Summer in America: 10 Tips for Visiting Brits

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

Most Brits in the U.S, will, at some point, have summer guests visiting from the Mother Country. While expats have become (somewhat) accustomed to life here, it’s often surprisingly alien to our visitors. I chatted with folks from the Brits in the USA Facebook group and came up with these recommendations for steering guests in the right direction.

1. Before you even set foot on the proverbial tarmac, have your host’s full street address to hand (i.e. not in a suitcase) to complete the immigration paperwork. Even if you’re being met at the luggage carousel and whisked straight off to the house, you will need to supply an address for the duration of your stay in the U.S. “Joe Bloggs, Kansas City” will not suffice.

2. Purchase substantial medical insurance. It’s hard for Brits to grasp just how expensive medical treatment here can be. Here are a few real numbers – according to the Healthcare Blue Book, a broken leg (femur) will set you back about $9,500, an appendectomy around $10,000, and even a strep throat test will cost between $74 and $138 depending on who performs it. Bear in mind also that you may have to pay first and apply for reimbursement when you return to the U.K. so you should have access to funds.

3. Don’t bother bringing toiletries; they weigh a ton, and we have them all here. Unless you have a medical need, it’s a waste of baggage allowance carting that stuff over here. If you insist on providing your own rather than using your host’s, it’s much cheaper over here and they sell the same stuff for the most part.

4. Leave space in your suitcase for the whole new wardrobe you’ll be buying. Most Brits I know go berserk in the shops when they’re over here. Clothes are much cheaper (on the whole) than in the U.K. and my guests not only renew their entire wardrobes, they buy a year’s worth of birthday presents to boot.

5. It gets hot, and the sun is strong in many places in the U.S. Even if you’re in a fairly northern city like Chicago, its latitude is 42 N, while Venice is 45, Marseilles is 43 and Bordeaux is 44. (To give you a yardstick, Leeds is 53.7N) If you wouldn’t think twice about slapping on sunscreen in Europe, don’t forget to do the same in the U.S.

Once your gusts are settled in they’ll need a few more tips. While we could write reams on the subject, some of the more important ones are:

6. Don’t start a discussion on politics, religion, guns, the number of Americans who don’t have passports, obesity in America or war. While many Brits can have heated discussions about such subjects and then have a pint with their debate opponent, Americans generally don’t do this, especially in social situations with people they hardly know.

7. Go easy on the swearing unless you’re in New York or New Jersey (just kidding). Regular, common-or-garden Americans typically don’t swear a lot and in the south, they might apologize even for saying “damn.”

8. When shopping, the price you see usually isn’t what you’ll pay. Sales tax (which most states have) isn’t included on the sticker, and differs from state to state. And no, there isn’t a tourist tax refund like with V.A.T., although if you are shipping back to the U.K. you may not have to pay tax. (Compare the tax savings to the cost of shipping and customs duties, as it may not be worth it.)

9. Although it obviously differs from store to store, but in general you’re not expected to bag your own goods in the grocery store. In fact, you may cause a bit of a to-do if you try. It’s very normal to just stand and wait while the checkout person rings up and bags either at the same time, or consecutively.

10. Put yer hand in yer pocket and Tip Generously! Brits are renowned for being tight tippers, and it’s 15-20 percent and up in the U.S. Read this post on tipping if you’re at all skeptical.

Oh, and have a nice visit!

Join @MindTheGap_BBCA on Twitter for a chat on summering in the States on Wednesday, May 14 at 2 pm ET. Use hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win Broadchurch Season 1 on DVD from BBC AMERICA Shop.

See more:
Summer in the States: Keeping Your Cool
American Beaches: What Brits Should Know
Summer in the States: Not Always a Picnic


Toni Hargis

Toni Summers Hargis is a British author who has lived in the USA since 1990. Toni blogs as Expat Mum and is the author of Rules, Britannia - An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom and The Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students. She has made frequent appearances on radio and TV discussing US/UK matters.
View all posts by Toni Hargis.
  • Jennifer Howze

    Great tips! My husband, even after visiting America for years, can’t get over how they bag groceries there and, in Texas, take it out to your car for you. *Bliss*

    • Ronald Barr

      They don’t do that in the UK? That blows my mind! lol

      • LB

        Wait, in Texas they take it out to your car??

        • Jwb52z

          They do it if you need help and they have someone available. At the very least, they ask. Sometimes they will even help you load your vehicle.

        • Han Solo Solomon

          If you request it, most proper chains will have a bag boy carry out and load a car with the groceries. It’s one of those services that are usually available, but not offered expressly unless you’re old.

          Tip your bagger if he loads your car too.

    • Katie

      They don’t just take the bags out for you in Texas. They do that just about anywhere in the states.

  • gn

    Only 1 of these has anything to do with summer. Nice photo, though :)

    • expatmum

      I think the point is that we usually have guests in the summer.

    • Teressa

      Depends on where you go. The south is hot and dry, the north is hot and humid. If you want to visit Alaska, do it in the summer. The days are long and much warmer. Each state has things that draw tourists, especially in the summer. Look for farmers markets, craft bazaars, and fairs – we have small street fairs, larger county fairs, and large state fairs…especially in the “bread basket”. Most states have a visitors bureau you can check out online. Beware of sunburn, even on cloudy days, mosquitos, and wild animals. Know where you are going and how you plan to get around. Travel by train is not common throughout the country though it is in the northeast. There are rail systems in many cities but they don’t usually leave that immediate area (subways and the “L”). A lot of the country is rural. If you plan to drive, see if you can find a beginner’s handbook at the state’s motor vehicle authority website and study the laws and signs. You will be driving on the other side of the road so you shouldn’t plan to figure out what the signs mean while staying in your lane. The best tip is research where you’re going so you are prepared.

      • Pat

        The south is not hot and DRY! The south west perhaps, like Arizona and New Mexico, but the rest is pretty dang humid in the summer.

        • David

          Moved to lower Alabama from Central Oklahoma. Went from 40 – 50% humidity to to 90 – 100% That took some getting used to.

  • chocoshatner

    FWIW, some of us genuinely enjoy cussing.

  • Jeriel Lowe

    Eat all the barbecue ribs that you can find! Don’t worry about the mess, you can wash your hands and face later.

    Most places have different recipes when it comes to barbecue, so you can have barbecue in one state & then in another, and you are having two completely different (wonderful) experiences. Enjoy!

    • Jerry Baker

      I can’t agree with this more. Americans didn’t invent barbecue and you can find it all over the world; and while I am not typically inclined to espouse “American Exceptionalism”, we have, quite simply, perfected barbecued meat. There is nothing quite so sublime as the smell of wood smoke from a grill or fire pit where meat is being cooked. Being from the region, and a little biased, I may suggest if one is in Kentucky, visit Owensboro. That area of the state specializes in barbecued mutton and they use a vinegar based sauce. Also, if fate lands you near the southern tip of Illinois, in the town of Cairo (pronounced Kay-row), you will find a hole-in-the-wall called Darrell Shemwell’s. The best barbecued pork butt in the world and the sauce is worth killing for.

      • realsmartmom

        Sorry, Jerry. As a GA peach, I gotta protest. Georgia is the capital of BBQ pork…..we like a vinegar base too btw. Although, I would absolutely like to try some barbecued mutton…..I had never heard of such a thing until I watched BBQ Pitmasters or some such show……it sounds pretty damn good. Oops…sorry for the damn.

        • Han Solo Solomon

          Georgian Please. The Carolinas are the Pulled Pork Central. We have several different types, and anything you Georgians might claim to make is probably a cheap imitation. I don’t see the President stopping by Georgia for a plate of whatever peach slop barbeque y’all are cooking.

          • Mary Walker

            You haven’t had real barbecue until you’ve been to Kansas City.

          • DemonDeac

            Agreed. Down east style NC barbeque is the best pulled pork barbeque anywhere in the South.

      • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

        May I also recommend South Carolina’s famous mustard-based pulled-pork barbeque? That stuff is slap-yo-mama good. :)

      • CuriousTraveler66

        Chicagoans would disagree with all of you, as would, I suspect, anyone from Kansas City or Memphis. We can do ‘cue as well as anyone. But the key to barbecue anywhere is low and slow — barbecue is NOT grilling, and there are no briquettes or lighter fluid involved! Steaks get grilled; ribs, on the other hand, should be smoke-barbecued, as should beef brisket. Enough said. Bottom line: you Brits should eat as much ‘cue as you can in the U.S., ’cause you sure ain’t gonna get any at home!

  • Jessica

    #11. When in the south in the summer, don’t touch the *Sweet Tea* unless you need to melt some enamel off your teeth.

    re: #9 – Very much depends on what state you are visiting. Just take a glance at the end of the check out, if someone is there to do it for you, let them. (Make sure you chat with them and thank them.) If not, do it yourself.

    re: #7 – As a resident of New Jersey: I don’t know what the f*** you’re talking about. 😉 (That was irony, not sarcasm. Most of us know the difference and are conversant with irony.

    • BillipPhailey

      Next to the sweet tea is unsweetened tea. Mix them to taste.

      • CT14

        I’ve never seen both offered.

        • David

          You have to ask for unsweet tea. Otherwise you get the sweet stuff.

        • Sarah

          It must depend on the state. I live in Maryland and almost every single restaurant I’ve been to offers both sweet and unsweetened ice tea,.

        • BillipPhailey

          Ditto (the other commenters). NC and GA set them out. Always ask.

      • Jessica

        Oh, believe me, I do! (I suppose I should mention that I am southern transplant to the north.)

        Additionally, in the NE, *sweet tea* is Raspberry tea. That was a shock!

        • Han Solo Solomon


    • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

      I happen to LIKE sweet tea!

  • Lesley

    it gets hot, much hotter than in the uk. Don’t forget to drink more water, dehydration isn’t much fun! And use a sunscreen with a much higher spf than you would in the uk.

    Mosquitoes are annoying, don’t leave doors open and if you open a window, make sure you open the side that is covered with a bug screen, they are there for a reason.

    If your host has the a/c running, don’t sleep with a window open, and yes the ceiling fans can be run all night, they make a big difference to how cool your room feels before you switch on that a/c box.

  • Kaycie

    Clearly written by someone unfamiliar with the South.

    • Toni Hargis

      I actually lived there and my entire in-law family is from there. The apology in my case, came less than two weeks ago from a 30 year old man, but the no-swearing suggestion came from at least four other Brits in a discussion. So while I”m not unfamiliar with the South at all, it’s obviously not the same for everyone who goes there, which is why there’s a big ‘ole “typically” followed by a”might” in that sentence. It means that there are exceptions. (And I am quite aware that Southerners who cuss like sailors with people they know, wouldn’t necessarily do the same in front of strangers.)

      • Guest

        *Generally* speaking, it’s the younger folks that cuss. I’ve a nephew by marriage. ho can’t utter a sentence without the obligatory F-bomb. I forgive him though, he lived his formative years in Chicago ;-).

        • CuriousTraveler66

          ‘scuse ME: I’m from Chicago, and I can go weeks on end without flinging an f-bomb, even in private (I have a good vocabulary, thanks!), though if you go through poorer neighborhoods, you’re likely to hear one or two f-bombs in every sentence (then again, in those areas they probably have more cause to cuss). So I’d say it’s more of an age, class and education-level difference. Youth will swear more often, absolutely.

      • $15315292

        *Generally* speaking, it’s the younger folks who cuss like sailors. I’ve a nephew who can’t utter a sentence without dropping the obligatory F-bomb. I forgive him though, he spent his formative years in Chicago :-).

  • Pam O

    Keep in mind it is hotter in some states than others. I live in Oklahoma. Our summer temps can get as hot as 120° F. Drink lots of water. Heat stroke is really bad.

    • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

      That converts to 48.8 degrees Celsius, ya’ll.
      That will burn your brisket.

  • myfriendzoe

    Re: #2: I know the point has been made, but really, those prices are low. I had a tummy ache that cost me $8,000. If you DO have to see a doctor, go to a walk-in clinic instead of through the hospital emergency room. That is to say, do not get sick or hurt on the weekends or after 5pm.

    • Cici Tubb-Warbington

      agree – walk-in clinics (at least where I live) tend to be *dramatically* cheaper than a hospital ER. Not to mention much, much quicker. Avoid hospitals, if at all possible.

      • frozen01

        I guess that’s another tip for visitors: You do actually have to wait here. In fact, I’ve had longer waiting times in the US than I have had in the UK, but there is a perception that we just walk into any hospital and are immediately taken care of. Oh, and that insurance pays for everything (it does not).

  • rockyjoe

    You can remove the “just kidding” from #7. I’m from New York and now live in New Jersey and yes, we do curse like sailors.

  • Kevin Roberts


    • Fred

      Yeah…sorry, but some of us are perfectly happy to see them…your mileage may vary…

    • Seymore Butts

      Actually it’s completely legal to go topless in some places, New York City for example. If it’s something you might want to do, just research the legality in the places you’ll be visiting.

    • Max_Freedom

      Why are you yelling?!?

  • Simone Early

    I’d also mention to plan for weather patterns before you come over. Depending on where you are going and when. Tornado and Hurricane seasons could be a real drag… And some places like VA start summer off with humid days. People can prepare for heat but when you add humid to it some people have a hard time breathing. I had a hard time adjusting when we moved from UK to Kentucky. I couldn’t be outside for long stretches. I also never had an issue with allergies either until I came to Virginia. So be prepared.

    • Toni Hargis

      My guests are currently really suffering from allergies, but it’s the nasal drip and not the sneezing so it took them a while to figure out what was going on. (They didn’t say anything to me, just had a tissue permanently in their hand.) Benadryl to the rescue.

  • Death Becomes Me

    Also, the chick with the US flag is atypical.

    • austingirl

      No, no, we all look like that (eh hem).

  • Grey

    on #7 we cuss plenty in the south…just depends on the situation. I’ve never encountered a southerner who appologized for saying damn. And on tipping, don’t be goaded into paying 10 or 20 percent…10% is what my momma taught me, and I’ve stuck by that rule. Its not up to you or me to pay the waitstaff salary.

    • Death Becomes Me

      Waiters and waitresses live on their tips. 10% is horrible

      • Han Solo Solomon

        This is ‘Merca.. let them get a job elsewhere, or don’t take a wait job that’s tip based. Plenty of places do hourly wages.

    • Seymore Butts

      Well, your momma taught you wrong. In most states if a worker is allowed to accept tips then the employer is allowed to pay them a fraction of the usual salary, meaning it literally is up to you and your tip to make up the difference.

      Always tip 20%, more if the service was exceptional.

    • eberella

      10% is insulting. When did she teach you that? 1950? There is such a thing as inflation!

      • John

        But inflation affects the cost of the goods, so the tip will rise with inflation – its a percentage of the base price!!!
        10% is insulting, but the logic here is painful.

    • CT14

      Actually it is up to you to pay the waitstaff because they are working for you and they aren’t being paid minimum wage.

      If you can’t afford to tip, don’t go out.

      Southerners cuss differently. “Bless your heart” , “God Bless”, and “I’ll pray for you” mean “F you”.

      • welcometo1984

        If you can’t afford to pay your staff a living wage don’t open a restaurant or bar.
        Its not a service charge if its expected just put it on the price of the food.

        • Jwb52z

          This is one of the reasons that fast food workers around the world are going on strike. The ones in casual dining restaurants often don’t get a salary because they work for tips only. It’s not mandated to pay some jobs like that a minimum wage by law, so it’s not always done.

        • Max_Freedom

          It’s in the Wage laws set forth by the Department of Labor.
          That’s how the industry works.
          Tip accordingly, or stay home.

      • Jwb52z

        Don’t forget “God Love Ya!” as well.

    • David

      I tip 20% as the norm, if the service was exceptional it might be higher. if it’s lacking it will be less. May 10%. I gave a 10% tip to a waitress in NZ earlier this year, knowing that tipping was not customary or expected When we came back a to the same place a few days later I the level of service was fantastic. The service That I had received on earlier visit was really above average.

      • Guest

        A lot of places in the EU and UK have the “tip” calculated into the price of the meal. And I received some horrible service in a couple places/countries. As you said here in the U.S. 20% is the standard, but can be adjusted for bad or great service. Most waiters/waitresses only make about $2.50 an hour and survive on the tips as well as having to be taxed on those tips. To be honest I would raise their wages to at least the federal minimum wage and leave their tips untaxed.

      • Max_Freedom

        New Zealand is completely different.

    • Ronald Barr

      Only 10%? I’m surprised no one spits in your food when you come back.

      • Bonnie Mann

        More than likely they do! And the entire waitstaff probably will watch as the person drinks it lol

      • Max_Freedom

        They do. Guaranteed.

    • Bonnie Mann

      Apparently neither you or your mother have been a server before…if you had you’d know there is no way to survive on 1.10/hr. With 10% tips. It’s automatically assumed by the government you’ll make 20% on everything you serve regardless and you will be taxed on those tips or in your case lack there of regardless… momma should have raised you better

    • Max_Freedom

      Your momma was incorrect.
      It is up to you.
      Look at the wage laws for non-tipped employees. It is much lower, and the government taxes these workers based on a percentage of their sales.
      You should not return to an establishment if you have tipped 10%. They will do bad things to your food/drink when behind closed doors.

    • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

      Your momma taught you wrong.
      You tip 20%, or you are an uneducated heathen who likes to see people starve.

    • Cypressclimber

      Your momma may have taught you to eat moldy bread too, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

  • Ginger Crawford

    Someone hasn’t visited the same south I grew up in.

  • BritAbroad

    in NJ you don’t even have to pump your own gas(Petrol)!!!!!

    • Anon Y. Mous

      It’s not that you don’t have to. It’s that you can’t.

    • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

      Same for Oregon. It’s illegal to pump your own gas (petrol) in New Jersey and Oregon.

      • Han Solo Solomon

        It’s such a stupid law..

    • Han Solo Solomon

      More like “In NJ, one of two states that are archaic as frak, you’re not allowed to pump your own gas because no one could be smart enough to handle such a task..”

  • djvexd

    Also as a Florida native, I know we get a lot of our British brothers and sisters here on holiday. Please know, or keep in mind, May-September we have thunderstorms DAILY! Especially in the central portion of the state (Orlando/Disney area in particular). These usually happen between 2-7pm EST and can become quite violent sometimes. Please plan your activities accordingly.

    • frozen01

      Yes, THIS. I’ve had to explain this to my northern brethren, too.
      We would get them in Jacksonville around 1-2pm like clockwork. It would absolutely pour and we would get the most amazing lightening and thunder, and then afterwards the sun would come out and any standing water (which there was usually quite a lot of) would evaporate quickly and leave the air very muggy.
      I really miss those storms!

      • djvexd

        I absolutely love thunderstorms…so soothing.

  • FLrambokitty

    Some rules for vacationing in the South:

    1. We don’t care how you do it up north. And “up north” is anywhere north of Virginia.
    2. Please protect your typically pale English skin with sunscreen and a hat. And, you need to apply sunscreen more than once a day.
    3. Yep, we serve iced tea. Sweet tea is sweetened with a water/sugar simple syrup and most people not from the south don’t like it. But, we grew up on it and it’s not an “abomination.”
    4. We cuss in the South like mofos. And if somebody says to you “Bless your heart” and kinda drags out the “heart,” you’ve been insulted. Roughly translated, you’ve been called an idiot.
    5. All our paper money is the same size.
    6. It’s a “trash can” and not a bin. It’s “fries” and not chips, it’s “potato chips” and not crisps. You probably won’t like Hershey chocolate and trust me, the Cadbury made in the USA tastes very different than the Cadbury made in the UK.
    7. Your beer will served to you cold. And, Newcastle, Guinness, etc. are considered imported beers.
    8. You’ll need a small umbrella (not brolly) and a rain jacket or coat (not a mac) in the afternoon when you’re in Florida in the summer.
    9. Florida, for those of you who haven’t been here before, is more than Disney and Orlando. Miami is Latin America, the Pensacola/Destin area is the Redneck Riviera, Tampa/St. Pete/Sarasota is Retirement Heaven and Jacksonville is just, well, Jacksonville. But the Beaches are nice. And the Keys are where all the escaped mental patients live, but it’s fun!
    10. You won’t find a proper cuppa – anywhere.
    11. In the South, if you want a carbonated soft drink in somebody’s house, they are going to offer you “a Coke.” Now, they may have Pepsi in the refrigerator, but unless they are in North Carolina, they’re going to say “would you like a Coke?” and then go thru the entire list of what beverages they have in the ice box. And yes, some still call it the “ice box.”
    12. Single men – you could look like Benny Hill on a bender, put because of your accent, the honeys will love you. Trust me on this.
    13. If you get “fries” someplace, there will be no malt for you. Unless of course, you’re in a psuedo-English pub. Otherwise, it’s ketchup.
    14. Have fun, we’re glad you’re here, and spend your money freely!

    • foundmyzen

      #12 is TOO true!!

    • Macayla

      Yeah in North Carolina we tell you if its Pepsi or Coke, maybe cause Pepsi was made here first and we are kinda proud of it. We still call it an ice box, but instead of Pepsi maybe y’all just need to go with Cheerwine (much better than anything else in the world I promise). No hot tea, don’t even ask, asking for unsweetened is only forgivable if you have like diabetes or somethin like that. Everyone in the South is really tan, not on purpose its just hot as a motherf’er down here, and the sun never goes away. Invest in Daisy Dukes they come in handy. And its true that if someone says “bless your heart” you need to read more into their scentence. It ain’t a compliment! We cuss heavily if we get to know ya. Oh, and DON’T call a southerner a yank! Highly offensive! Welcome to ‘Merica, y’all!

    • matimal

      you sound like a delightful person!

    • CuriousTraveler66

      Agree: the Cadbury available in the U.S. and Canada tastes off, like overboiled milk. If you want chocolate from the grocery store, skip the Hershey’s and stick with the darker stuff from Ghirardelli, Lindt, Scharffenberger or some of the organic brands. Do try the homemade chocolates from the local shops, too. One thing you must try is the Turtle, which goes under a variety of names, depending on which shop makes it, but it’s roasted pecans swathed in chewy golden caramel and dipped in chocolate. Yum!! And if you’re in Chicago, don’t miss Garrett’s caramel corn, especially the Chicago mix or the weekly specials with roasted nuts. I can highly recommend the almond and hazelnut versions, but there’s cashew and pecan, too.

  • eve11

    Clothes and groceries are sales tax free, so for those, what you see is what you pay.

    • Katie

      That’s not always true. In California there’s a tax on, well, just about everything. Groceries and clothes included.

    • Mk Ahlsen

      Kansas charges sales tax on food and clothing.

    • Toni Hargis

      Just – not true everywhere.

    • frozen01

      This is only true in some places. Lots of places charge tax on clothing and groceries. Some places charge tax on specific types of groceries (for example, in Wisconsin, it used to be that if you bought an individual serving of ice cream you paid tax, but you didn’t if you bought a half-gallon – not sure if that’s still the case).

      Not only does every state have their own taxes, individual towns can, as well.

    • Max_Freedom

      Not true in most states.

      • matimal

        clothes are taxed in Ohio as is food in restaurants.

  • California Native

    Oh, a tip for anyone visiting California. Do NOT assume that all of our beaches are sunny with warm water and palm trees. I live in the central coast and the warmest ocean water I’ve ever been in was about 60 degrees (farenheight, sorry I can’t do celcius) or so. You might see the sun in the afternoon on a good day, but mostly there are clouds and fog and freezing winds. It’s gorgeous still, but be prepared to bundle up.
    Also, gas (petrol) prices here are some of the worst in the country (as far as I know) mainly because of, again, taxes.
    Enjoy your stay!

    • Cypressclimber

      California is beautiful, but remember the famous quip, falsely attributed to Mark Twain: “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” I recall shivering at a baseball game in San Fran, in the middle of the summer.

  • Farrare Far

    Regarding #8: Wrong if you are shopping in Texas!!! :-)

    Texas encourages International visitors to shop. For example, if you go to the Macy’s located in the Houston Galleria, they have a Visitor and Tax Free Refund Center on the 2nd floor. The staff can explain how it works. You could also process your refund at the Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport or Dallas International Airport.

    Be sure to research Tax Free Texas before you begin your trip:

    • Toni Hargis

      Thanks for that info.

  • patt

    After reading all the comments here I hope it’s clear to visitors to the US, whether from the UK or elsewhere, that this is a HUGE country with endless variations in climate, food, traditions, regulations, etc. Educate yourself on your specific destination and don’t assume what’s true in one state/city/county will be the same no matter where you go.

  • American

    These “flag girls” are everywhere during the summers here.

  • Gregory M. Buchold

    The summer holidays where closings could affect your plans include Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Traffic, flights, beach travel. and hotel prices tends to be high on those long weekends. States vary on the legality of buying and setting off fireworks. Hurricanes tend to be most likely to disrupt beach travels to the mid-Atlantic states and Florida in September, and will be likely fewer this year if the El Nino pattern continues but will raise the risk of wild-fires in the west. Checking the James Beard nominees and craft beer websites can help you avoid the tasteless mid-range “American food” menus. Lots of British ex-pats here in Houston and on the Outer Banks if you are missing the Empire.

    • Toni Hargis

      Yes, I usually tell visitors not to fly in around big holidays. Not only can the airports be a nightmare, but getting to and from them can often take twice as long.

  • welcometo1984

    Brits aren’t tight at all. They just don’t know. If they KNOW it’s a tipping kind of a deal, they tip BIG.
    Bear in mind in Britain a tip is just that. Not expected to make up part of someone’s basic salary.

    • ProudYankee

      Sorry, but that’s not true for all Brits at all. I’ve seen tons of places online where British people take great pride in announcing their plans not to tip while in America, or brag about how they only round up to $100 on a $98 check or something whenever they visit, and endlessly tell us we should change our system to suit them.

      They don’t seem to process that service charges are generally already included in Europe. In America we give you control over the service charge.

      • matimal

        to be fair, service is generally much worse in the u.k. ; sometimes shockingly bad.

  • Growlltiger Eats Abug

    Depends on the state how much money a server makes. here in washington state, waitstaff DO make minimum wage.

  • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

    20% is a standard tip everywhere I’ve ever been. This is what waitstaff/servers are LIVING on, people.

  • Anonymous

    But if someone else starts a debate, join in. Especially if you’re on the same side as someone else or it’s not a really touchy subject in that place. I’m all for a debate about religion where I live, but I know my cousins in the south aren’t.

    Plus, an American will know what you mean if you say crisps, but if you say chips they will get you crisps. My point is, you can use the British word in general, but if there’s an American thing by the same name, use the American term. They know you’re British, so if you say bin, they will assume you mean trash can because these things are not usually used in the same circumstances (an American bin is basically a container), but chips and crisps are.

    If you act like a tourist, expect an American to ask you about Britiain. If you are Welsh and we call you English, try not to be insulted, the accents are similar. If the American says “well aren’t they kind of the same?” Then they are an idiot. They are enforcing the stereotype that Americans are stupid.

    Good tea is POSSIBLE to find. But it’s difficult. You have two options: look for a place that sells it, or buy a good kind at the store. I don’t know if you guys have Lipton, but if you don’t, just avoid it. It’s an ok drink but it is NOT GOOD TEA.

    Unfortunately, some of the stereotypes you hear are true. In fact, many are. But when talking to an American, assume they’re not. For example, I went to a Filmmaking class once, in which there were nearly twenty people and only two of them didn’t watch Doctor Who. We appreciate British culture other than One Direction. In fact, most of us don’t appreciate One Direction at all.

    Which brings me to another topic. I don’t know if One Direction is even a big thing there, but it is made to be. If you walk into a store with a target age of preteen-teen girls, you will see Union Jacks. If they say something like “I love British boys,” it is a One Direction shirt. It is sick and most of us hate it (especially the girls like me who are in this target age and don’t like that band at all) but it’s everywhere.

    We think accents are cute.

    Brush up on pop culture, we don’t want to teach it to you.

    Many of us do not say y’all, or worse y’all’s. Avoid that when possible. There are people who say that, but those who don’t will be insulted,

    Good luck. Many of us like your country better, so don’t get too excited about coming here. Unless you’re going to New York, in which case you can get excited but be prepared for dead rats in the subway (which are actually there). So have fun!

    • CuriousTraveler66

      In larger cities, there actually are tea and coffee shops where you *can* get a decent cuppa and then some. Also, Starbucks now owns Teavana, and most Teavana stores have tea to go (for take-out or take-away). Starbucks stores have also begun carrying a few Teavana teas. Considering they carry some pretty high-grade teas there, you’ll be in luck if you find one of those outlets. But they won’t be in the small towns. My solution: get yourself some decent tea in the big city, either bagged or loose, and take it with you on the road in the U.S. I do that all the time in order to be able to drink hot green tea when I want. All you need is hot water.

      But *stay away* from Southern style sweet tea unless you want to go into sugar shock! They use *way* too much sugar there; get unsweeetened and add your own.

  • CuriousTraveler66

    1. Summer in the U.S. means mosquitoes no matter where you are, unless you’re in the desert. So: first order of business are spray-on repellant and decent sunscreen. Bring or get a straw hat, too, because your scalp can get sunburned, too. Get some aloe vera gel at a local drug store chain for any sunburn; it’ll soothe insect bites, too.

    2. If you’re in the desert or going through a forest at any point, wearing long slacks (pants) with knee-high socks is better than wearing shorts. In the desert, it’ll keep your legs from getting sunburned and keep you from sticking to the hot seat in your car. In the woods or anywhere in the wilderness, long pants will keep the ticks off of you, and ticks spread Lyme disease, which you don’t want. Same goes for keeping your legs free from poison ivy and poison oak. Long pants rule!

    3. Check or online not only for local forecasts but also for news on which areas have reported outbreaks of West Nile virus, which is carried by birds and transmitted by mosquitoes. You’ll find that a lot of public places have free WiFi, so take advantage of it to check for conditions before you go hiking through nature.

    4. Before you get here, inquire at an AmEx location or with your travel agent about travel medical insurance — yes, there IS such a thing, and you should get it immediately you arrive, if not beforehand. Use it in the U.S. to keep you from going broke if you get sick or injured during your stay, and keep that insurance card on you at all times. Good health care is expensive here. A number of different companies sell it, but I tend to go for Blue Cross myself. Try a freestanding urgent care clinic first, unless you have a true emergency or serious injury (in which case, head straight for the nearest trauma center at a major hospital; not every emergency room is qualified as a trauma center, but the ones that are are the place to be for serious injury).

    5. Gents: Unless you have the figure of a male runway model, please DO NOT wear teensy little Speedo trunks to the beach or at the swimming pool! We’re still trying to erase from memory what Boris Yeltsin looked like in one of those. Get yourselves some nice, baggy surfer trunks instead. Thank you.

    6. Some of our big cities have very good rapid transit systems. New York’s or Chicago’s might not be quite as extensive or on time as London’s Underground, but they come close. Otherwise, be prepared to pay outrageously high fees for parking downtown in any large city. Daily and weekly transit passes are available at a discount for visitors. However, in places like Chicago, we also have bike rentals such as Divvy bikes that make moving around town very reasonable and enjoyable. Check those out online before you get here, so that you know where they are in relation to wherever you’re staying.

    7. Summer in the city means a lot of eating al fresco (outside). Do wear your sunscreen and repellant for that, too. If you smoke, remember that in many cities, restaurants are now no smoking areas — but an exception is usually made for outdoor dining. Even so, many of us who smoke try to be nice about it and ask our neighbors if they mind if we smoke. And many of us who don’t smoke won’t mind smokers if we’re all eating outside.

    8. Which brings us to drinking. Do stay hydrated during the day, and leave the alcohol for later in the afternoon or evening. To keep from letting the alcohol get to you, drink water, lemonade or iced tea in between your alcoholic drinks. Strong alcohol and hot days generally don’t mix, but a cold pitcher of sangria, hard cider or beer might be welcome. Instead of wishing you had some warm Brit-style lager, do try some of the many craft beers we have these days in the U.S. In the bigger cities, quite a few restaurants, bars and lounges now feature at least a few craft beers on their menus, and new breweries are springing up all over, all the time. In Chicago, for example, Lagunitas just built a brand-new brewhouse that doubled their national output, along with a taproom/brewpub that seats 300(!). Many craft breweries have a taproom or brewpub where you can sample the range of the brewer’s product. Look into it: you might find much to like.

    9. Beware: the fines and jail time for over-the-limit driving (i.e., drunk driving) are STEEP in the U.S., so make sure you’re either traveling by public transport or have a designated driver among you who stays off the alcohol. No alcohol inside the car (keep it in the trunk/boot). And make sure you have auto insurance if you’re driving: in most states, driving without insurance will land you in jail for a few years. That said, we have some of the greatest road trips in the world: Route 66 from Chicago to L.A., Pacific Coast Highway from just north of San Diego all the way to Seattle (though it’s called something else in Oregon and Washington state), the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, and Florida’s A1A along the Atlantic coast from Amelia Island/St. Augustine all the way to Key West. You might be able to rent or lease (hire) a convertible, and you might not: Hertz and Avis won’t guarantee you one, even if that’s what you reserve. But your travel agent may know of other places that will have convertibles (just remember that they’ll eat up a lot more gas than a hardtop will: it’s the air drag).

    10. And here’s a hint for long road trips: if you’re not stopping but only driving through the heart of a big city, the best times to do that to avoid major traffic on week days are either early, early morning (like 5 to 6:30 am) before the morning commute really begins, or midday. Plan accordingly. Also, some superhighways are toll roads, and paying cash (bring lots of coins, in that case) may cost you double what paying using an electronic device with a prepaid total on it will cost. In Illinois, for example, you can get such a device to stick to your upper windshield and you can prepay the balance for the device online. Tolls will be automatically deducted as you drive the toll road. Who doesn’t want to pay less for tolls? Figure out ahead of time whether your itinerary takes you on any toll roads and either go prepared with this device or rolls of quarters, or else change your route to avoid tolls. Any good road atlas (AAA, Rand-McNally, etc.) will mark the toll roads clearly, and so will Google Maps.

    11. If you need a public toilet/WC, the ones in fast food outlets such as McDonald’s or Burger King, Wendy’s, etc., are clean and easily accessible — and MUCH better than using gas station toilets. In some parks and rest areas, however, you may find big plastic structures called Porta-Potties that work fine, too — just know that if there’s a street festival, fair or other big event going on nearby, however, those could be overworked and have a long line.

    Other than all that, please do come visit, early and often, and feel free to spend lavishly! Welcome!!

  • Claire

    Oh man the tipping thing. When I was waitressing in college we used to fight over who had to take the foreigners. Typically suuuper rude to wait staff and terrible tippers. I made so much money off of tips though, way more than minimum wage.