5 Things You Won't See in the U.S. (Without Someone Getting in a Twist)!

1. Questionable Business Advertising

Pharmacy in Ravello, Italy

Culinary advertising is a Fine Art

This pharmacy in Ravello, Italy looks more like a Facebook meme than a pharmacy. When it comes to combining drugs and alcohol, I'm sure this kind of in-your-face business name would not fly with American sensibilities. Sure people love their wine and drugs, but not in the same sentence and don't call them drugs.


And then there's advertising. What different sensibilities we have from say, an Italian audience. Who do you think is the target audience with this 'culinary' billboard on the Marina Grande on Capri, Italy?


2. Public Condom/Pregnancy Test vending machines 

You'd never see a condom/pregnancy test machine in a public place in the United States, because that would just encourage youngsters to fornicate right? I found this machine in Italy, and lest you think it was tucked away in the back of a public restroom?....oh no.

This condom vending machine is front and center in a small town in Italy

This condom vending machine is front and center in a small town in Italy

It was snack dab in the main piazza in town, directly across the street from the Church, next to the coffee shop.


Italians, and Europeans in general, are more open, and dare I say less uptight, about sexuality than Americans. If you ever saw this in the U.S., I'm sure there would be scores of complaints from religious and anti-contraception groups demanding its removal. I honestly don't think I've ever even seen a public dispenser of pregnancy tests - that's a new one!


3. Street food stands

Food trucks and street vendors operate in the U.S. but not to the degree you see elsewhere around the world.  Between health and zoning laws, and the abundance of sterile, mass produced food, we seem to have lost our sensibilities about what real food actually is, and how it should be prepared and stored.

Tacos, La Paz, BCS, Mexico

It amazes me when I travel and see the abundance of outdoor street food stands, stalls, warungs, you name it. I've grown to love eating street food wherever I go, I love to try what the locals are eating.  


It's a simple fact that many places around the world don't have the luxury of storage or refrigeration. If you want to go local, a good rule of thumb to be safe and sanitary is to simply look for the longest lines, and follow the lead of the locals. Changes are the food is fresh and the best around. Watch the food preparation, ask some questions (get a small phrasebook) and you should be fine. Now, you may end up not liking the taste, but you should be safe from food borne illnesses (of course, always ask what the ingredients are to avoid food allergies or super-hot food you may not be used to). 

Though food trucks and street vendors exist in the U.S., they're not without heavy regulation. And often these regulations impede their ability to open in the first place or operate in the long run. 


This outdoor taco stand in La Paz, Mexico - on the lower Baja peninsula - had some of the best tacos I've had in my life! The meats were grilled but sat outside for awhile, which may have made some Americans a bit squeamish. The condiments and grilled whole onions were freshly prepared, and we happily enjoyed eating tacos washed down with cold beers. We followed the locals, and they led us to great tacos! 


Use common sense when you travel: Be smart, be diligent - but please don't miss out on some of the best local food when you travel - the street food!  



4. Transportation

The U.S. has strict laws concerning transportation, though many of them vary by state. For instance, the state of Florida has no motorcycle helmet law, while many other states do. Children traveling in cars are required in most states to be strapped into a secure child seat until they reach a minimum height or weight, whichever comes first.

A family of five gets around town in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Lombok, Indonesia - Families, students, and workers all hitch rides to get where they need to go

Lombok, Indonesia - Families, students, and workers all hitch rides to get where they need to go

Compare that to Indonesia, above, where locals call motorbikes "the mosquito of Indonesia". That may not be far off, since they are everywhere, and are the form of transportation most used by the entire family. At once. On the same bike. The motorcycle above is carrying a family of five (Dad's driving, Mom's holding the infant, one son is standing behind Dad, and another is in front).


Without making any judgments here, I can see benefits to both. Certainly, the U.S. loves its SUVs, huge gas guzzlers and carbon footprint monsters that they are. Motorcycles on the other hand have a smaller carbon footprint - but some countries have questionable emissions laws which may end up polluting the environment as much or more. I don't know the answer. But part of me does long for the days when we could pile in the back of the pick-up truck without fear of Dad landing in jail. Ah, the good old days!


5. Personal Responsibility

This is a favorite of mine. Whenever I travel outside the U.S., certain examples of personal responsibility and the concept of "At Your Own Risk" really stand out!  Americans are used to being told what to do, and how to do it, especially in public places. Liability laws have resulted in billboards and other signs that steer us in the right direction and caution us when we're going the wrong way or doing the wrong thing.  It's gotten to the point where we expect there to be signs, and directions, and clear instructions so we don't screw up and hurt ourselves or others. But not so in many other countries, where the need for personal responsibility is refreshing.

Mexico has the right idea - "Tourist, Take Care of Yourself"!

I often hear Americans abroad comment when these situations arise - "I can't believe there's no sign", "They really need to warn people about that", "Isn't that dangerous?", "They need to do a better job with that".  


Honestly, I think Americans need to do a better job at watching out for ourselves a little bit more. That's not to say that hospitality businesses aren't without a certain level of responsibility to care for the safety of their guests. But many places that travelers love to visit are remote and off-the-beaten-path, and travelers must accept responsibility for their own safety.

Handrails? What handrails? We don't need no stinking handrails!

Take Machu Picchu, for example, a perfect analogy for personal responsibility. One of the most iconic places on earth  - and certainly remote, wild, and wonderful. But if you're planning on hiking the Inca Trail or Wayna Picchu, personal responsibility is an absolute must. There are few handrails, and trails can be downright treacherous. In fact, the hike to Wayna Picchu requires hikers to sign a register book when you ascend and return, so they know whether to send a search team for you.


So, as the Mexico Tourist Board suggests as you enter their cenotes and underground caves - "Tourist, Take Care of Your Self"!


What are your favorite examples of personal responsibility and Things You Rarely See in the U.S.?  Share them with us here!