Annoying quirks of the USA

We have recently visited South Florida and I have described the experience in a three piece article series. The first one presents the reasons why I am drawn to South Florida and why I consider it to be a great family destination. The second one focuses on the Florida Keys and lists my favorite places to see and things to do there. Finally, in this article I go through the aspects of the United States that annoy me :-).

I would like to start with a disclaimer – my general view of the USA is not negative. I love visiting the USA, it is a fantastic and diverse country that offers both inspiring nature and fascinating cities. But during my (so far) nine visits I have found that there are certain quirks that confuse or annoy me. So here is my list, in no particular order of importance.

Spring outside, polar winter inside

Most interiors in the States are very cold by my standards. 17 degrees Celsius indoors makes no sense – it is uncomfortable and a huge waste of energy. Why not set the AC to a more humane, but still comfortable 22 degrees Celsius instead?

Where are the duvet covers?

I really dislike when the duvet is not fully enclosed in a duvet cover but is instead just sandwiched between two sheets. Of course that the sheets never stay in place, exposing the duvet which is typically not washed after each hotel guest. This is unhygienic and disgusting. From my experience this is the setup in most hotels (even in those that cost more than 250 USD per night).

The coast is often private property

Unfortunately many beaches are private and as such of limits to the general public. This is especially noticeable in the Florida Keys, where most public life happens in the center of the islands instead of, what I would find more logical, at their coasts.

Sweet breakfasts

Breakfasts in American hotels are typically poorer than in their European counterparts. Poorer in quality, I mean. They are definitely not poorer in the amount of calories or sugar.

Plastic everywhere

Continuing on the breakfast theme – a lot of hotels use disposable plastic items. I understand that this is more convenient and cheaper than having to wash dishes, but it is terrible for the environment, especially because these plastic items most often do not end up in the recycling bin, but in the general trash bin. And as if using plastic plates, cups, spoons, forks and knives was not enough –  they are often individually wrapped in a plastic bag!

Fixed shower heads

Shower heads are most often placed high up on the wall and can only be moved very slightly. I prefer the freedom of movement that shower heads connected to a flexible hose offer.

Round door handles

The typical round design of a door handle makes sure you have to embrace the handle with the complete palm in order to be able to open a door. Being germophobic, I definitely do not appreciate this (I am aware that some handles are partly made of copper which is antibacterial, but I still don’t like touching surfaces that were touched by countless others) . Furthermore, it is not practical – if your hands are busy you cannot open the door using your elbow.


On second thought, let’s not go there :-).


Ok, it is relatively easy in restaurants – tip 10% if you are unhappy with the service, tip 15% for ok service, tip more than 15% for exceptional service. But in general it is much more complex that this. How much should I tip in cafes and restaurants where I order at the counter and get the food myself? How much should I tip the housekeeping at hotels? The taxi driver? The driver of the complimentary airport shuttle? The pilot of the sightseeing helicopter? Wait, what? Don’t at least helicopter pilots have proper salaries? According to the one I met, no, they don’t.

Then there might be some situations where I should tip but I don’t since I am not aware that tipping is expected. An additional problem of the tipping culture is that you always have to carry cash on you (I am slightly spoiled here by the largely cash free Sweden).

Prices without tax

Continuing on the topic of money – prices are displayed without tax. I am going to pay the tax anyway, so why not display the full price and save me having to do the calculation myself?

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