18 May 2014

We've just returning from a short holiday in USA and Canada, so I thought I'd jot down a few differences which struck us.

One was tipping:  

Here in the UK it's easy: 10%, or less if the service is bad.  Sometimes a cover charge is automatically added to the bill, which is not payable if the service doesn't merit it.

Over in the US it seems to depend on the amount of running around the waiter/waitress does:  a breakfast tip is about $5, as they take the order, bring the breakfast and then top up the coffee/other drinks.

Other meals seem to be more like 18%.

These tips are on the basis that the meals are cheaper over there but the staff pay is much lower - typically something like $8 per hour.

So there's quite an incentive to please the customer and generally the staff do - nothing is too much trouble and all is served with a smile.  

Contrast that with eating out in the UK where we have to go up to a counter and queue to give the order and then collect our own cutlery and napkin.  And then if we're really lucky a member of staff brings the food to the table.

In Canada service is pretty similar, I'm not sure of the wage scales but the easiest way to work out the tip is to look at the 'tax due' item and that's more or less the amount to pay - simple.

In the US, there were several differences, compared with the UK.

1    We've all heard of drive-in movies, drive-in takeaways - but I'd never heard of drive-in bank before.  We just drove up to kiosk, said hello to the bank teller who appeared on the screen.  Then my friend put her check and paying-in slip in a tube, sent if off, and a couple of minutes later the money appeared - so easy!

2    There are no local buses in the US, and no passenger trains.  So anyone who doesn't drive is at a distinct disadvantage, especially if they don't have friends with cars.
similar to a UK lorry
typical US truck
3    The lorries (or trucks) are so huge. Here in the UK lorry engines tend to be situated below the driver, whereas in the US engines stick out way in front.  They're really enormous!

4  Talking of enormous, so are the portion sizes in restaurants (these can be cafes or restaurants), ditto sizes of packets of food in supermarkets.

5  We went along to a farmers' market.  This was very different to what we think of a farmers' market here in the UK.  It was a huge area where people could drive around, looking at the stalls of produce brought up from the countryside: mainly strawberries, melons, tomatoes and other enticing-looking edibles.  

But the amounts we would have needed to have bought were rather large, so we went to the second type of farmers' market.  That was more like the ones we have here in the UK, except as it's so beautifully warm in NC, much of it was outside. 

6  US TV is another story, lots of adverts compared with the UK, and I found the same when using the internet, with the advertisements being quite intrusive and persistent.   Perhaps it's something I could get used to eventually but it was really frustrating at the time.

7  People, especially where we were in the South, hardly seemed to dress up at all.  Jeans/shorts and t-shirts were worn everywhere, even go to out for a special meal.

8  And lastly, in North Carolina people were so friendly and courteous, even drivers.   No-one seemed in a tremendous hurry and there was all day to get things done. That's something were really appreciated and perhaps we should try to emulate that here in the UK.

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