Crazy Differences Living in Iowa/USA PART 2!

I had such a good response from my 15 Crazy Differences Living in Iowa/USA post that I thought I’d write a part 2!  I’ve now been living in Iowa for 2 months and I still find new crazy little differences every day!  Life as an expat is certainly never dull, I’m constantly kept on my toes!  Here are 19 more crazy differences living in Iowa/USA!

  • Cake Batter flavour is the best thing since sliced bread (& sliced bread was invented in Iowa!)

If one thing is going to make me chubby, it’ll be cake batter/funfetti flavour.  Forget cookie dough…cake batter is where it’s at!  I discovered my local BP garage on my power walking route (ironic hey…) has a thick shake vending machine.  The cake batter flavoured milkshake is 600 calories of ice creamy goodness.

  • The yoghurt pots are upside down

Ok so not ALL yoghurt pots, but I’ve discovered Yoplait yoghurts have yummy flavours and it always throws me that the small end is the top of the pot and the big end is the base…not very spoon friendly!

  • I always seem to ask for a take home box…even though I know I’ll end up just throwing it away.

Left over dinners are never good once they get cold and usually they are in an inedible stinky, soggy state by the time you debate about tucking in for seconds.  I once carried half a chicken club sandwich for 6 miles in Vegas…and yes, it was thrown in the bin as soon as I got back to the hotel.

  • The crazy amount of medicine adverts on TV

It’s not even a case of just advertising how a medicine will help you or ‘target pain’.  90% of the time they’ll read out the side effects that are enough to put anybody off taking it.  No word of a lie, there’s an advert at the moment for anti-depressant tablets and one of the side effects they read out is that taking the medicine may give you ‘suicidal thoughts’.  If that’s the case, it shouldn’t be on the shelf.

  • My mail box is always full of junk mail

Endless credit card sign up applications, food leaflets from the supermarkets, 10% off at this shop, loads and loads of local election flyers…they usually end up as fuel for our barbecue…

  • The tax added to shelf prices at the check out will always catch me out

Why oh why can’t the shelf price just have the after tax cost displayed?!  It’s not so bad with smaller items that only add a few cents on but bigger purchases are just rubbish.  Take my phone contract for example.  $55 a month, which is a joke anyway became even more of a joke when my bill came with another $10 of taxes added on top.  TELL ME THESE THINGS AT THE START!!

  • Clothing sizes make you feel skinny

Yup, in the UK I was roughly a size 10…in America I seem to fit quite nicely into size 2.  If I was skinnier does that mean I’ll be in negative sizes? 😀

  • …But shoe sizes make you feel like you are buying canoes for your feet

Uk = Size 6…USA = Size 8, hmm.

  • School dinners only have a fork or a spoon

Fair enough I guess knives could be used as a weapon, but even airports give out the weird dumpy blunt ones!  It’s all fun and games when the students are given a roll with butter and they have to use the end of a fork to spread it on with!

  • Diagonal car parking spaces…

I just can’t get the hang of parking in diagonal parking spaces.  I ALWAYS reverse park so I can drive out but I’ve given up attempting to even try that anymore after I backed into a tree the first week I arrived here!  I can’t even drive into it properly!  My car will be the one that’s not parallel, closer to one line or the other, or hanging over the front line by miles.  I guess it’s just 9 years of parking a certain way!  Thank goodness the car park at work is ‘proper’!

Life in the USA

  • They still take your card away from the table in a restaurant

It still shocks me when you go to pay for a bill in a restaurant and they take your card away from the table.  In the UK, for years all card transactions have to take place at the table, in front of the customer so their card never leaves their possession.  This cuts down on the risk of card details being stolen or copied.  It throws me even more when they return back to the table with the card and THEN you tell them how much you want to leave as a tip…surely the transaction has already gone through?  Nope, your card details are stored and they enter the tip in themselves once you leave.  I’m sure they are trustworthy people, I’d just rather enter and confirm these amounts myself before I leave the building.

  • Garage sales are a whole town event

Here in Iowa, certain towns actually have days where they say to people, if you want to do a garage sale, do it ‘THIS’ week.  The idea being that people then drive from house to house bargain hunting.  Previous years, they even gave out town maps of where the houses were that were holding the sales!  I was invited to go along with a friend to check out one in a nearby town which was an experience!  The majority of people were selling old baby clothes and equipment.  I did walk away with a cutlery drawer tray for $0.50 which was a bargain and saved me a trip to Walmart.

  • Spirit and Liquor alcohol measures are bigger…but pints are smaller

I don’t really drink anymore (unless it’s breakfast time at an airport or if I’m travelling somewhere lovely and I reward myself with a beer and a sea view) but alcohol measures in the USA are 5ml more than the standard in the UK.  The pints however, even though are still called ‘pints’ are actually smaller.

  • I’m the nutter reaching for the toilet flush handle that’s on the opposite side of the toilet…

Being a leftie I tend to notice when I have to do things ‘cack handedly’ and flushing the toilet was one of them.  I always had to reach across as the flush was on the right hand side of the toilet…but in the States it’s on the left, I still keep groping thin air on the right hand side for a flush that’s not there…

  • The supermarket is so far away I stockpile bog rolls and kitchen paper towels

Back in the UK, it used to be a chore to drive 20 minutes away to go to the next biggest town just to get a different range of shops…usually it’d only be around Christmas shopping time or whenever I needed a Primark haul of work clothes.  But now, my 2 nearest big supermarkets are 14 miles either side of my town.  We have a small ‘village’ shop but the prices tend to be a little bit higher.  So on the occasions we do make the journey to a bigger shop we tend to bulk buy stuff so we’re good for a few weeks at least.  I have toilet rolls hidden in 3 different cupboards and kitchen towel hidden in various cubby holes under the stairs that lead down to the basement.  Turns out we have no backup light bulbs in the house though and out of 4 in the living room there’s only 1 that’s now working…looks like a trek to Walmart will be coming up a little quicker this month!

  • Cars don’t have to stop at pedestrian crossings *squashed Kylie*

In the UK, you can fail a driving test for not stopping at a Zebra Crossing if people are waiting to cross.  Even in Europe, I’m not too sure what the rules are exactly as cars don’t always stop if you are waiting but I find as soon as your foot steps off the curb, cars will stop to let you go.  But in America you can get ‘done’ for jay walking if you don’t cross the road using a marked crossing, yet no cars ever want to give way to you if you are waiting to cross.  I’ve forgotten this a few times and will just cross thinking they are far enough away and will stop or at least slow down but no they just keep on driving at full speed at you.  Thanks a lot.

  • The sweets that look like Polo Mints…don’t make the same mistake as me, they actually taste like Deep Heat pain relief spray

I’m a scrounge and proud of it.  If there are sweets/candy, I will probably be thinking in my head that I really want one.  I have no shame.  It’s a weakness.  I was offered a sweet jar the other day and went for one that looked like a giant sized mint Polo.  It wasn’t mint.  I have no idea what flavour it was meant to be but it smelt and tasted like Deep Heat muscle pain relief spray.  It wasn’t even a cough sweet.  It’s a genuine flavour that just tastes like that.  Some form of pink, powdery thing also tasted like that too.  Don’t be fooled people, don’t be fooled.

  • High School sports pull a crowd

I was on my High School Netball team for a few years (a bit like Basketball but with no back board) and when we played against other schools we never had anyone come and watch us.  No sport ever really pulled a crowd, they were just friendlies between schools.  But in the States, High School sports are a big thing (even Middle School teams get crowds!).  Especially when it comes to Football.  The local High School in my town will charge people $5 to watch.  They are usually a Friday night affair and the stands will be PACKED.  There’ll be cheerleaders and mascots and even a huge half time show that consists of a marching band with like 100 people in!

  • Schools do more than just Fire Drills…

Possibly leaving the scariest to last.  While I was a student at school and when I then got a job working in a school in the UK we were all very familiar with fire drills…leave from the nearest exit, line up, take the register.  But here the schools also practice tornado drills, bus evacuation drills, school evacuation (where you walk a fair distance in case of a gas leak etc) AND dangerous person evacuations.  Even the practices are scary having to sit in the dark and make no noise at all…someone coughs and you can’t help but think hmmm would that have been me dead if that happened in real life?  Some schools will even have bullet noises played in the schools to make it more realistic.  It’s not fun.

Expat readers – have you ever come across any of these?  American readers – do any of these differences surprise you?  Let me know in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “Crazy Differences Living in Iowa/USA PART 2!

  1. I’m not sure how I even stumbled across your blog but I found myself reading several posts. Very interesting. I have two middle school aged kids that attend school here in Cedar Rapids and for a while, they were enamored with all things British, even constantly speaking to each other with a British accent.
    Enjoy your time here.

    Jeremy Murphy
    Cedar Rapids


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