When you picture the United States, where does your mind go? Gorgeous national parks featuring almost every biome, friendly people who will say hello to you as you pass them on the street, a diverse population where you can certainly find people you mesh with, and a wide variety of fascinating cities? As an American who lives in Europe, I’m always curious what people think about my home country. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but do Europeans really think that about the United States?
Reddit user DerpDerp3001 recently started a conversation asking Europeans what they imagine living in the United States is like, and hundreds of people weighed in with their honest answers. We’ve gathered some of their replies down below, so feel free to upvote the ones you resonate with and dispel any misconceptions in the comments. Keep reading to also find interviews with travel writer Maria Haase, of Europe Up Close, and the person who sparked this conversation in the first place, DerpDerp3001 on Reddit.
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If you’re an American, let us know how accurate you think these Europeans were, and if you’re from Europe or anywhere else around the globe, we would love to hear how you picture the United States as well. Then if you’re interested in checking out a Bored Panda article examining what Americans find odd about Europe, look no further than right here.
Worry about if I have an accident & it costs me hundreds of thousands in medical bills.
Worry about getting a job which will allow me to have some sort of health benefits in the first place which will still cost a lot of money.
Worry about making it through the day and not being shot because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Worry about the cost of living from any job I do get because everyone seems to have two jobs as standard.
Worry about being r*ped, becoming impregnated and then forced to raise the child because men in power have more rights over my body than I do. Also worry about being able to afford to care for said child as the same men who refuse me an abortion, will not allow me help to feed it/care for it.
So yea, I can’t imagine life in America being at all relaxing.
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Blanket statements about any place or group of people are rarely accurate, so it’s important to note that anyone who attempts to generalize the entire United States is likely to be a little off in their assumptions. After living in Sweden, England and Lithuania, as well as traveling to many other nations, I’ve heard just about every stereotype and misconception in the book. No, I’ve never seen guns in the grocery store, and I’ve never personally seen or handled one at all. (And I have no desire to.) I’m from Texas, but I don’t have a horse, live on a ranch or eat meat. And I know, I don’t “sound like” I’m from Texas, much to many people’s disappointment.
But I can’t really blame people for assuming some of these things about the US. From Europe, it seems so far away, and most of the media about the United States that we receive over here doesn’t paint it in the best light. Every country has its own issues, but I understand how some people can only hear about guns, healthcare, Donald Trump, obesity rates and the lack of public transit and assume the entire United States is a cesspool.
Moved to the US from Europe 5 months ago. What’s most noticeable to me is that you have to drive everywhere and that everyone calls me soft-spoken… In Europe I was perceived as loud.
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To hear how this conversation started in the first place, we reached out to Reddit user DerpDerp3001. “I was inspired as I am curious of how people interpret things and stereotypes,” they shared. They told us that they are American, so we were curious what their opinions are on the US and if they enjoy living there. “I would say the United States could be better but, it isn’t bad by any metric. If I had the option, I would stay in the United States in my home state Tennessee, though I would move to Ecuador if I had the chance.”
We also asked if they feel the US is ever unfairly stereotyped or if it deserves some of its negative reputation. “I do think the United States is unfairly stereotyped, though many of them are heavy exaggerations of real issues,” they noted. “The best thing about the United States is the diversity as it is a melting pot. The worst part is probably the voting system they use.”
It’s to live surrounded by people who believe a myth of exceptionalism and have never interrogated the why of their own society.
I’ve been to the US (the East coast) about a dozen times and from experience people are well educated and completely lacking in critical self reflection.
The middle and upper class in the US sometimes pity the working class, but they don’t understand how their society has created the inequality that is rife.
When you go out and speak to working class people the overriding sense is fear and anxiety. Will I have a medical bill I can’t afford to pay today? Will I be sacked for no reason? If I am fired will I get unemployment? You see it on Reddit every day.
To me, as someone who believes in equality and egalitarianism, the US is a hellscape. It is a snapshot of a world where greed is king, where the entire society is structured around providing wealth for a tiny few, where the fascists weren’t confronted and have attracted nearly half the vote, where race somehow matters to people on a fundamental level in a way that it just doesn’t here.
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I spent six months there in the nineties and loved it.
However when I read about employment rights/healthcare/abortion issues, tbh it sounds like it’s going backwards fast.
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I suspect the U.S is like most countries, great if you’re rich, pretty s**t if you’re poor.
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To gain more insight on this topic, we also reached out to travel writer, photographer and Editor-in-chief of Europe Up Close, Maria Haase. As someone who has experience living in both Europe and the United States, Maria is the perfect person to speak on this subject. “I grew up in Germany, and my family would travel around the US every year in a motorhome. We’d drive from San Francisco to New York, LA to Florida, San Diego to Seattle and many places in between,” she shared.
“While I saw a lot of the States, it was still through the tourist lens, and I wanted to get to experience the ‘real’ US,” Maria told Bored Panda. “So I signed up for a High School Exchange Year. I was placed with a host family in rural Louisiana, where my host dad would shoot squirrels for dinner, and the biggest attraction was going to Walmart on Saturdays. Talk about culture shock! But I also met some of the kindest and friendliest people there that turned this year into an amazing experience for me. And I certainly got what I was looking for: To get to know the ‘real America’.”
Pretty much any episode from South Park.
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Big. Big country, big cars, big buildings, big voices, big personalities, big ambitions, the Big Apple, the Big Sky Country, Big Sur. Big portions.
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“After a short stint back in Germany, I moved back to the US,” Maria explained. “This time, I ended up at a small international university in San Diego, where I met my now husband. Because of him, I got ‘stuck’ in San Diego. There are definitely worse places to get stuck in than San Diego.”
We asked Maria what the main differences were that she observed between the US and Europe. “Culture shock between the US and Germany is not as obvious, but it exists and sneaks up on you,” she shared. “Americans are much more focused on the individual while Germans tend to focus on the benefit of the whole community.”
“One stereotype that I found to be very true were the various cliques in high school,” she added. “Before I moved to the US, I always thought that was a movie cliché, but it turned out to be a reality when I did my senior year in the US.”
I better get a driver’s license if I end up living there.
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Uncertain..the fact that you can get fired just like that, the lack of paid sick leave or paid absence due to giving birth, the cost of health services…I don’t know how you guys do it, without having a panic attack every week.
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We were also curious if there were any misconceptions about the US that Maria wanted to dispel. “I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the US is to think of it as one culture,” she said. “Yes, they are all Americans, but someone from California vs someone from Louisiana probably has about as much shared culture as someone from Sweden with someone from Italy. There are so many different cultures within the US, it is impossible to think of it as one shared culture.”
Impossible to generalise. To the best of my knowledge, it varies enormously place to place, between socio-political and economic backgrounds, and between various groups.
It seems to have every good and every horrible thing thinkable of.
Overall, I’d say the standard of living is comparable, and in the grand scheme of things world class, but if things go bad, life becomes hell, and when things go well, they go brilliantly .
If it helps, I really found visiting America great fun, and found out most Americans are nice people, and you have this sense of optimism and hope, which I really appreciate.
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As someone who has travelled to America lots of times and absolutely loves a lot of aspects of the country especially the landscapes, the national parks and food. I can say for me the US is a beautiful country with lots of great places and lots of great people. But everything you need from a country to make life nice when you actually live there is missing unless you are wealthy.
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Finally, we asked Maria if she prefers one country or continent over the other. “When you have experienced multiple countries for long periods of time, you will a unique perspective on the benefits and drawbacks of both,” she told Bored Panda. “As a small business owner, I’m grateful for how easy the US makes it for me to run my business. On the other hand, I wish the US had more of a social safety net and more progressive politics. Each country has things they do extremely well, and other things that they could learn from other countries. I love living in San Diego, but I also hope to spend more time in Germany in the next couple of years.”
If you’re interested in gaining travel insight from Maria, be sure to check out Europe Up Close right here.
Pretty ordinary TBH. Media highlights most of the shi**y bits.
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I’ve been to the US a few times and never had a bad encounter. A lot of really nice people, genuinely nice interactions.
As an outsider looking in, the working rights and the healthcare is absolutely insane to me and a crying shame for some of the kindest, most giving people I’ve come into contact with as a foreigner.
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One of the comments on this Reddit thread referred to the United States as “basically 50 countries under a trenchcoat”, and I could not have said it better myself. Europeans often don’t want the entire continent of Europe to be generalized, and understandably so, as there are a wide variety of countries, cultures, languages and landscapes here. But if we try to think about the United States in the same way, it starts to make a little more sense. Depending on the state and city you live in, you could have a vastly different experience than someone else living thousands of miles away. I mean, Alaska and Hawaii are both the United States, and those certainly feel like different countries.
Yes, certain issues are prevalent everywhere. I will be the first to address the issues of healthcare, inequality, lack of public transit, guns and more. But I have to agree with one of the comments on this post stating that the United States is probably “pretty ordinary”. I never spent my days fearing that I would be shot in public or that I would end up in the hospital with a $100k bill. For the most part, life was not that different there, and I have to admit that I was happy.
Seems like the social ladder is just overstretched. It’s better to be a cashier in Europe than in the US, better to be a software developer in the US than in Europe.
I definitely prefer Europe in that regard, even if I know for a fact that I’d be making three times as much in the US. imo It’s just part of the social contract that those at the bottom of the ladder should be able to live life in dignity, even if it’s at the “expense” of those at the top. It’s not the only reason, among other things american work culture would overwhelm me, 8 hours of work, 8 hours of leasure, 8 hours of sleep is how it should be. And I’m not about to burn the midnight oil and burn out and not have a life outside my job just because “that’s how things work around here”, too depressing of a prospect for me. (at will law is insane by the way)
That said It’s on my bucketlist to visit it one day. Seems like a lovely country to do tourism in, but working and living there isn’t that enticing.
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All my American friends are highly educated and middle to upper middle class, they have it ever so good. I know they are far from the norm, but if you have skills in high demand, the opportunities are almost endless it seems.
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On the other hand, I will admit that my quality of life has certainly improved since moving to Europe. I enjoyed my life in the United States very much, and certain things were easier of course, like making friends and just feeling more comfortable everywhere I went, knowing that I “fit in”. But living in cities where I can walk, bike or take buses everywhere I need to go has changed my life. Not to mention it has made me much healthier, and I spend so much more time outside enjoying a beautiful day during my commute to and from work.
Many things are also just simpler. After spending a week in the hospital incredibly ill with sepsis, I did not have to pay a dime. My insurance covered it without any issues. When I got Covid, my employer gave me a paid week off without asking any questions or pressuring me to start working before I was healthy. I was definitely used to toxic work culture, hustle culture and the idea that everyone having a car is just a necessary evil when I lived in the US, but my perspective has definitely shifted since moving.
I’m Norwegian. I have many American friends. Most are musicians. They generally don’t have heathcare, and work pretty much hand to mouth. No savings. Conversely, most of these people have toured and seen things, so they are progressive and rad. They are not the norm, though. I imagine life in the US being harder, unsafe and a little more chaotic than in Euro. But there’s also an entrepeneur spirit there that I admire. Y’all are very positive.
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its such a f*****g mixed bag of everything. The united states values libertarian thought to such a degree that youll find literally every cultural subset, political idea, food, and religion. Even the legal codes vary INSANELY across state lines. I could theoretically buy semi auto rifles and huge amounts of marijuana legally in one state then travel across an arbitrary open border and the people will treat you like a terrorist there if caught. This is totally what the founding fathers wanted mind you, just a perfect amount of nuts i guess.
Honestly this country is really f*****g stressful as f**k and you have to have a lot of context and reasoning and awareness to not p**s people off and see the good parts in america. Living in a blue state is totally different than living in a red one. Definitely a lot to s**t on for sure.
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There are pros and cons to living anywhere, and I certainly miss aspects of the United States at times. For example, in the cities I have lived in, people are just so friendly and kind. I sometimes miss chatting with a cashier at Trader Joe’s about all of the new products I have to try and my excitement for the seasonal items. (Okay, on the list of things I miss, Trader Joe’s has to be at the top. Coffee creamer is in the second slot.) But Europeans have it pretty good too. So no matter where you’re from, I ask that you approach this list with an open mind. No nation or continent is a monolith, and we have no way of knowing what everyone around us is experiencing. Keep upvoting the replies you agree with, and we look forward to reading your own thoughts in the comments. Is the grass greener on the other side?
British person here, I would think that the houses would be really nice and spacious for the same price as a tiny uk house. However, I also feel artificial foods would be everywhere and unnecessary amounts of fat would be in most foods. I feel people would either obsess over my accent or make fun of it by saying “bo ole of wo a” and their classic tea and crumpet joke. FYI: I don’t like crumpets, and i don’t drink unruly amounts of tea
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SOCIAL! In my head everyone has big close knit families, loads of friends and has yard parties , ho-downs and BBQs all day long. (when they aren’t working at least. )
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Expensive healthcare. Me who fought cancer for 2 years with free med care in Norway would have been destroyed in USA. I can rather say that i could not imagen a life in USA, cause i would be dead over there and lost my life.
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Generally good, the roads are wide, It’s very spacious and it’s a land that stands for freedom, Quality of life seems good, the only downsides that I probably would not like is a lack of a NHS, and the fact that you have less annual leave, you should get way more then you all currently do that’s for sure.
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Polarisition all over the place. Big wealth gap. Free refills. Really fat people. A lack of historical acknowledgement. Nice people. And stupid people. No alcohol in the supermarket. Bad cars.
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Relatively similar, but more emotionally draining and less environmentally conscious. Also very patriotic.
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An exhausting and unfair journey into debt and/or the grave.
Or if you’re born rich : a nice stroll where the whole system is built just for you.
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Honestly, I’ve always been so grateful that I don’t live in the US, that is because of the things I see on the media. (Healthcare costs, school shootings, politics) I know there are also so many reasons why people love it, but for me it would be the way you can go from a beach to mountains to big cities and even tropical, desert and winter climates without leaving the country. That’s pretty cool.
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Constant advertisement and sales tactics. Passive aggression from strangers
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I imagine it to be pretty normal and uneventful for most people. We hear about the shootings and the police killing black people and all that because it’s newsworthy, but I assume the average day for 99% of people is just going to work, sleeping, drinking coffee, eating food.
Every city is on a grid with little character, concrete jungle, or miles and miles of nothing.
You need to drive everywhere which will likely be a over commercialised chain.
like its own little planet.. its so huge, you’d never be able to see beyond your own borders. everything you know about the rest of the world is from the internet or tv
Unsafe, weird beliefs and laws (lgbtq, guns, abortion), f*cked up politicians, a country where Trump was able to become president and -this worries me the most – might become president again. A place where I would never feel comfortable living ever (have been there several times and even have friends there).
An accurate description of all the flaws of the capitalistic system.
Really depends where in the United States, for New York I’d think it’s much more of a hassle and expensive, for Louisiana I’d expect it has more french presence due to the Louisiana purchase and they all southern and eat gumbo like princess in the frog and for Alabama all I can think about is the kkk
My worse nightmare, no health care, no gun control, zero job security, no labour laws at least no labour laws functioning properly, Karens, irresponsibility everywhere but being irrationally about their kids almost as if their made of porcelain, all in all just horrible
You wake up with mac and cheese for breakfast. You dress up in polo shirts and cargo pants, sneakers and white long socks. When you go outside you first honk the bears away from your trashcan. Then you drive your big a*s car to work. When driving the streets you can enjoy life size posters of Donald Trump and Kardashians butt. You need some gas for your car. You get some, almost the cheapest in the world, and say “ew so expensive” to the man across the street. Oh, it’s 8 a.m. Time for the national salute. Across the whole country the pledge blasts through the speakers. Everyone stands straight with a hand on the heart. What a feeling of community. After the pledge (that ended with blasting your gun simultaneously with the rest of the country in the air) you proceed your car ride to work. At work, you walk in and screech “HeeeYyyyyyy HOw ARE yOuuuu!!?!!!!!!!” in a very high pitch. Your fellow co workers do the same, while hugging you intensely. You never get an answer how they are. At work your colleague is having a seizure. Everyone ignores it because who the hell is gonna pay for the ambulance? Colleague dies in her own vomit. Work day is over. Time to go home. Small stop at Walmart where you bought a snake, you named him Kanye. At home you noticed someone stole the package you ordered from your porch. Must have been a Mexican. You open the door. A golden retriever with a bandana walks out happily. It’s max, your dog. A happy family awaits. Your kids Beverley, Taylor and Brandon are home. They carry cornflakes and have big bright white smiles. We love you daddy. Now get me the new Iphone. It was a good day.
Good until to the point you get some illness or have an accident so you get bills which you can’t afford to pay.
Or someone sues you for something completely ridiculous and you lose your whole life earnings and have to start from the beginning the difference being that your age is much higher.
People using cheques and receiving salary by cheque and not doing bank transactions from their phones or computers.
Also people generally living on credit instead of using their own money.
Hot and quite claustrophobic with all those buildings
It’s probably pretty easy to make friends… and enemies, apart from that lots of great food I’d imagine
I once heard somebody living there for a while saying that she found a lot of the niceness of americans to feel fake.
So that’s what I think about when I think about America. Fakeness.
I imagine the distances to be huge, the life in the unpopulated areas to be extremely calm but not like what we call rural in Europe and everything else, as well as life in the cities, to be a touch artificial, like lacking tradition. It’s also very clear that your streets don’t have 400 years and the suburbs have been built very fast to accommodate a lot of people. I have 2 very very close, almost relatives, living in Seattle and everything I see from them is not like social media, they just work to have a quiet comfortable life but the social media side of the Us is always excess, consumerism and interaction-farming. Also, I try to not rely on these prejudices because the country has 330 million people, 1% is already 3,3 million people which means that everything is massively amplified even if it’s only 0,5% of the population doing it. I also think your country has the biggest potential to reward your work but the safety net is weak and I feel not many people have responsible financial education, which neither does my people, but our safety net seems a big stronger
Dangerous to send a kid to school, dangerous to have said child walk to school alone or use public transport.
Dangerous to walk or bike anywhere you want – a car no sidewalks, a car will hit you crossing the street or biking on the side, random attacks, tresspassing by mistake and getting attacked, whatever.
Dangerous to leave the front door unlocked.
Dangerous to speak openly; someone will get offended at the pronouns you use, ideas you express, how you look at them, that you look at them, that you don’t look at them… something; you will get harrased, sued, attacked, cancelled, something.
Dangerous to be black.
Dangerous to go to college if your parents can’t afford to pay for it; you might be enslaving yourself for life.
Dangerous to get hurt or ill, or even pregnant. You might lose your job, get into debt, be unable to afford adequate care and die of entirely preventable things that kill nobody in the developed world.
Dangerous to drink tap water.
I’m Australian but America seems cool. They have high-school experiences like the movies- with homecoming, lockers, prom, school football games, cheerleaders, cliques, school clubs, school cafeteria & dining hall, 3+ month summer vacation etc. We have none of that here. + they have colleges with dorms, fraternities, frat parties etc it just sounds so fun. The only negatives are the politics/government, school shootings, and it’s really expensive.
It’s all peachy as long as you have money. The pressure to keep up with your neighbors and the credit card payments must be immense. And damn you must be scared the S**T out of cops. And other people in general, but especially cops. And Jesus not having 28 paid days of vacation, as well as paid sick days, that’s just uncomfortable. Also do you deal with the homeless situation, the fact that basically all mentally ill live in the street and that half of the population seems to be fascist religious nutcases? Also do you have any hope for your children given the state of your educational system?
Disclaimer: lived in CA and VA for a few months. Good times.
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First world country with third world problems
Burger fire guns burger fire guns vote for someone incompetent, then ice cream?
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I don’t understand how you are letting Roe v Wade be overturned.
‘Yeah we want to force women to get unsafe illegal abortions or carry pregnancies to term no matter what harm it will cause. Because once you’re pregnant, you don’t matter.’
Edit: I know Roe v Wade mandates access to safe medical abortion. You know that not everyone living in the states that decide to remove that right have the ability or desire to pack up and move to another place where pregnant women aren’t discriminated against.
There was a mass shooting today at a school. 14 kids died.
That’s what I think
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Shopping malls and big cars and sports games and lots of national pride.
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Enormous roads, non-existant/small public transportation, stroads, abandoned or struggling suburban malls, extremely harsh work, being laughed at for not having car and being arrested because of some 19th century law.
Not very different for the most part tbh, just some small differences with supermarkets and restaurants obviously, more car dependency which kinda sucks, no ‘free’ university or healthcare. Day to day life wouldn’t change.
Shi**y tbh. Unhealthy and enormous portions of takeaway are cheaper than fresh vegetables, all international food is “Americanized”. No general health insurance and even if you have insurance you’ll have a lot of bills. Crappy houses with drywall instead of bricks that are blown away in one big gush of wind that you pay as much for as a brick house in Europe. Politics suck. Guns. Do I have to go on?
Honestly, nothing in the world could make me move to the US.
Edit: I am not trying to say that everything in Europe is great (it is definitely not!) and everything in the US is s**t but there’s a lot of things that I see as very simple solutions to huge problems that the US just turns a blind eye too.
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Nobody knows anyone, you can walk down the street in whatever you want, everyone doesn’t care about you.
99% like anywhere else but extremes are more extreme. Extreme violence in nature and people. Extreme wealth and poverty. Extreme differences. Its not really a country but a conglomerate of very different countries.
When you go to school, you get shot.
When you get an encounter with the police, they kill you.
When you get health issues, insurance doesn’t cover it, so you die.
I always thought America was sorta like Disneyland where everything is possible and you can become whatever you want to be in life. Live ‘The American Dream’. But the more i see and hear about America the more i think its a really weird a*s country.
Beautiful diverse nature though. Would love to visit sometime.
Riddled with gun violence and an obsession with race and politics.
European living in Canada. I imagine life in the US for too many is what Hobbes described life as: nasty, brutish, and short.
1 bad day away from destitution and a 1 in 10 chance of being shot by someone who’s already had that bad day
If you live in NYC very high living cost if you live in the country side very calm and peaceful
Never been, but from what I’ve heard, y’all are extroverts. You talk to strangers, say Hi at the bus stop, etc.
Everything is for sale & all of it is seemingly worth nothing.
A f*****g hell filled with arrogance that is born out of a system so bad people don’t even know just how much is wrong
I would imagine having a nice big front yard and nice big back yard and maybe a nice porch. I do love the style of American houses.
High risk high reward. Took the wrong gamble? You’re screwed in many ways.
Good people, nice sights, terrible institutions, terrible politics, and an overwhelming fear of the world socialism.
Less alcohol and less cigarettes (I am from Serbia)