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Things you should know before traveling to the United-States and especially New York

Before going on a new adventure and take your New York flight, there are a couple of little things you must know that you may not be familiar with. Whether it’s alcohol, tobacco, streets rules, tips or pharmacies… Oh yes, several differences can be acknowledged in the US and it’s a real change with our “old Europe” as they like to call it. I've never been to Australia, so I can't compare, you'll tell me 😉

Tobacco

The consumption of cigarettes dropped drastically in the past few years in New York City, from 21% to 13%! Why? Well, among several reasons, you may know that the prices are very high, a pack of cigarettes is around $13 minimum. It helps quit smoking!
Plus, under the Smoke Free Air Act, smoking is illegal in most indoor places (bars, restaurants, clubs) and public areas like parks, beaches, pools...

If you're a cigarette or e-cig smoker, the restriction is:
- as for now, you are still allowed to smoke outside, except for NYU (New York University) in Greenwich Village and in front of High Schools where you have to be at least 15 feet (4.5m) away from  entrances.
- you can smoke in some bars and restaurants where they sell tobacco like: SoHo Cigar Bar, Karma, Sugar East, Nat Sherman, Club Macanudo, Lexington Bar and Books, Hudson Bar and Books
- you can't smoke in indoor places and public areas as mentioned above. Pedestrian plazas like Times Square are smoke free too!

You must be 18 to buy cigarettes, and yes they will ask for your ID.
If you’re under 18, and happen to smoke in the streets, you could have some trouble with people since here, smoking is not well received.

Alcohol

Just like tobacco, in order to buy alcohol or enter a bar in New York where it’s being sold, you must be 21 and show your ID. Take your ID with you anytime you want to go to a bar, you will be asked to prove your age event if you are in your mid 50.
Besides, United States forbids any alcohol consumption in the streets including New York. If you want to drink in public, hide yourself (brown paper bag) or go to Las Vegas where it’s permitted!

ID Card

During your stay, no need to walk around with your passport. Personally, I use my ID card everywhere in NYC and I usually leave my passport in my suitcase and only take my wallet with my ID card in it.

The best tip I can give you is to use it as your main identification since it’s pocket sized and most importantly, is you happen to loose it, you’d still be able to leave the US with your passport.

For the anxious or super organized ones (depending on how you see things), make a photocopy of your passport ahead of your trip and leave it with your partner or friend’s bag.

Pedestrian Crossing

Lastly, since there are always tourists who do not understand it the first time: for pedestrians, the lights turn green and it’s good to go but after a few seconds, however, with certain lights, a countdown appears like this: “10, 9, 8, 7, 6…1”. Of course, this means that you have a certain amount of seconds to hurry and cross the street. And not the contrary, as a friend of mine experienced while in Seattle (just like NY); she waited for the countdown to reach 0 and started crossing. She understood very quickly her mistake while she was stuck in the middle of the street with cars passing by and honking in harmony!!!! 

So pay attention to those little details while in New York. 

Pharmacies

In United States, if you catch a small thing like a cold, a cough, a sore throat or a stomach virus.. don’t go to the doctor, it going to cost you an arm and a leg. However, you can always visit a pharmacy where there’s always a pharmacist to advise you. In United States and especially in New York, pharmacies are often located inside department stores where they share their shelves with food. However, shelved medicine is always available without prescription and you can choose anything without restriction expect for cough syrup where you’d have to show your ID. So, it’s a pretty easy and inexpensive solution if you happen to catch a cold because of the AC on the plane.
Look for CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Rite Aid... 

Tips

You must know that in restaurants and bars, waiters barely receive a salary. Therefore, in United States, you pay 15% of the total of your bill in tips. Now, according to certain states and cities, it may vary a little.

Back in the days, we used to tip 5% when very unhappy, 10% for an ok service and 15% for top-notch service. Nowadays in a restaurant, it’s more like 10% for lousy service, 15% when it’s so so service and 20% (not limited) for perfect service.
In a taxi or shuttle, you can give around 10% to the driver.
You can leave $1 to $2 to your housekeeper or the person who helped you with your luggage or catching a cab at the hotel.

Lastly, regarding the waiter, like I said, they are paid because of tips. This way, you’ll see everything they do to make you happy: smile, kindness and politeness... in other words, all this attention in order to appear to be the perfect waiter.
You don't have to tip when there's no service at all like at a fast food. They often put a jar on the counter for tips, you can leave $1 or $2, it does not have to be minimum 15% as in a restaurant.

Salesman and waiters

You’ll notice that as soon as you enter a store, most salesmen will come to you with a “Hey Guys” or “How are you today?” Then, if you never travel to America (same story in Canada), you could also see the salesman or the waiter introducing himself with his first name. It’s a way of being friendly with the customer, which is really pleasant after all.

So don’t be surprised gentlemen, if you see a beautiful saleswoman telling you: “how you doin'?”, smiles at you, ask if they can help you and she’ll finally tell you that her name is “Brenda”!!! 😉

Conclusion

There we are, we rounded some really good tips you should know before getting off the plane at the airport and remember that things are different in the US especially in New York 🙂

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