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Posts tagged ‘USA’


Destination: New York, USA

The reason why New York is a super popular touristic destination is because it’s such a diverse city and it has something for everyone. More than one person told me before I went “Oh, you’ll love it! It’s my favourite city!”

So what makes it so loved? New York is definitely impressive. All the famous places you’ve seen in movies, the skyscrapers, rushed people, Central Park, they all make you feel the strong impact of this powerful city.

If you really want to “feel” the city and get that really local feeling, I’d suggest saving up and finding a place to stay on the Manhattan island, either a hotel or an airbnb – it’s close to everything and you’ll earn more time to look around than spend on transportation.

I’m not usually the type of tourist to go on the beaten path but some of the popular places have really fascinated me, like Top of The Rock, which is a three level observation deck at the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The Empire State Building is another place you can get 360° views of the city, however if you have to choose between the two, I’d go with Top of The Rock; it has windows instead of a fence and the highest level doesn’t have any restrictions. It’s totally safe though, I promise. Timing of the people going up is more organised and you actually have enough space to take photos and enjoy the view.

Empire State building seen from The Top of the Rock


Opposite that: Central Park, Upper East Side and Upper West Side

Take a day for Central Park, it’s a fantastic place. If you’re working your way up North, on the West side of the Park you’ll find the Guggenheim Museum, which is a real masterpiece of architecture and a great art museum.

West Village and Greenwich Village are definitely the cutest districts. If you’re a fan of Friends, that’s where their famous building is! Sadly, it’s just a normal residential building, as the show was all filmed in studios in California.

Lovely West Village

Lovely West Village

If you don't recognise this building we can't be friends.

If you don’t recognise this building we can’t be friends.

Another interesting place that I loved was The High Line. It’s an old elevated section of a railway in Chelsea district transformed into a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) linear park. While you’re there make sure to see Chelsea Market – an old factory now transformed into an indoor food hall. They have amazing food from all over the world. It’s very hard to resist eating everything in sight, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There are many great places in New York that are waiting to be discovered. Just get lost on the streets of different districts and wander around, they all have their own unique character.

Travelling to New York? Be prepared with uTalk – you can use it from over 100 languages!




Español en Florida? Por supuesto!

This year in November I went for my first trip in the USA. I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in sunny Florida and it was wonderful! But the story I want to share with you starts earlier than that, on our way. After a 10 hour long flight spiced with excitement, plans and anticipation we landed at Miami Airport. We went through a few security checks and at the last one, there was a nice man who greeted me in good Romanian after checking my passport. When I asked how it is that he knows Romanian, he said he visited our country not too long ago and he made great friends and saw beautiful places.

The stress of the airport was immediately relieved when I heard the Romanian words, and even more because they came from a native English speaker, who learned a few expressions in a language that he probably won’t have much use for except delighting Romanian citizens with “Bună ziua” and “Ce mai faci?”

Ioana in Florida

Once we settled into our flat, we went for a walk to discover the city. My boyfriend is a native Spanish speaker and we always comment when we hear someone speaking Spanish on the street here in London, so when the situation occurred we did the same. Then another time. And another time. It’s pretty accurate to say that we heard more Spanish than English in Miami.

I was surprised when I was addressed questions in Spanish from a shop keeper when I wanted to pay for the shopping – I understood from some of the words and gestures that she was asking me if I needed a bag so I proudly replied, “No, gracias!” I immediately got an adrenaline rush from this first time speaking Spanish with a stranger – amazing! It was probably an ordinary conversation for her, but for me it felt like a very important step in my language learning.

We drove further north to Orlando where we noticed that Spanish wasn’t as popular, but you’d still hear it here and there. If you are passionate about languages, I strongly recommend Walt Disney World’s Epcot park – around a big beautiful lake there are many different “countries” with specific food and people that speak local languages, as well as buildings and shops decorated by the specific styles. We went for a Mexican lunch in a Maya pyramid and we got nachos on the house, which was pretty great.



One of the reasons travelling is so amazing is that you find yourself in many different situations and you just have to play it by ear and that’s really fun and exciting. Next time you travel, give our uTalk app a try and you’ll be able to chat with locals as well. Maybe even get free nachos, who knows?




To tip or not to tip?

A social dilemma you’re bound to fall into at some point is whether or not to tip – and how much! Tip too little and you risk the waiter chasing you down the street shouting abuse; tip too much and you might gravely offend the staff. Tipping customs vary all over the world, between different countries and regions (not to mention situations), so do your research before you travel!

How much should you tip?

In the USA, tipping is mandatory and fairly high, with 15-20% being expected. Service wages are fairly low, meaning people factor tips into their pay, and waiters will ask you where their tip is if you haven’t left one.

In the UK, tipping is more relaxed and is never really expected in a pub or cafe, or anywhere with self-service. In restaurants, 10% is usually expected, but if you feel the service was poor then you can express this by not leaving a tip.

Move into Romania, however, where 10% is also recommended (more if you’re really happy with the service), and not leaving a tip would be considered very rude: do not try to return to a restaurant where you didn’t leave a tip.

Drinking tips

In lots of countries in Europe, the traditional attitude towards tipping can be seen in the language: German ‘Trinkgeld’, Swedish ‘dricks’ and Danish ‘drikkepenge’ all mean ‘money for drinking’, as does the Slovak ‘prepitné’, French ‘pourboire’, Slovenian ‘napitnina’, Serbian ‘напојница’ and Croatian ‘napojnica’. The idea behind this is that you just round the bill up or leave a few coins, as a contribution towards a drink for the waiter.

Further East, the direct translation is even more specific: in Russia, you leave money ‘for tea’ (‘чаевые’). The same is true of Kazakh‘s ‘шайлық’ (шай- shai- tea’), Uzbek‘s ‘чойчақа’ and Tajiki‘s ‘чойпулӣ’).

Beware, however, that tipping practices have changed significantly and just a few coins often won’t cut it any more in these countries: be prepared for at least a 10% tip, as a broad guideline.


When not to tip

So far, the problem has only been how much to tip, and if you’ve accidentally tipped too much in America or Europe, it won’t cause any massive problems. But in some areas the attitude towards tipping changes drastically.

In Malaysia, Singapore and Japan tipping is not practised at all and could be considered odd or even offensive.

In Georgia, it can be seen as an affront to the notion of hospitality. Beware as well that a tip can easily be misconstrued as a bribe, which you definitely don’t want to get in trouble for, so make sure you look up before travelling whether tipping is normal practice in the country you’re visiting!

Have you ever been caught out by tipping etiquette?



10 reasons to visit… Las Vegas

I was lucky enough to visit one of the most notorious party cities last December; I, however, can not comment on what the night life is like in Vegas as I was only 19 and therefore not allowed to step foot into a bar or club! However, even without the partying there is so much to do in Vegas, as well as lots of places to see. We flew out on the afternoon of Friday 13th, on a plane which contained a lot of nervy people as well as plenty of bachelor and bachelorette parties. We were only there for four days and it was non-stop. Here are my top ten reasons to visit Las Vegas.

1. The Shows

Walking down the strip you can see endless advertising for different shows, concerts and celebrity residences. They all seem that much better over in Vegas; maybe this is because of the additional glitz and flashing lights, or just getting caught up in the buzz of the city. I would highly recommend going to see at least one type of show, as it is a completely different energy and atmosphere.

2. The People

Everyone in Vegas was so friendly. People couldn’t do enough for you, they were always trying to make your experience the best it could be. This didn’t just include staff working in the hotel but everyone on the strip; if people saw you were a group and one was taking a photo of everyone else, someone would always offer to take a group photo of you. People were all so chatty and friendly and even when you were approached by a salesman on the street once you said no they didn’t pester you, they still smiled and said ‘Have a great day’, how often does that happen here in the UK?

3. The Buildings

When watching the films, you expect the strip to go on for miles and miles. However, when you are there it isn’t nearly as long as you expect. Also all of the different styles of buildings you see, ranging from the classic Bellagio to the new styles such as the Wynn. You also have character buildings such as the New York, New York and the Luxor; just viewing them from the outside there is always something different to see.

The Bellagio, Las Vegas

4. Entertainment

When you are walking along the strip there is always someone or something to see. Ranging from the famous fountains at the Bellagio, to a volcano exploding in front of the Mirage and the pirate show in front of Treasure Islands, which was unfortunately under construction when we were there. There were many different types of people in fancy dress, ranging from Alan in The Hangover to Bumblebee from Transformers, who can actually turn himself from a car to a person! It is simply not possible to walk down the strip and be bored.

5. Casinos

Every hotel has a casino and each one is slightly different. When sitting at a slot machine or one of the numerous machines they have spread throughout the floor, you can really lose track of time. There are no windows and you see people sitting at the tables for hours on end. Often in the morning when you walk through the casino you see people still playing who haven’t left from the night before. Long gone are the days of inserting ‘quarters’ into the machine and pulling the handle; it is now dollar bills and pressing a button. It was rare to find a machine with a handle and it was so exciting when you did find one. Once you are there you can see how people do become addicted; just waiting for the sheet of paper to come out of the machine to tell you how much you have won, and then queuing in anticipation to collect your money. You quickly get into the ‘oh, just one more time’ mind set…

6. Lobbies of Hotels

Each hotel lobby holds something different to entice you in further towards the casinos, restaurants and shops. You want to walk into each hotel and see what they have on show. Most of the hotels were truly spectacular, especially in December where lots had a Christmas theme.

7. Grand Canyon

Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful sights you will ever see. Even if you aren’t there for long, there are various trips you can pick from, ranging from a short helicopter ride over the canyon, to an all-day adventure including having lunch in the canyon. It is a sight you will never forget and you will never see such a vast range of colours anywhere else.

Grand Canyon

8. The Shopping

An experience I have never had before. In Caesar’s Palace, walking from shop to shop, even though you are inside, you would never know. The ceiling is done in such a way that it feels like you are outside, and even simulates rain and thunderstorms. Or there is the Venetian, with the canal running throughout the ground floor where you can catch a gondola and be serenaded by a gondolier. You won’t experience shopping like this anywhere else in the world.

9. The Chocolate Fountain in the Bellagio

Something you can stand and stare at for hours wondering how it was possible to make – at first it is very hard to tell that it is even real. It is the world’s largest chocolate fountain and took a year and a half in planning and designing alone. For all of the chocolate lovers out there, it is a sight not to be missed.

10. The Food

Every different type of food you could possibly want, you can find in Vegas. The portions are huge, so sharing is definitely recommended if you aren’t overly hungry. At breakfast, when you order pancakes you don’t just get one or three, you get a stack of at least five. Vegas is also renowned for its buffets, where you pay a fixed price and you can go up as many times as you want. These aren’t just any buffets though, they have everything you could possibly want: Chinese, Italian, Seafood… anything and everything.

Pancakes in Las Vegas

Even without the partying aspect of Vegas it is still the best city I have ever been to; the list of reasons to go could go on for a very long time.

Have you been to Vegas? What were your best bits?




Halloween around the world

Halloween around the world

Halloween is one of the world’s oldest celebrations, dating back to possibly 500 AD in Ireland. The celebration was originally the ‘Celtic feast of Samhain’, a pre-Christian festival that began at sunset on 31st October and ended at sunset on 1st November. It was meant to be the night when the veil between this world and the other was at its thinnest, and the dead were very near.

Mexican day of the dead altar (Dia de Muertos)Today Halloween is celebrated in a number of countries across the world. In Mexico and other Latin America countries, Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) honours deceased loved ones and ancestors. The festival runs from midnight on 31st October until 2nd November. Traditionally 1st November is the day for honouring children that have passed, whereas 2nd November is the day for honouring the adult spirits. Families traditionally construct an altar for the dead and decorate it in sweets, flowers, photographs and the deceased’s favourite food and drink. Often a washbasin is left outside with a towel so the spirit can wash before indulging in the feast. Many people around the world, even if they are not directly connected to Mexican culture, are drawn to the concept and imagery of Mexico’s Day of the Dead, so it is continually growing in popularity.

Halloween in the Philippines is called Pangangaluluwà, which is sadly a tradition that is dying out. They have a slightly different version of trick or treating, where children go from door to door and offer a song in exchange for food or money. However, it’s not just any food they are offered; it is a kind of Filipino version of a soul cake, as they believe that every cake eaten is a soul set free in purgatory. The carollers would also be allowed to steal sundry items from the houses that they visit, such as clothes from a clothesline, eggs, vegetable and fruit. The homeowners would explain the thefts by saying it was the ‘spirits returning to the world of the living’.

It wasn’t until the 19th Century that Halloween reached America, and they do things slightly differently to us Brits. ‘Across the Pond’, Halloween marks the beginning of ‘fall’ (autumn). For families it is a time to prepare and create costumes together, compared to Brits, who normally buy pre-made outfits. In the U.S., they also have a slight twist on what to do with the ‘pumpkin guts’ after carving their jack o’lanterns; instead of throwing them away, they roast the remains with salt and cinnamon (I have to say I am very tempted to try this). When it comes to decorating their houses they also take it one step further than our pumpkin outside of your door. (I wish this were the case over here).

Autumn decoration

Here at EuroTalk we are all dressed up for the big day, from the scary (Frankenstein, skeletons and a bat) to the not so scary (Minnie Mouse, Where’s Wally – or Waldo to our American friends – and a giant baby). And of course, there’s cake. (That’s not necessarily traditional for Halloween in the UK – we just love cake.)



Halloween cake

Happy Halloween!