A joke we overheard in a coffee shop in Italy:
Question: What’s the difference between yogurt and the United States of America?
Answer: Yogurt has culture.
Okay, maybe that’s a little funny. The problem is, it isn’t true. The United States is full of culture. It isn’t as gourmet as, say, Italy. Nor is it as old as China or as enveloping as India, or as snobby as France. But it most certainly is there. American culture is diverse, interesting, and, we’d argue, it’s one of the most fun national cultures on the planet.
Want proof? Below is our recommendation for five distinctly American cultural experiences that you are unlikely to find written up in any guidebook.
Note: For this post we only considered experiences that are available across the country. Anything that’s exclusive to a specific ethnic group or region — attending Burning Man in Nevada or eating gumbo in New Orleans or getting yelled at by a taxi driver in New York City, for instance — was disqualified. We also nixed holiday events, like the 4th of July American Independence Day.
While this post was written with non-American travelers in mind, those from the United States may also gain some travel tips by reading on . . .
Stockings may wind up on the floor instead of over the fireplace
Yes, Virginia (and Mara and Wei and Dev and Ashley), there IS a Santa Claus. And contrary to popular belief, Santa only winters at the North Pole with the Missus! But he’d love to have you visit his permanent residence — in Osaka — if you have a little time, and mischief, on your hands.
That’s right, jolly ol’ Saint Nick makes his home in Japan, at the eyepopping Chapel Christmas, in one of Japan’s thousands of “love hotels.” Santa’s a nice chap, but he’s never naive. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, and he knows there always a little of both going on at the Hotel Chapel Christmas.
Have you ever been to a raucous wedding reception that turned into an epic party? Exactly 202 years ago this October, the German Prince Ludwig the First married Princess Therese and afterwards hosted exactly such a celebration. It was so memorable that the attendees wanted to relive it every year. That desire spawned the annual alcohol-filled party known today as Oktoberfest.
Happily for lovers of celebrations and beer, Oktoberfest has very much spread beyond Germany in the last two centuries. Here is Spot Cool Stuff’s roundup of a few great places to enjoy the occasion outside of Europe. These Oktoberfests span the globe and are attended by revelers across the spectrum of race, religion and political affiliation. We see it as proof that one of man’s most universal and fundamental desires is to have fun — while guzzling beer and wearing lederhosen.
The bar offers “Martinis and Manicures” every night for the ‘60s bargain price of $10 for both!
The “swinging ‘60s” might be so last millennium, but partying like Mad Men’s purveyor of cool, Don Draper, is about as current as it gets. In honor of the new season of the cool AMC show Mad Men, here’s your guide to a retro night out in New York City, from kitschy New York bars to lounges specializing in Old Fashioneds and Mint Juleps:
Imagine a drawing class and you probably conjure an image of a studious group of experienced artists silently sketching a bowl of fruit whilst a demanding teacher paces back and forth whispering criticism to students.
If you were to take that image and replace the studious group of experienced artists with a fun gaggle of drinkers who might not have drawn anything since kindergarten, and then were to substitute the whispering teacher with an gregerous social director, and then were to swap out the bowl of fruit for a corseted madam doing a dance routine inside a steel cage, then you’d have a vague picture of what it’s like taking a class at Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School.
I’d like the grilled fish with mango and a condom, please.
In Bangkok, there’s a lunch and dinner spot where you can utter that sentence to your waiter without it being the punch line of some (probably not very good) joke. Tucked away on one of the Thai capital’s many side streets is the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant.