15 Crazy Differences Living in Iowa/USA

I’ve arrived in Iowa!  As a Brit now living in the States I’m having to get used to the ‘American way of life’.  I’ve noticed so many crazy differences so thought I’d share some!  There’s a few that may take me a while to get used to but there are others that definitely make life a lot easier!

  • You will get eaten alive

There are SO many mosquitos!  I’ve been here a week and already have close to 30 bites.  I feel like a giant itch!  I’ve been to the States multiple times before but at the moment Iowa is on par with Hawaii for the amount of bug bites I’ve got!  I didn’t realise there’d be quite so many.  Rather than using Deet based bug repellants, I’ve been using ‘Bug Soother‘, it’s mainly lemongrass and vanilla, it smells really good…I’ve just got to remember to keep using it before it’s too late!

  • Cicadas are a constant white noise

Cicadas are like giant crickets that are constantly making noise.  It’s quite nice to listen to, however I’d imagine after a while it’d be something I don’t even notice!

  • The trains have no problem blowing their horn at 4am

I now live really close to a freight train line.  Unlike in the UK where trains don’t tend to run much between 1am and 5am, here I’ve noticed that they’ll go through the night and if a track crosses the road, that horn is going to go off no matter what time of the day it is!

  • Deers jump out into the road left, right and centre

In just one day two deers jumped out in front of me.  One was far too close for comfort it just sprung out of the bush, the other ran across the MOTORWAY with cars doing 65mph, the car in front only JUST missed it!!

  • If you see a slow car on the road, it’ll probably be me

Because I’m a newbie USA driver I’m always making sure I’m doing bang on the speed limit, however the majority of people don’t seem to follow suit, I’m forever being overtaken!  Even giant trucks over take me which is crazy as in the UK they are limited to 56mph (the speed limit is 70).

  • Baths are tiny

If you like laying in the bath, think again.  Not only are baths really tiny…I’m short and it’s literally the length of my legs…but they are really shallow too!

  • Supermarket workers will offer to push your trolley (shopping cart) from the check out to the car

We’ve only discovered this in one chain but when the guy told us he would take it for us we were a little shocked!  I feel that people would abuse this though.  It felt a little like bell boys in hotels where the bag is taken to the room for the last little step.  If I’ve pushed it all the way round the shop, it feels lazy to then make someone else do it right at the end.

  • The 5p carrier bag rule doesn’t exist

I have plastic bags coming out of my ears, it’s kinda nice not having to remember to take a shopping bag with me!  Plus I now have loads of little bin liners!

  • Gas station attendants will fill up the car for you AND clean the windscreen!

I have no problem filling up my own car, but it was nice to have the bugs scraped off the windscreen for me!

  • You can fill up a car with a V6 engine for $30

Fuel is cheap!  In the UK, it’s more like $80 to fill up a tank on a big car!

  • You can’t wait for the moment to get out of a restaurant to get back into the warmth outside

Air con – enough said.  I hate it.  If it’s 30c outside you’ll still need to carry a jumper around.

  • The amount of food never fails to surprise me

Water.  Bread.  Crackers.  Salad.  Vegetable dips.  I had the ‘light’ option of a burger and fries and I struggle to eat it.  My Mum and Sister had fried chicken and were pretty much given a whole chicken each.  At home you’d be lucky to get a quarter of chicken!

  • WHY are there so many gaps around the public toilet doors?!

Sitting on the toilet you can pretty much see everyone on the other side of the door as the bottom is so far from the floor.  There are then gaps on each side!!  It’s really off putting when you have a small child bend down and look under your door to see if you are their Mum.  I guess I should be thankful there are walls and an actual toilet…unlike in Bosnia where there was just a hole in the ground!

  • Crazy fact: You can’t buy fireworks in Iowa

I’m not a fan of fireworks after being hit by one so this rule doesn’t bother me, I just find it strange!  There are still firework displays in Iowa, you just have to go to a neighbouring state in Wisconsin to buy them!

  • Phone contracts are ridiculously expensive

I bought an unlocked iPhone in the UK thinking I could easily just get a sim card and stick it in my phone.  WRONG.  The two biggest phone companies don’t work with Tri/Quad band (worldwide) phones, they require a handset that can only be used in America…not really much good when you’re an Expat.  My phone works with A T&T but for the same plan I have in the UK, it’s around $30/£20 MORE

Expat in Iowa, USA

Are you an expat?  What differences have you found from your home country?  Are they any of these that you think you would enjoy getting used to?  Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

*Please note* Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking.  It comes at no extra cost to you but it helps me with the running of this site!  As always, opinions are my own.

25 thoughts on “15 Crazy Differences Living in Iowa/USA

  1. Oh yes the phone thing is a killer, $45 for the most basic contract ever and no real choice about providers.
    I have a thing called Skeeter Syndrome, I reacted so badly to the mossies here.
    I’m just getting the hang of driving, but haven’t taken my test yet – but no L plates, just a learner permit and off you go. We are lucky to have a victorian free standing tub in our new house (tiny tub was a deal breaker for me).
    But the biggest thing I struggled with is the upside-down light switches LOL
    Oh and sugar in everything, even savory stuff like bread. I now make my own or buy reduced artisan bread.


    1. Oh I’ve just been driving around on my English license! I read somewhere that I could use it for 30 days so didn’t get a permit on anything! I hadn’t even noticed the light switches haha. Agreed, I’ve literally eaten nothing all week!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a non-driver in the UK too, so I had to take the written test here (99/100) and then get a learner’s permit. You should be able to convert yours without any problem at the DMV once your SSN comes through. (You might be able to do it sooner but they seem to like SSN on everything!)


  2. Welcome to Iowa! I absolutely agree about the constant air conditioning. I get that it’s hot but I shouldn’t have to bring layers with me wherever I go when it’s the middle of summer!


  3. Haha yes! Not all of these apply to CA but a lot of them do. The phone plans are crazy- so expensive compared to the UK and you don’t even get a free phone! Do you have to take the Iowa driving test? In CA you can drive for one year on a UK licence (I think- I didn’t have one in the UK) but then you have to take the actual test, you can’t just switch it. The written test was easy and the actual test seems pretty easy too- you barely have to do anything (which is why no one here can parallel park as it’s not on the test so they don’t bother learning!). It’s different in different states though- some test you much more thoroughly I’ve heard. I did the written test ages ago but haven’t gotten round to taking the actual test yet. I’m going to do it in a few weeks.

    In CA they don’t have gas station attendants but we were in Oregon recently and it’s illegal to fill your own car up there. My husband didn’t even know (for some reason I did know that but presumed, as the American, he would know too) and he got yelled at haha! I already commented on your IG about SSN’s but just saw your comment above- I hate how you need it for everything here! Whenever you call any company they want your SSN for ID purposes! I’m always like- I don’t know it, then they laugh at me! But I wouldn’t memorise my NI number in the UK- you hardly need it.

    We’re having a baby in November and the difference in healthcare and maternity care is crazy. Makes me quite cross! I’d take the NHS any day. 🙂

    Of course there are lots of good things here too but the differences do stand out don’t they!


    1. Congratulations! It annoys me that you have to pay health insurance and still pay a deductible! I’ve just got a job in a school where you get 11 sick days a year and you can roll them over up to 140 days and then use them for maternity! That’s a lot of years of roll overs though! I emailed the State transport department and they told me I get 30 days on my uk license so it doesn’t give me a lot of time!!! So I’ve been reading the handbook and now I have my SSN I’ll try and take it asap 🙂


  4. lol the gaps in toilet doors do my head in!!! And Canada was the same with phone prices, we were looking into getting a sim for a month and it just wasn’t worth it. Even the sims aren’t cheap yet in the UK you can pick one up for 99p! lol

    Be careful driving! 🙂 x


  5. It’s so fun to read this! Many of these things we are so used to, we don’t think much about! I usually take reusable grocery sacks to the store now (unless I’m completely out for the garbage cans). We don’t have any gas stations around here that will pump for you. And yes…teenage kids who carry out your groceries! Almost anyone who’s been born and raised in Iowa has done that job! I can’t wait to follow more adventures!


  6. Kylie, I LOVE your perspective! As an Iowa-native, I couldn’t help but chuckle at some of what you’ve experienced since moving here (they’re simply things I grew up with). Such a fun read!


  7. This is really interesting. I knew our restaurant portions were ridiculously huge here, but I didn’t realize our gas was comparatively cheap.


    1. Yes! It’s the one thing that’s really cheap about living here! But then in the UK things are so much closer, I wouldn’t be happy paying uk fuel prices when everything here is at least a 20 minute drive away!


  8. Hi, I just ran across your blog and can identify with your experiences as an expat living in another country. My family and I moved back to Iowa a year ago after living in Singapore for 5 years. I hope you enjoy/enjoyed Iowa!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.