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What can your story be in the United States?

3 posts categorized "Tija Tuherma"

09/03/2013

Continuing stereotypes in Vegas and LA

 

If you live in San Diego - the city where you can take the train to go to Los Angeles, the bus to go to Las Vegas and the trolley to go to Mexico - it is exactly what you have to do.

Stereotype #6 - The 'Hollywood' sign can be seen from any place in LA - NO.

Beverly Hilz, the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Sign, etc. I had seen these places in many movies, TV shows, magazines, etc, therefore I was really excited about going there. And when I got there, I realized that I have already seen these places in all those movies, TV shows and magazines, as it all looks exactly the same.

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The Walk of Fame probably is more special to Americans, as we, Latvians, have never really been the idolizing culture. Of course, trying to spot the celebrities' names that I've heard of before, can be pretty entertaining, but for me the fun part was looking at street performers, dressed up as Madonna, Jack Sparrow and Dark Vader, ready to take pictures with every tourist that is willing to pay for such an opportunity. And for my surprise - the Walk of Fame is not as big as I had imagined. 

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One of the places that we usually don't see in Hollywood movies is the Griffith Observatory Los Angeles. And it's a pity that it's not more popular, as this was my favorite place in LA. If you're planning to go there - do it at sunset, as you can see there the most beautiful sunset in LA (and yes - the 'Hollywood' sign as well). The Griffith Observatory is located on the top of the hill - not only giving you an amazing view of LA, but also giving you the opportunity to find out more about the universe and the space (although it didn't give an answer to the question whether the Grand Canyon can be seen from space).

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Stereotype #7 - Grand Canyon can be seen from space - YES.

Till I came here I had the feeling that it would actually be easier to go to space and look at the Grand Canyon instead of actually being there and seeing it my own eyes. But finally my dream came true and I was there. And there is only one thing to say - it is amazing.

2013-05-26 15.33.52I went to the Grand Canyon Skywalk where you can actually step over the grand hole called the Grand Canyon. And the feeling is really indescribable. You can't actually drive your car to the canyon, but you have to leave it at the Sykwalk checkpoint. Then you take the bus that drives about 5 minutes and takes you to the canyon. And then you're there.

2013-05-26 15.31.23And it is magical. Plus the fact that you can go as close to the canyon as you want. There is nothing that separates you and the canyon. Just one step separates you from the free fall into the canyon. If you are one of those crazy people who actually sits on the edge of the canyon - go for it. My fear of heights allows me to stand couple of feet (0.5m) from the edge, but for me - that's it. And it is still amazing.

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Stereotype #8 - What happens in Vegas - stays in Vegas - YES and NO.

After being in Vegas for one or two days, you will feel extremely tired and all you will want to do - is sleep. And don't even start smiling - it's not because of partying or gambling all  night - it's because of all the walking. And this is not even a joke. The way I imagined Las Vegas was that everything is right there. But actually The Strip is this long street (~4.2 miles / 6.8 kilometers), and if it's your 1st time there, you will want to see everything. Starting with the Sahara Casino and ending with the Stratosphere. And you should.

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For those who have seen movies taking place in Las Vegas - don't expect it to be exactly like that. I was surprised myself that there weren't only completely drunk, naked and weird people all over the Strip. Of course, there were some individuals  representing these groups, but the most populated group - the one and only - the tourists. With their big cameras, fanny-packs, 'I heart LV' t-shirts and baby strollers. And the latest on the list was the biggest surprise for me - as I had never imagined Vegas to be the place to bring your child for a family vacation. As it turns out - many families choose Las Vegas for their summer vacation spot.

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But if you go there for the 'right' reasons - spending all your savings on playing games of chance for money and getting intoxicated with alcoholic liquor to the point of impairment of physical and mental faculties - do these recreational activities together as in the casinos, the gamblers are offered free alcoholic beverages. And if you like to enjoy the occasional smoke - do it anywhere you like, as Las Vegas is one of those places where you can smoke anywhere - even while sitting by a black jack table and enjoying your drink.

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So this is the review of my first travels in the States. More will follow, as the summer has just started in San Diego. And for me - this month will be full of new experiences. More on that - in my next post.

Take care!

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06/23/2013

Stereotypes

Some of my American friends have asked me about the stereotypes that Latvians or Europeans have about Americans. After thinking them through I realized that so far they don't correspond with the reality. 

Stereotype #1 - Americans speak only English

As I work at a language school, all the teachers and employees speak at least two languages. So this stereotype is not always true. But after asking an American colleague about this, she admitted that in most cases the stereotype would indeed be true as in most parts of America the locals aren't exposed to other languages, although if Americans do speak another language, it will probably be Spanish.

Stereotype #2 - There is a McDonalds or Burger King on every corner and that is Americans 'Top place to eat'

Only a couple of weeks after coming here I realized that I haven't even seen a Mcdonalds here. And after asking locals about that, almost all of them answered that McDonalds is the worst place to go. And only people who can't afford eating out at 'normal' places go there. 

Stereotype #3 - Most Americans are fat

As the locals have already ruled out fast-food 'restaurants' this stereotype seems to be untrue as well. After living in San Diego for more than 2 months, I realised that I have seen more athletic people than overweight people. People seem to adopt healthy lifestyle more and more. Even burgers have healthier versions where instead of eating a burger covered with two bread buns you can choose a protein wrap - instead of buns your burger will be wrapped in lettuce leaves. 

Stereotype #4 - Americans are very polite

So true. Although during my first weeks it was hard to get used to the politeness of the locals especially from customer service after dealing with customer service in Latvia (I think all Latvians have experienced the 'genuine' Have a nice day! sentence from the cashiers in shops in Latvia). And it's easy to get used to the amount of politeness so much that if a customer service representative doesn't greet you, ask about your day, your favorite color and your plans for the rest of your life, you start to assume that the sales person is impolite and unprofessional.

Stereotype #5 - Americans like to live green

I have seen some electro-cars driving around San Diego, and companies are starting to use recycled paper more and more, and shops offer discounts for buyers that use their re-usable grocery bags... However, somehow every time after grocery shopping where a shop assistant puts your products in bags I come home with 7 plastic bags, 2 products in each. Living green.  

Stereotype #6 - The 'Hollywood' sign can be seen from any place in LA
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Stereotype #7 - Grand Canyon can be seen from space
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Stereotype #8 - What happens in Vegas - stays in Vegas
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I found out whether these stereotypes are true or not during my travels to these places during my first 2 months here. And you will read about it in my next post.

04/23/2013

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Before I came to the USA, it always seemed really far. But I had never imagined that it is so far that you have to spend almost 24 hours in 3 different flights while watching several (already seen movies) to get to my destination - San Diego, California. 

The travel

For those who still plan to come here - try planning your trip so that the first airport in the USA would be your final destination as well, especially if you're not an experienced traveller, as it takes a while to go through the customs. And there might occure a situation when, after going through the customs & luggage check, you might hear something like 'Oh, your gate is really far - you better run!'. Or plan your trip in a way that there is enough time between your connected flights. Other than that - enjoy your flight!

The arrival

Almost 24 hours later I finally arrived in San Diego. No snow, many palm trees & warm weather. I think I'll manage. My first challenge was to find my homestay. I was kind of excited, as in the movies the taxi drivers are usually friendly & talk to you while taking you to your destination. Nope. This one didn't even find the exact address, so after walking up & down the street for a while, I finally found my homestay.

The housing

If you have to find the housing yourself - ask a local, as they might know someone who rents a room & you won't have to worry about scams & finding your way by yourself. As for me - I live together with a Filipino family with students from Brasil, Korea and Saudi Arabia, so there are plenty of tour guides for me :)

The transportation

After finding the closest station & buying a monthly pass, I tried to figure out the way to the ocean. This is why a monthly pass is useful, as in my case - there are still times when I get on the wrong trolley :) And, I would suggest you using public transportation to have a look around your new residence. And while you're doing it - you can easily spot the locals, as they probably won't take their eyes off their cellphones. And if they do - they'll be the ones who'll greet you and start a friendly conversation with you. 

The people

The people are really friendly. Seriously. If you can't find your way, there'll always be someone who will help you. There hasn't been a day when a local hasn't started a conversation with me. On the street, while waiting for the trolley, or in the shop. And after greeting me & asking about my day, the next question is always 'Where are you from?'. And usually the reaction is the same - 'From where???'. And after sharing some information about Latvia, usually interesting follow-up questions follow, like

  • 'Do you have internet banking?'
  • 'Do you have debit cards?'
  • 'Are there a lot of cars in Latvia?'
  • 'Are there any animals in Latvia?' 

And although there are some people who act as if they know where Latvia is, usually, after asking them, they admit that they have no idea. But I'm working on it. Thanks to me, our candy 'Gotiņas' is already very popular here. 

The food

Although I haven't tried burgers yet, the food that I have tried, is awesome. If you have the chance, try every type of food there is. I have already tried Mexican, Korean and Chinese, and I'm still trying to figure out the best one. And if the weather is nice (and it probably is) try the cafe on the Ocean Beach pier - you will have both, the view of the ocean and the view of San Diego + the food.

The weather

See picture above. It's more or less like that the whole year. Sun, palm trees & the ocean.

Summary

People are nice. Weather is great. Food is good. I'm ok.

To conclude - here is a picture that shows only a small part of San Diego. Yeah. It's huge.

Take care!

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