Last Updated on February 1, 2023
This has literally been my most asked question since I repatriated back to the UK. What do I miss about living in America? Now I’ve always been pretty vocal about the things I struggled with. And I’m happy with the choice I made to return home. But of course there are a few things I do ‘miss’ (other than the obvious). These are based on my experience of where I was living in Iowa and where I live in the UK. Of course things differ depending on where you are in both countries.
American Things I Miss
A lot of the time, the question I get asked, is what food do I miss from America and in all honesty, not a lot. My body seemed to disagree with a lot of food, it made me feel rubbish and my digestive system thanks me for eating food that’s not packed with sugar, E-numbers and fat anymore (and I can drink milk again, hooray!). BUT, there are some restaurants that I do miss.
- Texas Roadhouse warm rolls with cinnamon butter.
- Red Robin Avo-cobb-o salads (avocado and egg) and their milkshakes.
- Cracker Barrel everyone thinks it’s for old people and that the food is bland, but I loved it. Maybe it’s because I could actually find stuff on the menu where I didn’t have to ask for loads of stuff to be left off. The gift shop was also cool.
- Easter fish-frys. I’m not religious but between Lent and Easter the local churches would take turns to hold a fish fry. They would be PACKED. You pay a set fee and then it’s a little like a buffet, with salads, home made cakes, side dishes, jacket/baked potatoes, fish (obviously) and chips (real chips, not crisps). The fish was usually REALLY good. Considering fish and chips is my favourite meal from home, that’s a big compliment.
Petrol/Gas Stations & Driving
I loved pay at pump gas stations. They were open 24/7 so you could always get fuel, especially helpful on the 3hr Chicago night time airport runs. There are some places that are open all the time in the UK but you have to search for them. For example in my hometown (65,000 so not exactly small) I think there are only 2 that are open all day and night.
The hands free filling up also made me lazy. You could press a button and fill up without having to hold the pump. When it was really cold, you could even sit back in the car! But then car fuel tanks tend to hold more, so filling up does take longer.
Even at smaller petrol stations the shops were similar to those that you’d find at a full service stations. There are endless fridges of every drink under the sun, Subways or some sort of hot food service, coffee machines, fountain drinks machines, sweets and snacks, car maintenance products and more. Iowa 80 is said to be the largest truck stop in the world, that’s pretty cool.
The roads were really wide and my car being an automatic with cruise control made driving a joy. (Which is handy because distances between places was a joke).
Staff Moral Boosting At My Job
I may have just been lucky at the place where I worked in the US, I’d never worked at a job in the UK which seemed to care about its staff. We’d often have staff lunches where everyone would bring a dish to share, we had coffee deliveries from the local coffee shop, massages on our breaks every couple of months, staff breakfasts, hot chocolate ‘bars’, little gifts and positive notes in our mail boxes. It just felt really nice to cared about!
State Parks were some of my favourite places to explore in the USA. Many are free to visit and you can enjoy the outdoors with great trails, waterfalls, caves etc! Some had additional fun activities, such as stand up paddle boarding, off roading, camping in yurts and more! I wrote a whole post about some of my favourite State Parks that I visited in the Midwest: Best Midwest State Parks For Adventure
Cheap Chain Motels
I’m not afraid to admit it, but I thought cheap chain motels were brilliant. Whenever I went on a road trip I knew I would be able to find stupidly cheap accommodation. You’d often get a wide range of chain hotels all bunched together, so you would be spoilt for choice! Motels like: Super 8, Motel 6, Days Inn, Red Roof, La Quinta, Best Western…Rooms would sometimes be as little as £30 a night and had some sort of free breakfast option, free coffee in the room and a swimming pool and gym. Rooms could often sleep 4 people as well. (And I only thought I was going to get murdered in one, so they aren’t all like the ones in films!).
In the UK, there are ‘cheap’ chains like Travelodge and Premier Inn. I LOVE Premier Inn, but they don’t often have a pool or a gym and breakfast comes at an additional price (but their breakfasts are awesome). Plus you can rarely have 4 people in one room.
We have towns in the UK that attract tourists, but nothing like some of the purpose built towns that are literally streets of attractions, after attraction, after attraction. From theme parks, to water parks, to themed restaurants, Ripleys Believe It Or Not museums, mini golf etc. They are kinda tacky and purely there to make you spend as much money as possible, but they would make me feel like a kid at Christmas. Places like the Wisconsin Dells WI, Orlando FL, Las Vegas NV, a couple of others that I didn’t get to but sound similar: Branson MO and Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg TN.
Travel Rewards Credit Cards
The USA is great for having credit cards that give you extra bonuses! My credit card in the UK gives me sod all and I have to pay a fee on international transactions. However, while living in the USA I had the Aadvantage Aviator credit card. It had no foreign transaction fees, I got air miles on everything I bought (plus an extra 50,000 for signing up…that gave me a free flight to Turks and Caicos, with some air miles spare), I was able to fly long haul Business Class for less than the cost of an economy ticket, I had free checked luggage on domestic flights, got to board the plane first, insurance on hire cars etc.
I would love something similar in the UK but the only option is an American Express, which not a huge amount of places accept here!
Other than the way I was treated at my job and the credit card benefits, all the other things on this list can easily be enjoyed as a tourist. The things I struggled with were mainly the problems that come with being a permanent resident (visas, health insurance, taxes, cost of living, the government…).
I still believe that the US is a great holiday destination, some of my favourite trips have been in the USA (Route 66 and Hawaii). But for me, it just wasn’t somewhere that I enjoyed LIVING permanently.
17 thoughts on “Things I Miss About Living In The USA”
Thank you. Some memories brought back for me as well. Really interesting.
That’s a good list. I can relate too 😊
Is your header photo from Galena Illinois? It sure looks like it, and that is one of my favorite towns! 🙂
It sure is! I used to live about 40 minutes from Galena 🙂
Aaaah! I LOVE that town! 🙂 I’ve visited quite often, the most recent being when my youngest brother and his wife got married there. So many amazing places to eat, shop, and tour! 🙂
Oh cool!! There are some great places there!
Love this….living in Canada I can relate to a lot of these. Although I must say that I think the U.S. has top prize for “Tourist Towns”!
Oh they are amazing!!!
My perspective from Des Moines, IA
I miss English real ale, Pedigree & Bass my local brews. There’s too much gassy beer and ipa for my liking.
Premier league coverage on NBCSN is pretty good. Champions league life games not so good. I miss the rugby and cricket, especially England games.
NFL is my preferred American sport but they don’t half drag it out. 60 mins in 3 hours if lucky! Baseball
I’m from Stoke so miss my oatcakes but have developed a home made recipe. Have also since perfected Yorkshire puddings.
English politics looks quite orderly compared to what I’ve witnessed recently, time to move on! I’m also relieved to see the Brexit saga finally agreed, £:$ is looking up
Neighbors are incredibly helpful & friendly. I’ve adapted well, loving life in Johnson, IA.
Great blog Kylie, keep up the good work.
Have you been to the Mucky Duck in Ames??? Haha 100% agree on the American Football, I went to one of the games and I just kept saying why do they keep stopping and starting??? 😂 I’m so glad that you are enjoying your life over there! I just think I was far to far away from the convenience of a city, 3hrs away from both Chicago and Des Moines! Take care!
Haha, yes I found the Mucky Duck and the Royal Mile in downtown Des Moines. I should start my own blog, having also followed your experience!
Although I’ve spent more time in the US than UK this year, I’m actually back in Stoke now. I married my Iowan wife in the UK late Oct 2019. NVC approved all my docs on 1 Sep 2020. We we preparing for Christmas & New Year in Iowa when on 15th Dec (last week) I received an email from NVC advising me that my interview appointment had been confirmed for 6th Jan.
Wow, I hadn’t expected that!
Just over 3 weeks notice, really?
Then the realisation that I had to somehow get back to the UK, self-isolate for 10 days and yet somehow also make an appointment for my medical (at least 5 days before my interview) also in London, same for my interview at the US Embassy.
Shit, impossible in such a short timescale! Surely?
I Immediately emailed the Visa Medicals centre at Bentinck Mansions and on 16th Dec I received confirmation that my medical was now scheduled for 29th Dec. I didn’t expect that either.
Not one to dither & delay, I was immediately on the phone to BA and amended my flights back to UK. I was due to leave in Jan but on the morning of Fri 18th Dec was back in the UK and amazed that both medical and interview were now arranged, considering they fell within the chaotic Christmas & New Year period.
My wife Patty changed her plans too. She had credit for a cancelled flight with Virgin earlier this year and arrived at Heathrow last Sunday 20th.
Then overnight, Boris announced more strict Co-vid restrictions and London was suddenly Tier 4.
We were not impressed and more than a little concerned but maybe it’s a good omen that so far I received no cancellation from either the medical centre or embassy. There is general guidance that I should not travel into a Tier 4 area but I am allowed as it’s a pre-agreed medical appointment (permissible). It is Christmas so both the medical centre & embassy are now closed til Tues 29th, the date of my medical appointment!
We are at least spending Christmas together but Patty flies back to Des Moines on 29th Dec. I’ll drop her off at Heathrow and take the train into London for my medical.
I’m not a big fan of London, it’s a lot of hassle to get there. Car, train, underground, walk in a strange place. You cannot be late for these appointments!
It’s stressful enough attending for intrusive medical and interviews but this added uncertainty concerning whether they will actually take place is another matter altogether.
Fingers crossed that these next 11 days go as hoped for! 🤞
Yes! I have been to both, Mucky Duck is good for ales that aren’t Busch or bud lite haha. Oh wow!! That’s quite the adventure! That’s very fast! Once that really long wait between the I130 and the NVC receiving the paperwork everything from then did seem to move quite fast! I think you will be ok travelling around London during this time, a lot of people left at the tier 4 announcement so hopefully with people not really working plus no tourists, you should be ok! I nearly missed my medical, I left HOURS in advance and then all the trains from my station were cancelled…I had to get my mum to leave work to drive me to the closest underground station and I got there literally 5 minutes before my time! The medical was grim but I believe they’ve changed it now. The interview is fine, it’s more putting a name to a face! Good luck!
The medical last Tues 29 Dec was not so grim although they do like to vaccinate you whenever possible. A 2nd mmr (£50) and a flu (£15) were required. My blood pressure was high but then there’s quite a bit at stake with this process. £350 medical so £415 total + travel expenses!
My interview for tomorrow 6 Jan was cancelled today, rescheduled for 1 Feb to ‘accommodate consular resources’. Co-vid and the latest lockdown is probably attributable. I believe we are still allowed to travel for visa/passport appointments though?
So frustrating at this stage, my wife is back in Iowa and I’m stuck here trying to eek out my severance pay from redundancy last July. No one is going to employ me given my circumstances, so spent most of June-Dec in Iowa, something which I couldn’t have done if I was working of course!
This process is far from easy, you’ve gotta be smart, resilient and fortunate enough to have the resources.
Renting short term in UK so I’ve de-cluttered ready for off. Hanging in there, it’s gonna be a massive relief when I get that visa! 🙂
Oh no! What a pain!! Yeah it was the same for me!!! Most of my injections were up to date so I just needed another TDP I think it was..it was annoying because I went to my doctors before and they said I was in date for everything…after the boosters for TDP you are good for life…US said you need another one every 10yrs and it’s NOT good for life so I got stuck for that, it was about £60 extra (it was literally 1yr ‘out of date’). As I was in the summer I wasn’t required to have the flu one. The whole process is ridiculous haha