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During my trip to the USA for my exchange program, I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UnC) for exchange from January 2022 to May 2022. It was a very interesting experience and I am glad that I got to experience many things.
There were many things that were different in Singapore compared to the US.
They are divided into different categories:
In the US, everyone seems to be friendlier and more willing to make small talk. When ordering food from a food store, the waiters/waitresses usually make small talk (IE: How’s your day, how are you doing).
Initially, I was unsure about how to reply and thought that they wanted to start a conversation with me. However, it is usually meant as a greeting. This is especially common in restaurants when the waiter/waitress is waiting for the customer’s orders.
The people here also seemed to be more open-minded about things like sexuality, religion and way of life.
Another interesting thing is the culture of NBA. In the US, players actively cheer for their favorite teams and the “home court advantage” is more pronounced over there. Many fans of the team will go to their home game and cheer their team on (as well as boo the opponent team). As a result, the atmosphere is incredible, especially when their home team wins.
This also happened for the College level basketball games (NCAA) from my school (UnC). UnC has a long-standing rivalry with Duke University when it comes to basketball.
Whenever UnC beats Duke in a game, the fans will cheer really loudly and rush to Franklin street (As seen in the picture below) and cheer really loudly and just have fun in general.
The whole atmosphere is full of happiness and carefree enjoyment. It is really quite a sight and impossible to witness in Singapore.
The Tipping system
The main difference between USA and Singapore is the tipping system. When we decide to dine in a restaurant, in Singapore, we pay the cost of the bill with a 10% service charge and a 7% GST (As of 2022). However, in the US, it is the cost of the bill + Tax (Depending on the state) and an additional tip on top of the bill.
The tip can be anywhere from 10% to 20% generally. When I was in the US, there was a scenario where one of my friends tipped a slightly lower amount and the waiter was not very happy and asked him if there is anything wrong with the service and passed the bill back to him, hinting for a higher tip.
Apparently, the tip is the main source of income for the waiter/waitresses compared to the hourly wage they are receiving from their employers
More information can be found here on nelp
The food itself
The food in the US mainly consists of pizzas, burgers, and other fast food items. During the course of my exchange program, there were a wide variety of food items that I got to try.
Although there were many good western food stalls in the US, I mostly preferred Asian cuisine when eating in the US as they were more to my tastes.
Before I forget, here is a list of restaurants in the USA that left an impression on me (In no particular order)
The one that left the best impression on me was the Pad Thai from Cham Thai.
It has a very good blend of sour and sweet flavours which just keeps me wanting to eat it again and again. Nearing the end of my trip to North Carolina, I ate here almost every other day.
The travel time in the US is also a lot. The norm seems to be like 1 hour of driving to get from 1 place to another. However, in Singapore, 1 hour of driving can get you from 1 end of the island to another. Rarely will we ever get the chance to have a driving session that long in Singapore
There is also so much more stuff to see. There are many scenic places to visit in the USA. To see some of them feel free to visit my previous blog post
Just a small thing that I noticed. In the US, the car drives on the right side of the road compared to Singapore where we drive on the left side.
It just so happens that the people also tend to walk on the ride side of the roads (Similar to cars).
It makes me wonder if the ways the cars drive in the US / Singapore affects the way we walk on the streets.
My exchange program has really broaden my horizons and opened my eyes to a different environment compared to the one that I have in Singapore and I am very grateful for this opportunity.
I would highly recommend you to go on an exchange program if you are still deciding on where to go.