The star-spangled postdoc

This post is part of the #BRSMblogparty organized by @JessTheChemist and @AzaPrins to wish @BRSM_blog all the best for his impending postdoc in the US. I spent almost 9 years on the west coast (in the Los Angeles area) and so hopefully some of the points I make below won’t be hopelessly out of date…

Apologies for not using the template, but here are a few things I think @BRSM_blog should know:

1. As Jess has already pointed out, turning right at red lights is awesome. Shame we can’t do the same thing here in the UK — turning left, that is; right turns on red here at home would make things somewhat interesting (and crashy).

2. Another driving tip — there are very few roundabouts in the US and they are called ‘traffic circles’. I think that nobody knows how to use them.

3. Immediately after the opening credits of many TV shows in the US there is an advert break. This is as annoying as it sounds.

4. ‘Amide’ and ‘azide’ are pronounced as if they were spelled without the ‘e’ at the end. It sounds really weird. After one conversation with an American prof I had to ask someone what a ‘zid’ was; I had no idea.

5. Fanny doesn’t mean what I imagine many Brits think it means.

6. America has only four types of cheese: American (naturally), Swiss, Provolone and Monterey Jack. (OK, I’m exaggerating, but it sure did seem that way…). Oh, hang on, there’s that spray cheese too!

7. On a related note, it’s a similar situation with crisps — which, of course, are called chips. I don’t recall there being a great range of flavours beyond barbecue or sour cream and onion. Funyuns are brilliant though.

8. Other food notes: the milk tastes different to how it does over here, and forget about skimmed, semi-skimmed and whole — the US has it’s own nomenclature system.

9. It’s mostly beef, beef and beef. I found the meat selection in supermarkets somewhat limited. And if you’re a fan of lamb, well, you might be disappointed. Having said that, the steak in the US is amazing.

10. Continuing the meat theme, bacon is somewhat limited and sausage is not sausage as you know it. You’ll see.

11. The price displayed on an item is not the price you pay — that takes some getting used to. Figure out what the sales-tax rate is in the state you’re going to (it varies on a state-by-state basis) and then don’t forget to add that to the listed price.

12. You’ll probably need to file taxes. You’ll probably wish you didn’t have to.

13. College football is awesome — go to a game or two (or three). It’s much better than the NFL. Try to catch a baseball game too (MLB, not college, for that one).

14. Tea is typically something that has ice and lemon in it. This is wrong on so many levels.

15. Thanksgiving is a much bigger holiday than Christmas.

16. Phone numbers are listed with a 3-digit area code at the start. What nobody told me (and many of the rest of us who moved over at the same time) is that, in many cases, you need to dial a ‘1’ before the area code… I don’t know if this gets added automatically with smartphones these days.

17. You must eat at In-N-Out Burger at some point during your stay. It’s the law.

18. Las Vegas. Go. Leave your bank card in your hotel room and only take as much cash out with you as you’re prepared to lose. Go to the buffet at Caesar’s.

19. The best description of local TV news that I heard was given by a comedian at an open-mic night — “I can sum up the local news in 10 words: car chase, car chase, car chase, man in a hole!”

20. I was late for lab on more than one occasion because there was a live car chase on TV when I got up for breakfast. I am not necessarily proud of this…

I realise a lot of these are perhaps negative, but there are many positive things about the US when it comes to living and working there. I leave it to you to figure out the rest. Have a great time. Work hard, play hard, and make the most of being in a different place. Immerse yourself in the culture and travel as much as you can. Have fun!

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2 Responses to The star-spangled postdoc

  1. mevans says:

    On point 7, look for cheddar and sour cream…and nacho cheese Doritos. Doritos are like crack to Americans (I would know…).

  2. Pingback: #BRSMBlogParty | The Organic Solution

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