Journey to the west of the west

The unexpected little things on my Michigan trip

As an Asian person it might seem natural to think of the United States as a more ‘recent’ version as Europe, well, very often they are just refered to as ‘the West’. I have lived in Europe for a few years now but had never visited the US. This August I spent 5 days in the beautiful town of Ann Arbor, and here I’m writing down some little surprises the trip has brought me, both pleasant and probably slightly annoying.

*This is by no means a formal comparison / right or wrong - just one person’s own experience in a new town and new country. *

It’s fairly green

Even though I knew I was visiting a university town instead of a busy metropolitan, I didn’t expect to see so much green in the town. There are trees everywhere, and parks scattered around. With the great weather of August the whole town looks peaceful and beautiful.

street

green

Things are BIG

This is an impression of thing here in general: houses are big, cars are big, rooms inside buildings are big, streets are wide, space between houses are wide, even the squirrels are big as rabbit. I googled for the ‘big american squirrel’ and wikipedia told me the fox squirrel is the largest species of tree squirrels native to North America. Have I seen one of those?

city

hotel

squirrel1

squirrel2

Sweets are cheap

From where I live (Norway) the very same can of Ben & Jerry chocolate would be around 100 kroner (roughly 10 USD), while in a 7-11 here in the US it’s 5.99 USD. The Norwegian goverment taxes sweets heavily - there was a news saying that Norwegians travel to Sweden for cheaper sweets!

benjerryprice

Public transport: could be more frequent and informative

I have heard that in the US if you don’t own a car you would have problems going around. I didn’t believe it, I thought there has to be at least some public transportations. Well, there is, it’s just not as frequent nor easy. It seems taking a Uber is the most popular option.

From Detroit Metro Airport to Ann Arbor (and from) I took the Michigan Flyer. The bus does not run hourly so it’s necessary to check online in advance. Please do, otherwise you’d spend hours waiting at the stop and there is no kiosk or schedule there. Yet once you get one, the ride is pleasant with WiFi and charger.

The same applies for public buses in the city. It seems to me that there isn’t a schedule for buses - or the schedules are not being followed properly. It is quite an inconvenience for travellers, especially those who are used to bus stops equipped with electronic time and full route maps!

michiganflyer

busstop

Some other differences

There are some other small differences I experienced. First of all, people didn’t seem to give me receipts for my purchases: restaurants, supermarkets, or bus. They gave me the change of money, but no invoices. I observed some people paying with card but they didn’t get receipts either - there wasn’t a machine printing receipts. This is a quite different practice.

Recycling and trash processing is also rather different. At the university there was proper bins for categorised recycling, but you don’t see trash bins at the corners of streets - so I had to carry a recyclable can back to the hotel. I can only guess that everybody drives and no pedestrians?

At the restaurant I saw a large amount of plastic cups and takeaway boxes. I truly hope they can be properly recycled after use!