Things I Miss About America

The Capitol Building in Washington DC on a beautiful dayWhile I love traveling the world, sometimes I miss the little things that make America unique and special. It’s not that I want to move back to America. I still love moving around the world and experiencing new things, but there’s a lot I think America does better than other places:

Shopping Hours – I love convenience. I like knowing that if it’s 8pm at night on a Sunday I can go shopping or do a quick errand. This is one of the reasons I love Asia so much. There’s no such thing as closing time. I love how that happens in America too. Late dinner? Forgot the olive oil? No problem! The supermarket’s still open. It’s Sunday at 7pm and your computer breaks? No problem! Best Buy is still open. In so many parts of the world, shops and services close at 6pm and on Sundays. It’s inconvenient, especially if you work a regular job. I don’t need 24 hours, just shops that adjust to working hours.

Service – I like being waited on and having attentive servers and people in stores who are friendly and helpful. I like having people who say hello, please, and thank you. It’s nice, especially when you’re not looked at funny for saying it yourself. People have this impression that Americans are loud and obnoxious but American politeness is grossly unappreciated by the world.

Taco Bell – It may be awful food, but I love it. You can only find it in America, and when I come back home, I gorge on it. I just hope Taco Bell realizes the untapped market of American expats they have and starts to expand overseas. My kingdom for a gordita!

Good Sushi – I could never live in a place without good sushi, and I’m always sad to find bad sushi when I travel. Many people say America has the best sushi outside Japan. I agree. While I’ve found good sushi in London, Paris, and Melbourne, the menu is never as extensive as in America, and it’s usually very expensive. I miss being able to eat fresh, mouthwatering fish from an extensive menu. Even in places like Denver, you can find amazing sushi. When I return to America in June, sushi will be the first meal I have off the plane.

Delicious sushi in America

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – In all my travels, New Zealand is the only country I’ve found this chocolate and peanut butter goodness in. Whoever invented this should win a Nobel Prize. They’re so good, my mouth waters just thinking about them. I have no idea why I can’t find them in other countries, but I can’t wait to eat them. I was so excited to find them in New Zealand, I ate five packets in a row.

Independent Films – As a film buff, I miss watching good independent films. While overseas, I always hear about good movies that I’ll never get to see. I’m still waiting for Up in the Air, and I’m now also going to miss Youth in Revolt. If I’m lucky, iTunes will have one or two but mostly, I miss out on all the good Fox Searchlight and Focus Features movies that remind me the future of Hollywood isn’t lost yet.

24-Hour Cable News
– I miss cable news, because when I watch it, I’m reminded of how much better my life is when I travel and don’t watch it.

Hulu – Once in a while, Saturday Night Live has a good skit, which you can watch on Hulu. I can’t watch since I’m not in the US and am far too lazy to set up a proxy server. Surf The Channel meets all my TV needs, but having Hulu to watch these clips would be nice. I’m still behind on all the good Sarah Palin spoof clips.

Colorado Rocky Mountain National Park on a gorgeous day in America

Diversity – I miss the diversity of America. I like being able to hear a million different languages from a million different people as I walk through cities. I like being able to get food from all over the world. In Asia, getting good Mexican is not impossible but pretty hard. In Europe, finding good Japanese or Korean food is the same. I’ve yet to be impressed with the Japanese food in New Zealand. Or the Mexican. And what I’d give for some Ethiopian food or a good falafel! Say what you want about America, but the diversity in culture, food, and people is lacking in many parts of the world. We’re a melting pot, and it’s beautiful.

I like going home. It gives me a renewed appreciation for the little things in America I miss. It refreshes my batteries and gives me a break from everything. These things aren’t enough to keep me home forever. No, there’s still too much to see out there—but I sure could use a good movie and some sushi right about now.

For more information on the United States, visit my country and city guides to US travel.

    • Theresa

      It’s not all of Europe that closes on Sunday, just most of it. In Sweden (or at least the big cities), you can still go to the grocery on Sunday. Hours are more limited, but at least it’s not like most of Europe, where you’re just SOL.

  1. Joe

    Refreshing. We’re not perfect, of course, but it’s surprising how many things there are that you weren’t expecting to miss.

    For the record, I’m pretty darned sure that I saw a Taco Bell in Chihuahua. Apparently Americans export irony too.

  2. Hotspot Shield takes like 10 seconds to download and connect. Or if you don’t want to install a program, use UltraSurf.

    Seriously wish there were Taco Bells in France right now…

  3. Taco Bell and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups…hell yes. I’ll unashamedly admit that after two weeks out of the US I start to get major cravings for a grilled stuft burrito.

  4. The hours are just the worst! I remember living in Holland and Denmark and NOTHING being open on Sundays. It was particularly bad, as I had class all day Mon-Fri, so how are you supposed to get everything done on a Saturday, factoring in relaxation time as well?

  5. I feel that way about California. I would miss In-N-Out….the only fast-food place I’ll eat at. And I totally understand about Peanut Butter Cups, when I lived abroad I had my parents bring over a huge bag when they visited. And yes, they were rationed.

  6. Shock of the century: my local newsagent’s (Brit term for corner store) has started selling Reece’s Peanut Butter cups. I have seen them in a few other newsagents elsewhere in London, too. Yay!

    I have to disagree about America being the place to hear 100 different languages and get different cuisines from around the world; I think that’s only true in larger cities, especially on the coasts. I have lived in London for 14 years now and I know that I hear/eat/experience far more diverse cultures here than in Dallas.

    I think you just need to look outside the touristy central London areas to find the real gems of London. Including (ultimate shocker) Mexican food – there is now a fab Mexican place in Islington called Chilango. It was founded by a Chicago expat who couldn’t find decent Mexican in London, so he started his own! I think they may be a small chain now…

  7. Well, after two years traveling and nesting, I can say I don’t miss much back in America. But, the good customer service is a plus, and the fast food and a cancer. I guess just positives and negatives everywhere.

  8. I have actually found Taco Bell while traveling and it’s always in places I would have never thought. They have one here in Quito, Ecuador and almost died when I put that taco supreme in my mouth! lol I also found Taco Bell in Kuwait of all places (who knew)???

    As for Reese’s Peanut Butter I can’t get them in Ecuador but they did have them in Peru. My girlfriend got hooked on them while teaching in the US and wanted to dump all the clothes out of our backpacks and load up on them before we went back to Ecuador. She wanted 1/2 for herself and the other 1/2 to sell to friends (who crave them as well). Cracked me up and finally told her no way was I getting rid of clothes for chocolates… I kind of regret it now though. :)

    Good post and the only thing I would add that I miss is Mountain Dew. You can get it in the Middle East but it doesn’t taste the same for some reason. Pretty much I have only seen it in the US for some reason (thats good Dew).

  9. Bec

    agree: opening hours (24 hour supermarkets are closed on christmas? that would be outlawed in the US!!)

    -small (foreign) independent movies are released in their home countries first, which means being overseas gives you a huge head jump on them vs. being in the US!
    -look harder. they sell reeses peanut butter cups in other places ( ie: Australia). they are few and far between, but they do exist!

    i do agree about hulu, to an extent. i was lucky and was overseas when they first released it, so i didn’t know what i was missing for years until i finally got home.

    i love travelling for you learn tons about your own country as well!

  10. Brian

    My son would freak if we traveled somewhere there weren’t Reese’s PB Cups on hand! Glad to read above that Miko says Reese’s are sold in at least one London shop, since that’s our next place to visit overseas with the kids in tow.

  11. I agree with Miko. I think it depends where you are. I’m currently in Seoul where most things are open until 4am (except banks) and the service is amazing. If I want a waiter, I just have to yell “here” or push an electronic button and someone is there in less than 10 seconds.

    Although, there is a litany of other things that I miss. Good burgers being at the top.

  12. Traveling really does make you appreciate what’s here. And I love that you put sushi, since you were the one that introduced me to good sushi :)

  13. Your top 3 are mine, too!!!!!!!!!!!!! god, customer service, we take it for granted. And all night restaurants where you can grab late night coffee and pie with your friends!

    PB cups – they have ’em here in Sydney. I’ll take you to them when you come!

  14. I don’t have anything as interesting as PBC or Taco Bell, but as a parent who travels a lot with his kids, I really notice the playgrounds and parks that are lacking in a lot of cities. I’m sure this is one of those comments that someone could turn around and say, it’s due to our desire to control and structure our kids environment (here in the States), but you take your kids to some of the play areas in Vietnam or Thailand or even Ireland, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Man do we have it good at home!”

    And as far as food, when you grow up in Canada and get to eat good potato chips, then live in the States as an adult where they’re crap, well, you just get used to missing the things you love.

  15. I love peanut butter cups too! it’s actually available here in Singapore. My ex-colleagues got hooked on it after stealing a few pieces from me.

    Taco Bell was actually available here some time back, but I think it closed down in 2008. But we’re having more food choices coming in this year, there’s now Wendy’s and T.G.I.F. :)

  16. Matt – I know you’re from Boston..I live by the Taco Bell in Inman Square. Literally across the street.

    Before I leave the country, I always eat there. It’s tradition. Love that you included it on your list!


  17. I used to go to Baja all the time for work and play. We would usually spend the weekend. While there was something so nice about going across the border and feeling the hot Mexican sunlight on your face there was always an equally nice feeling crossing back into the U.S. even though in a way I hated to admit. There is always a definite feeling a freedom coming back home esp. when it comes to conveniences and having choices of what type of aspirin or bread you want. It is nice for sure and easy to take for granted. Oddly I feel similar when I go home to Massachusetts for a visit. It’s beautiful, the pace is slower and it’s just an easier way of life. Then I come back to California and can’t believe the diversity of people, food and 24 hr taco shops. It’s something you never get tired of.

  18. Henrik

    yes, the convenience, but then again, if this is true:
    “I miss cable news because, when I watch it, I’m reminded how much better my life is when I travel and don’t watch it,” then not having Sunday night open store makes you reflect that you really don’t need a store to enjoy Sunday evening!
    Same I’m catching myself checking cell phone over and over, but sometimes when it suddenly dies on me I feel true happiness! :-)
    happy travels!

  19. Monna McD

    Matt, Bangkok has many of the things on your list including long hours at shops, ethnic diversity, good sushi (apparently) and (this makes me happy) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (they sell them at Villa). That being said, I still miss Canada in all of her great-white-north glory!

    • NomadicMatt

      As someone who lives in Bangkok too, I can say yes BKK does have all of that stuff…but at what villa did you find reeses?

  20. Taco Bell is outside of the States, and was even in China for a short time before closing down due to slow business. Australia had Taco Bell for a brief period and again closed down due to lack of interest from consumers.

    Some places you might want toget that gordita include Iceland, Mexico, Spain, Singapore and United Arab Emirates.

    If you make it to Dominican Republic, they even have fries on the menu!

  21. All too often we take things for granted, like fast food and sushi, and it takes a longer trip abroad to really understand how good we have it at home. Like others have said, not perfect, but certainly far from bad.

  22. Thanks for the list. It’s amazing what we take for granted and find we miss when we’re away from home. I wonder what my freakish list will be. I’ll be moving to Korea soon to teach and I’ve been reading about the cry for Reese’s peanut butter cups (they don’t have peanut butter there?). The No Hulu part scares me though- errrr…I never considered that my web network might be different and that I may not have access to sites I frequent. =-( Is there a way to find out more about that?

  23. I’ve been living in Cancun for the last 5 years. About 1 year ago I saw Reese cups for the first time here, at a store called OXXO (Mexican 7-11). I almost started to cry, and my friends thought I was insane.

    I first tried sushi in Cancun, where the soy sauce is lime flavored. As a result, regular soy sauce grosses me out and I can’t eat sushi outside of Mexico. I’m sure it’s not authentic, but it’s oh-so-good!

    I miss wearing cute boots and sweaters in the winter. Here, it’s flip flops and tank tops all day every day. (I know it sounds awesome, but it gets old.)

  24. Brandy

    Agree with Micah – free refills with a ton of ice! I miss that. Also, my go-to fast food restaurant that I miss is Chick-Fil-A. I would pay a lot of money for a sweet iced tea from there right about now.

  25. Pamela

    In California we are spoiled. While in New Zealand recently, we couldn’t find decent bread, thin crust pizza (in fact any Italian food worth eating), micro-brewed beers (NZ has a couple of nice micro breweries – but expensive), cheeses (except for one make, also expensive) and hamburgers.

  26. Theresa

    I think service can kind of go both ways. Both times I came back to the U.S. after living in Europe for a year, the service felt overbearing. I was kind of used to being left alone, and definitely never hurried out the door. When it’s done right, American service is a good thing. But so many times, it’s like the wait staff is constantly hanging over your shoulder, clearing your plate before you’re even done, bringing the check long before you’re ready to leave.

  27. Miriam

    Oh man I so know what you’re talking about!!! I went to Japan and felt the same way especially about the diversity. It was so WEIRD being the odd man out for once! (I was the only Caucasian for like 50 miles where I lived).

    A bit thing I missed about America while in Japan was the freedom! People in America don’t care about whatever you’re up to as much as Japanese people do. One time when I was in Japan I walked down the street while drinking a lemonade. When I got home my host mom was instantly on me and going on about how a friend had called her and told her I was walking while drinking. A friend of hers had called her to tell her I was walking while drinking! I was shocked, to say the least, by their level of control over each other’s lives.
    It was like that at my school too, where they had ridiculous rules like “no changing the shape of your eyebrows”. And they would check too. Every week you had to line up and let your homeroom teacher push up your bangs and examine your eyebrows. That kind of thing is just unimaginable in America.

    I LOVE traveling abroad and experiencing all these things!!!
    But I also love America and it’ll always be my home. :)

  28. I’m not American however I lived there for 2 years indulging in all the things you mentioned… I too miss Taco Bell and randomly French Vanilla Coffee Creamer. Luckily we have 24-hour stores in Cape Town but the service, oh the service… just to get a smile out of a shop attendant is like pulling teeth without any drugs! Although I come from a wonderfully diverse country, America is such a treat – with as you say, its ‘melting pot’ of cultures and traditions, I would come and visit again in a heart-beat.

  29. Sushi in Denver rocks but I am biased since we’re from there. Where did you eat? Sushi Den? Sushi SaSa? I do miss the good service with no pressure to buy, great mexican food, and Chick-Fil-a but its comforting to know its there when we go home. We’re in your neck of the woods right now. Do you have any good recommendations for Sushi in Bangkok?

    • NomadicMatt

      Zen Cuisina in Central World is amazing. Great portions and quality. There is also a place on Sukhimvit 27 but I forget the name. Just as good.

  30. Quincy

    totally agree matt! all of these things made me so homesick the first month i was in australia. i missed being able to go to a store at 8pm and pick up something that i needed last minute. so missed the food and everything else i was used to but once i got over that i started to enjoy myself. now that i am back home i want to go back and relive it all again but just much more throughly. love what i am seeing on your site right now :)

  31. Every ex-pat I’ve ever met (including myself) ALWAYS puts some kind of food (or foods) on their list of things they miss from their home country. Food is a total experience for the senses, so I’m guessing that’s why :-) I hear you on the PBCs! I found Ben and Jerry’s PBC ice cream once at my local supermarket, and I felt like I had died and gone to heaven as I devoured THE ENTIRE THING IN ONE SITTING.

    I miss inexpensive (but nice) clothing. And having hot water all the time. And floor cleaner that smells like lemons, not bad perfume.

  32. Allen

    They have reeses cups here in Shenzhen, China where I live. Also a few here and there in Hong Kong about 1 hour away from here. They used to have Taco Bell Grande here but it’s gone due to low income. Most Chinese don’t like fast food outside of Mcdonald. I miss Taco Bell and Captain D’s and Wendy’s.

    Ahh when I go home I am really going to gorge out on food.

  33. Nicole

    I’m sure someone has already posted this but you can find Reeces Peanut Buttercups in Australia now (I’ve found them in Adelaide and Melbourne).
    Often you’ll find them in the quirky lollyshops down side alleys or other places though.

  34. Well, Matt, you made me feel pretty sad now because I am moving back to my country and I know I will miss US, but reading your words makes me realize how much I will miss culture, diversity, and the abundance of variety of food from around the world that is available in US, especially in NY. But I miss my family the most, so I am moving back :) Cheers to all the travelers out there!!!

  35. Jeffrey

    Wow! Been gone six months, and I’m really starting to miss it. KFC? Can’t find it. The closest McDonalds is in the neighboring country. Really stuck; no Walmart, no BK, no DQ, no Cracker Barrel… none… Wonder why I’m here. Oh yeah, family!!! Greater than all this. Will see you again US, just a matter of time. Cheers.

  36. marilynn Smith

    A good American breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns. I stayed a lot in B&B,s, hostels and lower end hotels, when traveling Europe. Usually it was their coffee and a croissant for breakfast. Also, when I ordered meals, often I could get french fries, but not a baked potato. Service with a smile, yes American’s get good service, appreciate it. People who say please and thank you, we are polite, I was there 2 months, traveled a lot of places the regular tourists do not go and a lot of touristy spots. I never once saw a rude American, I did have Europeans treat me very rudely.

  37. Ally

    I know this post is a few years old, but I’ve found Reese’s in Ireland! They were in a vending machine, and came with 3 PB cups per package. Haha. I also use Hola for Chrome, which is a chrome extension that unblocks sites like hulu/netflix/pandora/youtube, etc. It’s been nice to catch up on shows during downtime while I’m in Europe!

  38. Andrew

    Moved to Canada from SF and I agree with you about shopping hours. US shopping hours is a minimum commodity for me and Asian shopping hours are just bliss. Try Japanese ?????I agree that good sushi is much easier to find in the US than many places in Europe. But I’ve got to disagree with America having the best outside of Japan. Come to Vancouver and we’ll show you what the best sushi culture outside of Japan is. Sushi here is of so much importance you cannot go more than a block without seeing a sushi restaurant. It is our fast food and classy food. It is bistro and traditional. Fresh and fresh. Also why would you need Reese’s when you’ve got Tim Tams in NZ? Haha. Lastly, I thought I knew diversity having lived in NY, LA, and SF. But try visiting Toronto, that’s just something else.

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