I remember the first time I visited the US back in February 2016. I had just finished my bachelor’s degree the month before and I wanted to go travelling afterwards.
The choice became USA
The reason why I chose to travel to the United States, more specifically Denver, Colorado, was because of the American guy I had met in Greece 11 years ago. We had a summer romance at that time, but he lived in the United States so the relationship fell apart rather quickly. It was difficult to be in a long distance relationship when I was just a 16-year-old high school student.
This time, it was different because when we started talking again 10 years later, the chemistry was still pretty good. We had talked on the phone through Viber, and had also video-chatted on Skype. We could laugh and talk about deep topics, so it felt as if the ten years had just been ten months.
Originally, I would have gone to Australia, but for obvious reasons I decided to travel to the United States to see what could happen with George – and if nothing happened, I would still have had a really cool experience.
A quick visit to Las Vegas
I chose a connecting flight to Las Vegas, only to sleep a night and then fly to Denver the next day. As I had not been to the United States before, I was quite surprised about how many things I had to go through at the airport, such as the amount of paperwork, and having to show my passport to one border control post after another.
I also ended up being one of the ones they randomly pick out to inspect through my entire suitcase. It was pretty invasive to have all my stuff messed up by a stranger who then asked me to step back if I leaned over my suitcase. Luckily, I walked through without any consequences, and I quickly rolled my suitcase into the arrivals hall.
The big impressions on the city of gambling
I was greatly impressed when I later walked around the streets of Las Vegas alone. There were sounds, lights, colour, music, and topless women with body paint on (for a moment I was unsure if they were actually wearing clothes). It was somewhat of a show that took place just in that part of town.
I walked quite a distance down the Strip, which is the name of that particular part of the famous street called Las Vegas Boulevard South, where all the big casinos are located. On the 6.8 km long stretch is, among others, Caesar’s Palace, one of the largest casino hotels in Las Vegas. I went for a good walk down to the beginning of the street where the famous sign with the words “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” was located.
When I didn’t feel like walking back again, I took a taxi to my hotel instead – a smoky casino hotel – and ate a Subway sandwich for dinner before I fell asleep a little before eight in the evening. Jetlag hit me hard already! I woke up at five in the morning and felt completely beaten up. However, I manoeuvred myself out of the door and to the airport, where I had to fly to Denver early in the morning.
Reunited in Denver’s airport
When I arrived in Denver, George was waiting for me. It was strange to see each other after 11 years, and although it was awkward at the very beginning, the conversation was flowing and the chemistry was still there. He took my suitcase and we walked to his car which was parked in the garage.
We drove out and away from the airport where I could see the beautiful landscape outside. There were mountain peaks with snow in the horizon and the sun shined down through the car’s sunroof. We talked, laughed, and tried to make the first awkward meeting more natural.
Denver and the many impressions
One of the first things that made an impression on me upon arrival in Denver was the big supermarkets and the crazy selection. However, despite the huge selection, it was completely impossible to find wholegrain bread – or just bread without sugar. No matter how dark it looked, sugar was on the list of ingredients on each package. I ended up buying the one that had the darkest colour, but when took a bite of it the morning after, it was like eating pound cake and I ended up throwing it out.
My fascination with Colorado
During my three week stay, I experienced the United States in both a positive and negative way. However, I was really fascinated by Colorado and the capital of Denver. Even with the snow and cold, the sun shined from a clear sky almost every day in February that particular year. The mountains (The Rocky Mountains) with snow on top and Denver’s skyline were beautiful sights. The city is also called The Mile-High City because it is exactly one mile above sea level (1.6 km). It makes the air thinner and more fresh, and exercising in Denver is much harder than in Denmark – until you get used to it.
During the three weeks, the feelings grew between George and I. When my stay had come to an end, we had become a couple.
The great focus on customer service in the US
There were many things that stood out in the US compared to tiny Denmark, and one of the things was customer service. In stores and restaurants, I received smiles and greetings from the staff, and I was always greeted by the standard phrase; “Hey, how are you?”. At first, I did not know how much I was supposed to answer back, and I actually felt it was a little awkward until I got used to it. After a while, I ended up responding with “good, thanks,” instead of asking them back, which quickly closed the half-forced conversation.
Your complaints will be heard!
The positive thing about the high level of customer service was that I felt seen and heard, and when I was out and about, I had the opportunity to complain. For example, if the food was bad (I tried ordering a salad one time, where the leaves were completely brown and soft on the edges) I just complained to the waiter who immediately made sure to give me a new portion or remove the item completely from the bill.
In addition, the waiters continually came by and checked if everything was in order or if we were missing something. There was also free water and refills throughout the feast. (I could really use that as a standard thing at home in Denmark).
In the supermarkets, I always received free bags, and the shopping experience also included packing of my goods. However, I thought it was bad for the environment with all the free plastic bags, so I started bringing my own shopping bag (I was allowed to be just a little Danish).
There were many other differences between the United States and Denmark which I experienced, and you can read the first part of my long list here.