Writing from a year studying abroad in Philadelphia, Eoin McSweeney gives you his first impressions.

What do you think of when someone says the United States of America? Freedom? The Empire State Building? The President? Or is it more WalMart, McDonald’s and obesity? Whatever it is, when you first step foot on these shores, it will always be a culture shock, no matter how many times you’ve watched In America. Therefore, I have compiled a list of observations I’ve made in my first few weeks in the US of A, should you ever have to make the harrowing journey across the Atlantic.


  1. You had better tip

Or god help you. Even if your waiter spilled half your meal over himself, spat in your food and insulted your mother, you ALWAYS give a tip. And that’s not just for food servers. Bartenders, taxi drivers, cleaners and even dog walkers expectedly wait for their few extra dollars post-service. A number of people will make the majority of their wages through tips; which leads to the problem of the over enthusiastic waiter. Pot bellied, smiling and, most worryingly of all, happy, they will pester you until you have a wonderful meal. Assholes.


  1. It’s not a safe place for your arteries

On our first shop we were in despair looking for the cereal aisle. When we did find it, the sight that met our eyes was horrifying. Shelf upon shelf of sugary balls of god-knows-what greeted us in various boxes of assorted colours. The animals on the front of favourites such as Fruit Loops, Frosties and Coco Pops stared back at us; their eyes welcoming, but you could tell that they had a hidden agenda.

There was no Shreddies, no Weetabix and certainly no porridge. Eventually we had to settle for Honey Nut Cheerios as our healthy cereal of choice. And it is not just the cereal that is a heart attack waiting to happen. Every meal is lathered with cheese, corn syrup, sugar or salt. While this is delicious, you can feel your arteries crying out for help. Ever had Kraft Mac & Cheese? I rest my case.


  1. Everything is BIGGER

An obvious one, I know, but it must be mentioned. You can always tell when it’s an Irish person’s first time in New York because they walk around with their heads glued to the sky. As I stepped out onto the streets of the Big Apple after flying in, I couldn’t help but be in awe at the majesty of some of the buildings around me.

But big doesn’t always equate to good. I pity anyone who has to drive on their immense network of unnavigable roads. And don’t get me started on their portion sizes. I’ve eaten more here than Henry VIII after a breakup. When ordering a medium sized drink in Wendy’s you receive a calorific monstrosity that’s larger than your head. Walmart is a modern day wonder of the world though, I’ll give them that.


  1. Patriotism

God loves America… Well, according to America. It’s strange to see so many people be so patriotic when 90% of their ancestors arrived from foreign shores less than 300 years ago. Yet, American flags fly from every checkout in supermarkets, biased history lessons are free and various posters of uniform clad army personnel urge young men to fight for freedom. Why is America the greatest country in the world? Because Americans say so.


  1. Toilet Water

This one baffles me. In Ireland the water in the bowl is minimal and barely noticeable at the bottom. It is certainly a sufficient distance from your exterior. The US, however, have about three quarters of the bowl filled; leaving your rear end exposed and vulnerable to splashback. Now, you could argue that the velocity of which your excrement hits the water is less, and thus will cause a smaller splash. However, I feel like someone did their maths wrong. And my bottom feels it too.



  • Everyone is Irish


“Oh my god are you Irish? I have an Irish connection! My great great great grandfather’s best friend’s dog came from Ireland! He was from, how do you say it… Layoish? I’ve never been there but I heard it’s beautiful! Do you have leprechauns where you’re from?” The fear is real.