on your local food.
5. Strange date format
Did you notice anything weird about the date format while filling out your visa form? Maybe in the date box on your online ESTA application form?
Ok, maybe you didn’t ‘cuz you weren’t paying much attention to such detail.
In the US, dates are written in a different format from that of the rest of the world. For example, in your country, you probably write the date in the format day-month-year. Coming to the US, you want to assume that’s still the way. But you’ll be surprised.
Dates in the US are written in the format month-day-year. That is July 11, 2022, rather than 11 July, 2022. It’s important to note this difference before moving in with your ESTA USA to avoid reading 02-04-2023 to mean the second day of April 2023, whereas it meant the fourth day of February 2023.
6. Pharmacies don’t mean ‘drugstores only’ in the US.
Another amazing experience you’ll find in the US is how pharmacies operate. In other parts of the world, when you hear people mention the word ‘pharmacy,’ you want to believe they’re referring to a drugstore.
In the US, this is not the case. There’s more to pharmacies than just drugstores. You can buy food items, snacks, candies, and other everyday needfuls at a regular US pharmacy.
7. Imperial system of measurement still in use
While the rest of the world has moved into metric measurement systems like meters, the US is still stuck with the age-long imperial measurement system.
In America, you’ll hear people say things like inch, feet, and gallon more than you’ll hear meter or liter. While you’ve probably heard these old-school metrics in the past, I’m willing to bet you don’t know how to convert them into the metrics used in your home country. Yeah, that’s right. And that’s where the confusion comes. You walk into a store, and someone asks you, “so how many gallons are you buying?” and you’re there talking to yourself, “how do I convert liters to gallons?”
Our two cents: Metric measurement is key to getting around in the US. Therefore, make sure you familiarize yourself with the imperial system before going to the US. If possible, do that before applying for your ESTA USA visa. We say before because ESTA takes just three days to be approved. If you want to learn while processing your ESTA visa, you may not have enough time.
8. Free refills are a norm
Unless you drink at a not-so-generous bar, most American bars and pubs will offer to refill your cup after each drink without you even needing to ask.
This is literally a blessing if you’re big on drinks, especially alcohol. Getting a free refill after every cup is every drinker’s prayer.
Of course, you have your reason for coming into the US with your ESTA visa, but this, too, isn’t a bad reason to consider visiting the US.
9. Tipping service staff
Whether at the bank, clubhouse, restaurant, spa center, or even a hospital, tipping is considered a norm in the US.
In fact, if you use the service of someone and exit the building without tipping them, you may be looked upon as being stingy.
Tipping is such a big deal in the US. Travelers are often advised to prepare their minds for this.
Don’t be surprised to hear a waitress asking you for a tip as though it’s her right.
The US is clearly a beautiful place to be. But the culture may come off a bit strange. The best thing is to get familiar with as many as possible before leaving. This is particularly important for those who intend to stay a while. E.g., ESTA visa travelers.
Finally, in case someone’s wondering why we’ve referred so much to ESTA in this post, it’s because ESTA is the easiest visa route into the US. When you’re ready to know more about ESTA, visit this ESTA status check page for more information.