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What surprised me in Florida

21 January 2020

In 2009, I visited the United States for the first time. I was 17 and I flew to the other end of the world. After a 12-hour flight, I arrived in the city I had dreamed of since I was a child … It was sunny Miami. Finally, I could scream for joy, “I’m in Miami Beach!”. Do you know this song by David Guetta?

After leaving the airport, I looked around, and you know what surprised me the most? Big cars, big houses, big people and generally most of the things around me were in size XL.

Of course you get used to everything and after a few hours you stop paying attention, but the first visit to a foreign country may surprise you a bit.

In this post I will present a dozen of things that surprised me during my first visit to the USA.

Open and very polite people

After reading this point, you probably thought, “open and kind people are everywhere.” I definitely agree with this, but in Florida you can see it much more than in Poland or other European countries

People talk to us literally at every step. It is normal that my husband and I go to a restaurant for dinner and suddenly we start talking to strangers as if we have known each other for a long time.

What’s more, we welcome the majority of people we meet on the street. It’s very nice when a stranger wishes me a nice day or just walking by says “Hello”

It seems to me that the culprit of all these “nice people” in Florida is the sun, which shines here over 300 days a year. Everyone has a different attitude to life in beautiful and sunny weather, right?

A huge number of pickups

I think during your first visit to Florida, it will stuck in your memory the most. Pickups are very popular in the United States and it’s not surprising, they are cheap, comfortable, nice and above all great.

As you probably know, fuel in Florida is cheap, so without remorse Americans refuel their fuel-eating, powerful cars. A lot of people also like to tune their pickups, so on the streets you can meet huge, six-wheeled and raised cars.

We didn’t have to think for long about choosing our first car in Florida. We immediately decided on Dodge Rama, it was a great choice. In Florida, there is no problem with parking such a large car and while shopping, I don’t have to complain about the lack of space in the trunk.

No public transport

Sounds interesting, right? Public communication in the United States is virtually non-existent. I am not talking here of course about big cities like New York or Chicago, where most people travel by subway, but about normal American towns.

In the US, people travel everywhere by car, even to the nearest store. There are no trams or trains here, and the view of a public bus on the road is rare.

Free water in restaurants

In every restaurant in the United States you won’t pay a cent for water. Of course, it is filtered water or tap water, whichoften smells slightly chlorine, but the Americans do not mind.

The waiter often treats us with a large cup of water, filled to the brim with ice before ordering meals. It will also take care of topping up the missing water on a regular basis.

The same will be with other drinks ordered, for which you already pay, such as coca-cola or iced tea. You pay once and drink as much as you like. Most of the drinks are from vending machines, which is why the waiters regularly fill the cups.

Hot tea not very popular

In Florida, hot tea is an unpopular drink. Of course, we can drink tea, however, in the sweet version (which is very, very sweet), or in the unsweet version without sugar.

When I arrived in the US last November, I was fighting a terrible sore throat. I dreamed of hot tea with honey and lemon, but with no effect, because in most restaurants there was no hot tea on their menu.

In the southern United States, tea is so unpopular that it is very difficult to find a kettle in most homes. There was no kettle in every house we rented by Airbnb, so I had to boil water in a pot or microwave.

Coffee, on the other hand, is loved by Americans and very popular. A coffee maker can be found in virtually every American home.

Sales tax is not added until checkout

It is worth remembering that the sales tax is added to the bill, so the price shown on the product is not the final price.

In the United States, a sales tax ranges from 6% to 8% depending on the State. However, there are States such as Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon, where the sales tax rate is 0%.

Cashless payment

If you are going to the United States, you must remember that without a payment card it will be difficult to make payments for basic items.

You won’t be able to pay by cash for hotel, because a deposit is taken from the card. You also won’t be able to rent a car, because in most car rental companies you have to pay by credit card. What’s more, without a card there are difficulties in refueling the car, and also paying for parking.

Returns in stores

In the US, you can return anything (even food items) for 90 days after purchase.

Recently, I could not decide on the type of coffee at Starbucks, the saleswoman told me that if the coffee I ordered did not taste good, I could give it back and she will make a new one for free (but I did not use this option). 🙂

Helpful police

We associate the police with getting tickets, right? In the United States, policemen care for the safety of their citizens, they are friendly and very helpful, and being stopped by a policeman on the road does not mean a mandate

Drive right on a red light

In many States, it is allowed to turn right on a red light. However, you must first stop, look around and then you can turn right without breaking the law.

At the beginning it was hard for me to get used to it because I couldn’t break down to go on a red light. Over time, I realized that it is a time saver on the road.

Ready made food

In supermarkets you will find a huge selection of ready-made food. If you don’t like cooking, you can easily buy ready-made meals, although you personally don’t even want to think about what is in their composition.

On the store shelves you will find ready-made dishes for heating in the microwave, boiledpotatoes or rice, and even boiled and peeled eggs.

Garage sales

In the United States, garage sales are a popular way to get old things out of home. At this type of sales you can buy used furniture, equipment or souvenirs for a penny.

This is an interesting solution for those who move out of their home and want to get rid of “antiques”, earning money too.

A few days ago, while jogging around St. Augustine Beach, I saw the sign “Estate Sale”. So I came closer to learn more. The owner of the house recently died and the family decided to sell its contents. For a few dollars you could buy furniture, a washing machine and even a TV.

Toasted bread

Americans love toasted bread to such an extent that this is the only type bread that you can find on store shelves. Unfortunately, this type of bread is not the healthiest, because its literally full of chemicals.

Once I was tempted to buy toasted bread, after opening it within 7 days it was stillsoft and fragrant, odd, right

The longer I am in the USA, the more I miss Polish bakeries where you could buy warm rolls and fragrant bread.

Some supermarkets bake bread on site, and for such a loaf you have to pay between 4 and 7 dollars. There is nothing to hide, such bread is very diffrent from Polish, which is why I have to learn bake bread at home.

Parcels under the doors and letter boxes

Couriers save their time by leaving pac under the front door of the house. Personally, I often order packages on Amazon, which I find at my door the next day, even on Sunday. Americans are considered fair, which is why it is rarely stolen. My packages are always patiently waiting for me at the door.

Also interesting are the mailboxes that we will meet under every American home. I have to admit that some of them can be very interesting and imaginative.

The postman delivers mail with a small postal car with the steering wheel on the right. Mailboxes are set directly on the road, which means that the postman throws the mail into the mailbox without leaving the car.

Nail factories

When I decided to do my nails in the States for the first time, I thought, “I must call and make an appointment.” I found the nearest beauty salon and called to make an appointment. On the phone I was told that I don’t need to make an appointment, just to come to the place. 

On the spot I saw a dozen nail stands and the same number of employees (among them were also men). For the first time in my life, my gel nails were made by a Thai man. As for the quality of this service, I will not write because it deviated significantly from Polish standards. 

So if you’re planning to do a manicure in the United States, all you have to do is come to the nearest beauty salon. This service will be provided on site.


Drive-through or drive-thru is the definition of a service facility where the customer has the option of purchasing goods or services without leaving the car. These types of solutions are very, very popular in the US.

Without leaving the car, you can, for example, withdraw cash from an ATM, buy coffee or food in virtually any fast food. Via drive-thru you can also buy medicines at the pharmacy, leave your laundry in the laundry room and pick them up in the same way in a few days.

In the United States you can do a lot of things without leaving your car.

Driving under the influence of alcohol

United States have a high permissible blood alcohol percentage when driving. In most states, the acceptable standard is 0.08%. That’s quite a lot, right

However, alcohol can be consumed only by persons over 21 years of age, and driving under the influence is also highly punished.

After all, I often encountered the fact that Americans drink wine during a meal and as if nothing happend they get behind the wheel.




Hey! My name is Kaja and I'm so happy to see you here. :) By traveling around the world, I make my dreams come true and I share my experiences on my blog and Instagram. I’m discovering amazing places, taking photos of them and infecting others with the desire to explore them. I haven't been "everywhere" yet, but I have it on my list. :)