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Welcome to America. We accept Euros

Updated on February 25, 2012

The Good Old Days Are Gone

There was a time when American tourists rambled happily through Europe like children at a birthday party gathering up bargains and paying with fistfuls of greenbacks from London to Latvia. Now the shoe is definitely on the other foot. These days we are struggling to pay our mortgages and fuel bills and if we are traveling at all, it is not to Europe where our formerly ferocious dollars buy less and less, but more often to domestic destinations, where we can still eat dinner for less than the price of a new car.

For those who earn their money in Euros, however, the United States has become a shopper’s paradise with everything from luxury goods and electronics to sneakers being available as much as 40%cheaper than at home. Buyers offering British Pounds, Scandinavian currencies and Canadian Dollars are also basking in the glow of the weak dollar and filling their shopping carts with newly affordable American goods.

The Euro exchange rate being what it is, more and more European visitors are turning up in American towns and cities every month. Last Christmas Virgin Atlantic ran three day holiday shopping excursions to New York from the UK for thousands of Brits and this summer promises to bring record numbers of tourists from Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Thank you folks, we need the money. Welcome to America. We definitely accept Euros.

Euros and Dollars
Euros and Dollars

Tips for the First Time Visitor

Whether you come to shop, sight see, go camping in Maine, relax in a Florida timeshare or a Las Vegas condo, you will be running into Americans on their own turf—possibly for the first time. Don’t think that because you have seen us running around your country for decades with our fanny packs, and white sneakers that you know all about us. We are best observed in our own surroundings, as you will see. Here are a few suggestions for getting the most from your American idyll.

  • The USA is a huge country. Just to give you an idea of it’s size, the distance between New York and San Francisco is greater than the distance between New York and Reykjavik. The distance between New York and Phoenix Arizona is about the same as the distance between London and Istanbul. Though our fast food and our music may seem very homogeneous from abroad, there is as much difference culturally between an American from New England and one from Southern California as there is between a Frenchman and a German (though, in theory at least, we do speak the same language.) If you only have a week or two to visit us, don’t try to see it all or you will end up seeing nothing. If you want to shop in New York, come and shop. If you want to lie on the beach, fly to Florida or California and stay there. Rent a car and poke around, but don’t try to see the whole country in one go and don’t think that because you’ve been to Disney World you’ve visited America. A Big Mac may be the same all over the world, but every small town American coffee shop has its own version of apple pie. Now that we are an affordable destination for you, we hope you will come see us many times and get to know us better.

  • The hidden costs that can trip you up. Traveling within the USA can be confusing. Each state has it’s own tax structure, and some big cities, like New York City, impose their own levies on top of state taxes. So depending on where you are, the posted price of anything may not be the final price you must pay. Don’t think it is because you are a foreign visitor. It happens to us too. Gasoline is taxed in all states, but is cheapest in New Jersey, where the state gasoline tax is low, and most expensive in California, where it is high. Most states charge a sales tax on certain items, and what is taxed for how much varies from state to state. For example, if you buy a $100 suit in New York, 6% sales tax will be added to your bill. The same suit bought in New Jersey will be tax free,as New Jersey does not charge sales tax on clothing,but does have a 7% sales tax on a variety of other items. Cigarettes are $8.00 a pack in New York but only half that in North Carolina because of state taxes. States like Florida, Vermont, and Maine with thriving tourist industries charge a rather sizable “hospitality tax” on hotel rooms which will be added on when you go to pay your bill. Ask about taxes when you book as the additional charges can add up. There are also taxes on theater tickets, amusement park admissions and the like so the price you see posted is not always the final price you will pay. Be prepared. Then there is tipping in restaurants. Yes, it is expected. The service is almost never included in American restaurants. Generally speaking, in a cafeteria or fast food establishment like McDonalds you are not expected to tip, but in any restaurant, even a modest one, where you are served by a waitperson, you are expected to leave 15 to 20% of the total bill as a “tip” for your server. Keep in mind that the waiter does not get a real salary and lives from tips—so you are not being taken advantage of. It’s just the way the system works.

A Typical Salad Bar

Where to Eat in America

American Restaurants

  • Big cities like New York offer a broad range of international cuisines for every pocketbook and are prepared to cater to international tastes. In most of the country you will have to deal with some unfamiliar Americanisms in restaurants. This is particularly true in chains like Olive Garden (which bears only a passing resemblance to anything Italian) and Outback Steak House(which is Australian in name only), and others too numerous to name.

    Here you will find that salad is offered as an appetizer, or at a separate, serve yourself “salad bar”and is eaten by Americans before the main course, not after it .The main course will be called an entrée and what you think of as an entrée will be called an appetizer. Got it? Whatever you order, portions will be huge. Not to worry. You are not expected to eat it all. Your server will give you a “doggie bag” to take the leftovers home in. You can have them for lunch tomorrow or toss them in the nearest garbage can.

    If you don’t want to be confronted with a main course large enough to feed a family of four, order an appetizer as your main course and ask to have green salad served afterwards

  • Coffee and Tea in America If you are visiting us from anywhere in continental Europe you are going to hate our coffee. If you are from the UK you won’t mind our coffee so much, but you are not going to be carried away by our tea(nothing fancier than Lipton and always in a teabag). Lately, we’ve gotten into herbal teas though, and you can find a wide variety of them almost anywhere. Some are very good. If you want a cup of good strong coffee, order an espresso or, find yourself a Starbucks and ask for an Americano.Ordinary American coffee is going to taste like leftover dishwater to you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Don’t be surprised if the waitress who takes your lunch order also asks you where you are from, tells you her name and even shows you a photo of her boyfriend. Smile, nod and tell her what you want for lunch—she’ll get it for you. She really doesn’t want to be your new best friend, in spite of the fact that she tells you to“have a nice day”. In fact, by tomorrow she won’t even remember who you are unless you forget to tip her:-)

  • We are not good at foreign languages. In fact, the English would tell you that we don’t even speak very good English. We speak an American vernacular that has many regional variations and most of us, unless we are the children of recent immigrants or recent immigrants ourselves, do not speak another language and don’t have a clue of what it is like to try and get along in a language that is not your own. After all, only 25% of us have ever traveled abroad and we can go thousands of miles in any direction and encounter only other Americans. Please be patient with us. We’re trying to understand you and we do want those Euros!

  • Weights and Measures in America Before you venture out shopping in America, be sure you know what your American clothing and shoe size is. In fact, particularly if you are buying for the whole family, bring along a conversion chart. Temperatures are always measured in Fahrenheit so if you want to know how hot or cold it is, you better know how to convert to Celsius. Liquids are in ounces, pints and quarts. Nobody will get you a liter of anything, certainly not beer( You don’t want American beer anyway, trust me. It’s terrible. Go native and try California wine or Kentucky bourbon) But back to my subject— distances are in miles not kilometers and speed is, of course, in miles per hour. Land is in acres not hectaires and solids are in pounds and ounces. Nobody will sell you a kilo of anything so you better study up

Now that I think about it, there are advantages to not being the world's strongest currency anymore. It was a terrible burden to bear and I personally am happy that the Euro has taken it off our straining American shoulders. So now here's to you Euro-zoners.(and Brits and Scandinavians and Canadians too) It's up to you to spend and keep the wheels of the global consumer economy going round. Signs saying " We accept Euros" are sprouting all over American cities and even the fabled taxi drivers of New York are happy to have them. We set the standard for years--now it is your turn. Enjoy it while it lasts and come visit us soon.

Something to Carry Your Goodies Home In


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