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.