We have been in Miami for a little over a month now and I wanted to talk about the top 9 things that surprised me about being here. It has been a culture shock and not what we expected at all, not that that's a bad thing at all! We love how diverse and different it is to what we are used to. So, here are the top 9 things that surprised me..
Ps. You can book your accommodation for Miami or anywhere using the box here.
Ok, so it's the south of the USA and a warm climate. I expected lizards and parrots and other tropical animals.
What I didn't expect was lots of Herons, Cats, Eagles & Squirrels!!
Honestly. I'm not even joking. I have seen more squirrels in one day than I have probably ever seen in England! And the eagles! At sunset you can quite literally see hundreds of eagles. All soaring above the setting sun and orange skies, it's beautiful. (I was recently told they might be vultures and not eagles..!!)
The cats are only really in the parks and green land next to the beach but still, on a 10 min walk around the park, you're sure to see at least 5! And the herons I have seen several times. Only a handful. Maybe 5 times in 4 weeks, which to be honest isn't bad!
I expected wildlife here, just not these specific animals. It's been a nice surprise.
Oh my god - the air con. The bane of my life.
Miami is not warm at the moment. It's January, so it's a little chilly. I'll get onto this later. I don't mind the cold, what I do mind though is people putting the air con on FREEEEZING!!
Literally everywhere is so cold, all of the time. Shops, restaurants, Uber, working spaces.. they are all on maximum cold. It's so cold that people here have "indoor jackets". They have hoodies, jackets and jumpers that they take with them on a day to day basis for when they go into a cold shop or restaurant. Even on hot days.
WHAT?! Is it just me that finds this a little bit mental?
3. Tax & Tipping
The tax here gets me every time. I go to a restaurant and look at the menu & prices. Order something that costs $10 let's say, then when I go to pay, it's like $12. It's so confusing as you think that maybe they got the order wrong or added a drink by accident.
Then add on the tip which is sometimes already added on, then they ask you for more! In Europe, we only tip if the food & service is exceptional. We wouldn't tip someone for a sandwich or a drink.
I don't mind tipping sometimes and not others but what I don't like is when you have a queue of people behind you who can see if you tip or not. I always feel the pressure to tip even if I don't particularly want to.
I think this must be a cultural thing as it seems like everyone here tips anyone for everything.
I have spent the last 6 years of my life learning French. I thought I could come to the USA and speak English but apparently not in Miami. Everyone here speaks Spanish! I don't mind. It means I'll soon be speaking 3 languages but I didn't expect to need it as much as I do. Of course I can get by in English. But you tend to miss conversations or interactions with people who can't speak English.
You walk into a store and they speak Spanish first, then if you give them a blank expression (which I often do!), they then switch to English. I would say that 90% of the Uber or Lyft drivers I've had are Spanish speaking and tend to be from Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica etc. I would love to talk to them about their cultures and backgrounds but often it is too hard for both of us.
People in the street seem to speak Spanish too. I'm not complaining, it's good and it will be great to learn a 3rd language. I just didn't expect it to be this heavily influenced.
5. Car horns
So this is a funny one. But I didn't realise that car horns beep here when you lock the car or shut the door. I didn't even realise when we came for a week here last summer but living next to a busy road means we often hear beeps in the evening when cooking dinner or laying in bed.
It's not super loud or super annoying - just something that we didn't expect and didn't understand for the first couple of weeks. It took a while to realise that it was automatic and not people beeping every now and then!
I don't have a photo of a car horn - so here is a beautiful sunrise instead. You're welcome!
6. How big it is
Before we came to Miami last summer, I didn't realise just how big it is. It took me 2 hours to cycle from South Pointe Park (very bottom of Miami Beach) to Bal Harbor (the very north of Miami Beach). I'm no what's-that-guys-name-who-cycled-and-had-cancer-and-did-the-livestrong-thing person, but I thought it would take considerably less.
It's great that it's so big as there is a lot to explore but it also means that it is hard to walk anywhere. It would take hours if you wanted to go a considerable distance. Which means that there is a lot of traffic due to people either driving, taking the bus or travelling in an Uber/Lyft.
The size of the city also means that you can have a nice residential area several blocks wide next to a rough area with the windows bordered up and trash everywhere. But it also means that you have tall glass buildings next to old houses & graffiti. There is a real mix of people and cultures here, all jumbled up into one large space, which brings me to my next point...
I'll be honest. Obviously I expected there to be people of all races and backgrounds here as Miami is right above Central & South America. Plus it is a popular destination for people from all over the world. But I am surprised at just how multicultural it is. There are people here from everywhere and I love it. I have never lived in such a huge & hugely diverse city before.
I love that you can walk down the street and everyone looks different. And I'm not just talking about skin colour. I'm talking about ages, fashion sense, style, culture, hair styles, backgrounds etc. Diversity is a beautiful and wonderful thing and I love being within such an eccentric mixture of people.
We are both so surprised by the weather here. We each packed maybe 2 pairs of jeans and 4 jumpers each - "just incase we go to New York in winter". Sod that, we need them now!
I've seen on the news that it is particularly cold this year and there has even been snow in some parts of Florida. But we were not expecting this!
It's weird too. Some days it's lovely, warm, beach weather, then the next day you need jeans and a jumper!
Although I'm complaining now, it's warmer than France. But also, I think in summer I'll be hoping for a cold day, as when we came last August, I was literally melting everyday! It was far too hot for me!
Lastly, the food. THE FOOD!
I was worried before we came here about the food. I said to Jeremie that we will have to be careful and not eat out too often. I was scared that if we ate out more than once a week, we would be fat! But the food here is amazing. Obviously, there is the Mc Donald's & Taco Bells etc but there are also lots of amazing small restaurants selling healthy home cooked food.
In France, it is hard to find a decent vegetarian restaurant, let alone an amazing vegan one. And that exists here. And several of them! I think the amazing food is also thanks to the mix of people here. You can find Mexican, Cuban, Peruvian, Vegan restaurants all on the same street. We have loved eating out and discovering all these new recipes and cuisines that we haven't really tried before.
I have also really enjoyed food shopping - which is one of my least favourite adult jobs. But it has been fun shopping for random fruits & vegetables and seeing what I can do with them. Since being here I have tried star fruit, cactus pear, plantain (although I think I've had that before..), yuca roots.. I am yet to buy & prepare aloe vera plant.. any recipe ideas leave them in the comments below, please and thank you!!