I’ve been here a while now and it’s no secret I didn’t really want to live in the US. But five years in and I can honestly say I enjoy it. Before I launch into my 10 myths about living in the US I should probably explain why I didn’t want to live in the US. I was looking for experiences in Asia, Europe and India–the US to me was not only similar to Australia but I felt like life as I saw it was better in Australia.
Not turning it into a “where-is-the-best” competition we’ve made some great friends and I’m happy to have travelled (albeit very limitedly) around the US to get a better feel of the different parts of the country.
And, at the end of the day any Expat will tell you being happy in a country really only takes having a solid base and good friends around you to make you happy. And isn’t that the case even when you’re at home?
Visiting home and coming back to America has caused me to reflect on some of the myths about living in American. And here’s my tip, there are a lot more than 10!
Let’s have a go at checking them out.
Myth 1: Cheap mobile phones and phone plans
Forget it! The plans here are hefty. We had a great family plan at home–on a major network–with great coverage and we are yet to find one as competitive as that here–with great coverage being the key words. Oh, and in a bizarre twist there will be some areas where your carrier will not have service. Seriously. Let me rephrase–whole cities!
And, yeah, thanks to International pricing, the phones here cost the same as they do in Australia. The only thing I will say though is that phones can be “included” in your plans. So, a bonus for the hefty plans is that you get a phone included in the cost. I don’t know, we prefer to buy ours outright and not be attached to a network so we can put other sims in when we travel overseas.
Myth 2: Ubiquitous wifi
Sort of myth, sort of not, so let’s call it one-and-a-half. So there is free WIFI to be found around but if it doesn’t come with so many conditions it’s hard to get a decent enough connection to do anything. If you’re coming over here and relying on the wifi spots–don’t unless it’s to message and check your email. Posting Instagram stories can be trying. You’re so much better off getting yourself a SIM card and paying for it. And telcos at home are also getting smart to that and offering much better roaming plans so definitely check before you go.
Myth 3: Walmart in every suburb
This may be true of smaller country towns or neighborhoods outside the metropolitan areas but it’s not true around here. No Walmarts are our local supermarket. In fact, it took us a good couple of years before we were in close range of a Walmart to go check it out. And, no we haven’t been back to one since!
And, speaking of supermarkets (or the “market” as they call it here) it is also a myth that all supermarkets are huge with endless choices. Around here the supermarkets tend to be smaller–except our local “new” Ralphs that they were building when we first arrived. It is good but there are still instances where I can’t get what I want here and need to go to other supermarkets to find what I need. (Read another myth: you can get everything you need in the one shop aka Walmart). In fact, for all you Expats living in LA I’m going to draft a little handy guide to grocery shopping here in the LA–where to go for what. Once it’s done I’ll link back to it.
Myth 4: The radio must be great
You’d think so wouldn’t you? The home of commercialism and LA being HQ to major record labels and agents.
The radio couldn’t be any worse. I can’t explain why. I blame the hook ups between artists and media companies. If you’re not in an agreement with the artist you’re not playing their music. Or at least so it seems.
But, like everything in America you can buy “better” radio in the form of Sirius Subscriber radio. Not unlike cable TV you can subscribe to literally hundreds of channels giving you a choice of endless choices of seriously bad radio.
Thankfully we stream Australian radio and listen to that at home. But I have to say it is a bit of a spin out when you hear traffic and weather, I often have to do a double take.
Myth 5: Same goes for TV–it must be amazing
It’s well documented that you use pay a small fortune for cable TV with 50 million stations and absolutely nothing to watch. HBO, Showtime and other premium channels come at a cost similar to subscriber streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. So why is TV so goddam expensive and why do you still have to pay so much for the so-called premium channels? And, by the way, you’re paying a fortune for the premium channels for one or two good shows so we refuse to pay the premium charge.
Thankfully the advent of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu brings the good shows back in the form of bingefests so if you’re prepared to wait then you still get to watch the show. Except in my case Homeland that refuses to have any of the last series on American streaming services but instead of paying the money I miss out on the show. Sad but true.
But of course, when you’re an expat–like in any foreign country and certainly not limited to the US–the programming is different. So, yes you get the good US shows but you miss your old favourites like MasterChef (which we watched religiously as family) and GoggleBox. You can’t even tune into Neighbours and Home and Away to see what’s happening in their neck of the woods. And we for sure miss The Panel.
Myth 6: Krispy Kreme &/or Dunkin’ Donuts everywhere
Thankfully–right?! But I have to tell you donut shops are ubiquitous here. And they’re much better than Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts. And with the trend of donut cakes and donut walls here for a while, it’s just as well.
Myth 7: McDonalds on every corner
Again no! But! There are a lot more fast food places here if you can believe it. Of course there’s California’s very own In-N-Out but there’s also Fat Burger, Burger King and Carl’s Jr or Jack In The Box. And thankfully we have a few Shake Shacks (it sells beer & wine!) here now. But it doesn’t stop at Burgers you have sandwich shops like Jersey Mike’s Subs and of course Subway (which we have back in Oz obviously) or the more upscale Mendocino Farms.
And Chicken shops aren’t limited to KFC. While there’s no Red Rooster here we have Chick-fil-A (get it?) and Popeyes–been to neither. But we have them. Perhaps the best fast food though is Chipotle–which we pronounced Chip-otel for the longest time rather than the correct pronunciation of Chip-ote-lay. Taco Bell’s everywhere if you can believe it there is more than one Mexican fast food option–there’s also and El Pollo Loco, Taco John’s, Del Taco and Baja Fresh–amongst many, many more.
But, if pancakes are more your thing don’t forget about iHop (International House of Pancakes). And, while we keep threatening to go we are yet to do it.
Last but certainly not least if it’s Chinese you’re hankering for there’s Panda Express.
But wait, it’s not over red rover for the health conscious among us–this is LA after all. You can try Tender Greens or Sweetgreen. And, when in LA Lemonade is always a great option.
I haven’t even covered pizza … I could keep going but this post is not about Fast Food options in LA!
Myth 8: Overnight shipping
Yes my friends, unless you’re on Amazon Prime (top tip for those of you moving here–it’s so worth it!) shipping can take as long as 10 days. Of course if you’re desperate you can pay the hefty fees to expedite shipping but if you’re a fan of free shipping this won’t be the option for you.
And, having said that I just ordered a Chucka bag for my travels this year (I can’t wait to get it) and it only took three days (or was it two?) for delivery in the Sydney metro area. That’s way faster than here! Granted it might take longer to get to the other side of the country but it’s pretty impressive for free shipping.
Myth 9: Americans are Uber competitive
OK, we’re exposed to the uber competitive Americans through sport, reality shows like Survivor and the Bachelor and high achievers. But, Americans are actually truly very friendly by nature. I remember when I was hunting down a tennis group I was so scared I’d come across scary women who would not be happy with my level of play. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, like at home the tennis chicks want competitive play but they’re also nice and forgiving. And the tennis chicks are some of my favourite people here.
And now, in 2019, Australians I believe are much more competitive. So it’s all good.
Myth 10: Americans shouldn’t be surprised people get killed with its gun culture/you’ll get shot if you come to the US
Not so much a myth rather one of those “shaking my head” questions I’m asked all the time. On every trip home or visit from friends the topic of guns and gun control inevitably comes up. It usually ends up with us so solving the US’s problems and saving the world might I add.
So why, they ask, do I see victims and witnesses being interviewed on TV being shocked and horrified that people are killed seemingly daily?
Well it’s because they genuinely are. Generally speaking Americans are friendly and caring to their fellow neighbour. The concept of gun control and people getting killed by guns (especially semi-automatics) doesn’t compute. And I sincerely don’t mean that in a rude way. There are generally two groups of people–the ones who grew up with guns safely and those who are anti guns.
Those that grew up with guns haven’t seen the level of violence they’re seeing today. And they don’t get it. These people aren’t the extreme lobbying politicians either. They are the ones stuck in the middle unfortunately.
And it’s true, I was fearful that my kids wouldn’t be safe going to school and I’m careful as to saying where they can and can’t go, but you won’t automatically get shot if you come to the US! (And yes, this came from feedback from a Facebook group I’m in of Aussies in the US, there are Australians who think and say that). The threat level depends on where you live but I’m thankful I live in LA where there is more an anti-gun culture than a must-carry culture.
Like anywhere it’s not until you spend a lot of time in a place–or country–that you really start to understand it and its people. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to live here. God only knows it was such a roller coaster ride for the first few years but wow have we met some amazing people, made some wonderful friends and got to do things we never would have imagined in our wildest, wildest dreams.
What do you think? Have I missed any? Would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a message or make a comment.
xx It Started in LA xx