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10 Popular Expat Countries To Stay Away From

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Retiring to Costa Rica, making a killing in Hong Kong, hanging out with other anime nerds in Japan—the reasons for moving abroad are legion and frequently awesome. It’s estimated that 2.2 million to 6.8 million Americans are currently enjoying the expat lifestyle, and most of them probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

But living abroad isn’t all sunshine and lollipops and guilt-free sex with hot locals. Plenty of the world’s most popular expat destinations have a darker, hidden side to them. Have a bad experience in one of these countries, and your dream life abroad could turn into a screaming nightmare.

10 Japan’s Justice System Is Built On False Confessions

Japan is a country so safe that it makes Canada look like Somalia. Its intentional homicide rate is around 0.3 per 100,000 people, far less than America’s 4.7. It has barely any terrorism. In 2013, only 12 people were shot to death, and even that paltry number was a massive increase. In 2012, the total number of shooting deaths was three.

There are many complex reasons why Japan is a nonviolent society. One is that its police force is utterly terrifying.

If you’re going to have a run-in with the law, pray it isn’t in Japan. Police have the right to hold you without charge for 23 days, and they’ll spend most of that time torturing you. Suspects have tables rammed into them, their feet stomped on, and threats bellowed into their ears. Sleep deprivation is common, and choosing to remain silent is taken as admission of guilt.

The only way to stop this onslaught is to sign a confession, and good luck retracting it later. Courts assume that a confession is an admission of guilt and will sentence you accordingly. People frequently go down for decades for crimes they clearly didn’t commit. It’s estimated that one-tenth of all Japanese prisoners are in jail due to false confessions, and the government has no interest in reopening their cases.

9 Thailand Will Jail You For Insulting The King’s Dog

Thailand is often portrayed as an east Asian paradise—a country where the girls are beautiful, the cost of living is low, and the weather is great. All of this is true. It’s also a country where you can be thrown in jail for over a decade for insulting the king’s dog.

The love the Thais have for their king makes the British seem like a nation of royalty-hating republicans. Strict lese-majeste laws hand down substantial penalties to anyone who criticizes or insults the royal family. Since the 2014 coup, the military junta has extended these laws to even cover the king’s pets. In December 2015, Thanakorn Siripaiboon was charged before a military court for making a “sarcastic” Internet post about Copper, the king’s dog. It’s expected that he will receive several years in prison.

You better believe these laws apply to foreigners. In 2007, a Swiss expat was jailed for 10 years after he spray-painted over a picture of the king. The current US ambassador, Glyn Davies, is being investigated for criticizing the mere existence of these dumb laws.

8 Vietnam’s Drug Laws Are Utterly Brutal


Compared to many of its neighbors, where drug possession can lead to execution, Vietnam has a pretty relaxed drugs policy. Users are sent to rehabilitation centers instead of jails, where they cure their addictions through work. Sounds pretty progressive, right? Maybe in theory. In practice, the “rehabilitation centers” are brutal forced labor camps.

Those who’ve been through the system have reported beatings, torture, and being forced to work extremely long hours, making products for private companies. Missing a work quota can get you beaten. Complaining can get you beaten. Basically, just showing your face can result in some random guard deciding to put his fist into it, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

In some ways, the centers are even worse than prison, where at least you have a release date. Some in Vietnam’s rehabilitation program have been held for years without due process or any end in sight. Perhaps it’s no surprise that inmates frequently stage violent mass breakouts from these facilities.

7 Italy’s Taxes Are Staggeringly High

High Taxes


With its endless sun, world-class culture, and relaxed lifestyle, Italy might seem like the perfect country. So it may come as a shock to realize that it frequently features in polls about the worst countries for expats. The reason for this is likely financial. Any foreigner who moves to Italy can expect to be hammered with crippling taxes.

Tax rates in general are high in Italy. By some estimates, they’re the highest of all the G20 nations. A high wage earner can expect to take home only slightly more than half their salary, compared to around 60 percent in the US. This isn’t even the worst aspect. Thanks to its byzantine bureaucracy, filing tax returns in Italy is filled with hidden charges seemingly designed to catch foreigners out.

Since 2013, expats have had to declare all overseas assets. This includes the $14 floating around in your old US bank account. Forget to declare that spare change, and you can get slapped with a hefty fine. Same deal with foreign earnings. If you make $13.68 selling a T-shirt on eBay while living in Italy, the government will take a chunk of that sweet pocket change off you. Forget to tell them about it, and you’ll find yourself facing legal action.

6 India Has A Terrifying Number Of Traffic Accidents

The 2011 film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opened people’s eyes to the idea of retiring to India. The story revolves around a bunch of British pensioners who move to the subcontinent and have heartwarming adventures. In real life, those adventures would more likely come with the appellation “death-defying.” India is the top destination on Earth for deadly traffic accidents.

According to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), more people die on Indian roads than anywhere else in the world. In 2009, the country recorded 105,725 fatal traffic accidents, with the WHO estimating the real number as closer to 200,000. By way of comparison, the US had the third-highest number with a mere 42,642. In a single typical year, bad driving kills more people in India than malaria does in the entire world.

This isn’t helped by the government’s recent decision to relax road safety laws. Since spring 2015, running over and killing a child gets you a $780 fine and a single year in prison. That’s the maximum penalty. There are many reports of wealthy teenagers hitting and killing homeless people and not even having their licenses suspended.

5 Nicaragua Suffers Endemic Corruption

Nicaraguan Policeman


Nicaragua is one of the world’s current retirement hot spots, thanks to the tons of incentives that the government is offering foreigners to settle there. On top of that, it’s beautiful, cheap, and hot all year round. What’s not to love?

Corruption. That’s what’s not to love.

According to Transparency International, Nicaragua is one of the most corrupt societies in the Americas. Their 2014 rankings placed it at 133rd out of 175 nations globally, only one place ahead of notoriously corrupt Russia. Only Venezuela and Haiti scored worse in Latin America, and the number of people retiring to either of those nations is practically zero.

Although this corruption rarely touches foreign residents, it still rears its ugly head from time to time. Almost everyone living in the country has a story to tell about police shaking them down for a bribe, and throwing cash around to get stuff done is a common fact of life. Still, plenty of people think it’s worth it for views as stunning as this one.

4 Singapore Has Absurdly Strict Laws

Singapore Police


Tiny Singapore is one of the wealthiest, cleanest, and safest nations on Earth. It’s also a top destination for expats looking to make a killing and come home filthy rich. But all that cleanliness and wealth creation comes at a price. Singapore is governed by laws that are often bizarre and always strict.

Some of the strictest have to do with keeping the city clean. Littering and spitting both carry fines, as do chewing gum and tossing cigarette butts away. These aren’t the sort of fines you can shrug off with a quick wave of a US dollar and a mumbled, “Sorry, tourist.” Singapore is a vastly rich country, and their fines reflect this. Anyone caught littering is forced to cough up a cool $1,000. Anyone caught urinating in an elevator is arrested.

These laws are certainly tough, but we imagine some of our readers might be behind them in principle. Littering and spitting are pretty disgusting, after all. But then there are laws that require stuff like flushing public toilets after use. Failure to do so can result in a $150 fine.

3 Britain Is Effectively Unaffordable

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wgpTNx_hW0
With its quaint villages, rolling hills, and bustling mega-capital of London, Britain can seem like a haven. There’s tea to drink, a queen to fawn over, and terrible food to complain about. Sounds perfect.

Of course, that’s all assuming that you can afford to live there. And we’re here to tell you that you almost certainly can’t.

The UK is currently in the middle of a massive housing bubble. Thanks to rich Russians, Chinese, and Saudis sinking all of their money into property in London, buying a home almost anywhere in the country is essentially unaffordable. The Guardian recently crunched the numbers for people looking to buy a house at the median price while earning the average British wage of £26,500 ($40,200) a year. For someone in those circumstances, they found that 91 percent of England and Wales would be beyond their means.

Of course, an expat would likely be making significantly above the UK average wage, but the problem persists. A worker on £45,000 a year ($68,300) would still find over half the country beyond their means, despite being in the top 20 percent of all UK earners.

It’s not until you hit the top 10 percent of earners at £60,500 ($91,800) a year that most of the country becomes affordable. Even then, 29 percent of it would still be out of reach. This includes most of the area around London—exactly where an expat’s job is most likely to be.

2 Dubai’s Drug Laws Are Fundamentally Insane

Dubai Police


The easiest way to not fall afoul of other countries’ drug laws is to not do drugs while abroad, or so you’d think. Dubai is different in that you can still get in trouble without actually breaking the law.

Across the UAE, it’s common for authorities to check the bloodstreams of people entering their country. Under Emirati law, having even trace amounts of drugs in your blood counts as possession. Possession carries a mandatory four-year prison sentence.

The simple solution would be to not do drugs at all, but the list of things that the UAE considers “drugs” is long and absurdly complex. Herbal Spice will get you jail time, as will many types of painkillers. In 2005, a British woman was held for several weeks after medication for her back pain showed up during a random screening. It transpired that she’d taken some prescribed codeine before setting off on her vacation. While being held in jail, she contracted dysentery.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to take a banned substance to land yourself some jail time. One Swiss national was jailed after three poppy seeds from an airport bread roll were found clinging to his clothes.

1 China’s Air Wants To Kill You

As the next emerging superpower, China is a hot destination for Americans and Europeans. There’s history to be seen and money to be made, all while getting a fascinating peek at one of the few surviving communist regimes on Earth. All this comes with a price. China’s air will go out of its way to kill you stone dead.

We’ve all seen the images of Beijing suffocating under thick clouds of pollution, but few of us realize just how bad things really are. In November 2015, air pollution in northeastern China reached 50 times the WHO-recommended safe level. This is a level so high that most outlets described it as an “airpocalypse.” China’s own state-run news agency, which almost never criticizes anything, called it “doomsday.” When a similar smog hit Beijing in December, authorities issued a red alert, complete with wailing air raid–style sirens. Schools were closed, offices were shut, and millions of people were warned to stay indoors at all costs.

These smogs are deadly in a way that most of us can’t even imagine. A summer 2015 study published in the scientific journal PLOS One claimed that pollution was killing 1.6 million people in China each year—roughly 4,400 a day. That’s comparable to how many people were killed in the Ukrainian civil war in 2015. Those who don’t die can still find themselves suffering from long-term health problems even after they’ve moved away. Emigrating to a country like China may seem like a dream come true. Just be sure to pack your gas mask.


Morris M.

Morris is a freelance writer and newly-qualified teacher, still naively hoping to make a difference in his students’ lives. You can send your helpful and less-than-helpful comments to his email, or visit some of the other websites that inexplicably hire him.

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Trip Ideas

10 Small Towns In The United States Known For Weird Things

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Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who has set your eyes on the world’s largest ball of twine, located in Kansas. Maybe you’ve even seen aliens on the highway as you’ve passed through Roswell, New Mexico, at night. Could it be that you can even brag to your friends about attending the world’s largest spinach festival in Alma, Arkansas? Or perhaps it’s always been your dream to see the world’s largest ketchup (catsup?) bottle in Illinois.

Whatever strange, silly, or (in)famous things you have seen on your travels throughout the United States, you cannot possibly see every wacky thing in every wacky town across this wacky country often simply referred to as “America.” That’s why this list of small towns famous for weird things is here for you. From the weird to the spooky, from the pointless to the dangerous, from the historic to the futuristic, this list of ten strange towns below might just make you want to go on a road trip in search of them all!

10 The Flavor Graveyard

Everybody loves ice cream, especially Ben Jerry’s ice cream. If you stop in Waterbury, Vermont, and take a tour of the Ben Jerry’s Ice Cream factory, you’re sure to get a sweet and fun experience. However, a more gruesome part of the tour leads you to a hill in the back of the factory surrounded by white picket fencing and some ghostly trees. But don’t worry, it’s just the Ben Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, where ice cream flavors go to die!

The Flavor Graveyard is there because of the company’s constant experimentation with weird and wacky ice cream flavors. However, some flavors are just too strange, which ultimately means they did not turn a profit. Every year, around ten or so flavors are eliminated due to low sales and become unfortunate inductees into the Flavor Graveyard. While the sweet cemetery makes for a serene setting for some of the oddest ice cream flavors to rest, only 34 graves have been dug so far out of the over 200 flavors that have been killed off as of this writing. If you can’t find your favorite ice cream flavor in your local supermarket, maybe it’s time to pay your respects at the Flavor Graveyard in Vermont.[1]

9 The Lost Luggage Capital

Alabama may be famous for college football, Southern food, and Forrest Gump, but if you’ve ever wondered where unclaimed airline baggage ends up, and you happen to be in the northeastern part of the state, make a stop in Scottsboro. When an airline cannot track down the owner of a lost item or piece of luggage, it is sent to the Unclaimed Baggage Center there. At the center, you can browse through and purchase a myriad of lost luggage items.[2]

Strange items have been found in this bizarre retirement community for suitcases. Ancient Egyptian artifacts, secret documents, and even a 5.8-carat diamond ring have been reportedly been discovered. The Unclaimed Baggage Center has even been given awards for retailer of the year.

8 Birthplace Of Captain Kirk

Riverside, a small town in Central Iowa, once had a town slogan saying “Where the best begins,” honoring its laid-back lifestyle and small-town Midwestern values. However, the town’s slogan is now “Where the trek begins,” as it is the self-described future birthplace of James T. Kirk, captain of Star Trek ‘s USS Enterprise.[3]

While Kirk has not yet been born, the town celebrates his future birth date of March 22, 2228, with a festival called Trek Fest (formerly River Fest). Note that Kirk’s birth year was established as 2233 in the Star Trek series. The 2228 date is from a book, The Making of Star Trek, published in 1968. While no Star Trek novels, television series, or movies have made clear what Iowa town Kirk was (will be?) born in, Riverside, during the mid-1980s, said, “Why not us?” Perhaps this small town truly has gone where no small town in Iowa has gone before!

7 The Devil’s Crossroads

According to lore, when blues legend Robert Johnson was a young man, he sold his soul to the Devil himself in the small town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. As the pioneering state of American blues music, Mississippi has been the home of blues greats such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters, to name but a few. However, Robert Johnson was said, in exchange for playing wicked blues, to have made a wicked deal with the Devil himself at what is now known as the Crossroads, where US highways 61 and 49 converge in Clarksdale.[4]

As a young man, Johnson wanted desperately to be a blues guitarist. “Voices” told Johnson to take a guitar to nearby Dockery Plantation at midnight and wait. He did, and a tall, dark man emerged, took Johnson’s guitar, played it, and then handed it back to Johnson. Immediately, Johnson was able to play blues guitar like no other ever had. If you desperately need to make a pact with the Devil anytime soon, perhaps a trip to the small town in Central Mississippi is what you need.

6 World’s Largest Time Capsule

In the small town of Seward, Nebraska, a man named Harold Davisson liked the year 1975 so much that he made sure to preserve everything he could in the world’s largest time capsule. Today, his time capsule, which is largely underground, is a tourist attraction for those passing through. With a pyramid built on top, the 45-ton vault holds more than 5,000 items from the 1970s!

The large vault made Davisson somewhat of a local celebrity in Seward, and his time capsule was sealed on July 4, 1975. Two years later, The Guinness Book of World Records certified that his time capsule was the largest in the world. However, Seward’s most famous resident received backlash from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, which argued that their “Crypt of Civilization,” sealed in 1940, was the world’s largest time capsule. Controversy followed, but Davisson was granted the title. His capsule is due to be opened on July 4, 2025.[5]

5 The Last Sideshow Town

Gibsonton, Florida, with a population of around 14,000, is America’s one true “Carny Town.” During the early 20th century, when roaming carnivals traveled the land, many carnival workers, also known as carnies, took the summer holiday in the small town of Gibsonton, about 19 kilometers (12 mi) north of Tampa. Gibsonton is fabled for a large portion of its population having been former carnival workers and so-called “sideshow” human attractions. Gibsonton was known as a place for many such people to retire or spend the off season in a warm locale.

Many “carnies” called the place town Gibtown. In the past, the local police chief was a dwarf, and the fire chief was a 244-centimeter-tall (8′) carnival performer. As one can imagine, the carnie population in Gibtown was a closely connected community, and over time, the former carnival workers even developed their own secret language called (yes, you guessed it) carny. Additionally, the International Independent Showmen’s Association runs a very specific welfare system for retired and out-of-work carnies. These days, however, the number of former carnies in Gibsonton has greatly dwindled, and the town is more or less like any other.[6]

4 On Fire for Decades

Centralia, Pennsylvania, has been on fire since the 1960s. In the early 1980s, around 1,000 people lived in this small Pennsylvanian town about 100 kilometers (60 mi) north of Harrisburg. Centralia is more of a ghost town now; by 2010, less than a dozen inhabitants called it home.

Why is Centralia on fire, you might ask? Since 1962, there has been an intense coal mine fire burning not above but below the tiny town. Toxic smoke venting from the cracked ground, sinkholes, and underground gas explosions are pretty good reasons to avoid living in Centralia at all costs. Nevertheless, a few (brave?) residents still hang on.[7]

In 1992, the Pennsylvania government seized all properties in Centralia and condemned them. However, the handful of inhabitants in and around the town are currently allowed to stay. However, once they pass, the town of Centralia will officially be no more. In fact, some scientists believe the fire underground will go on for at least another 250 years!

3 Meet ‘The Slabs’

Residents of Slab City, California, are creatively known as “the Slabs.” This tiny town is popular for recreational vehicling in the Sonoran Desert, but, situated 240 kilometers (150 mi) northeast of San Diego, the bizarre Slab City remains a self-described city without laws. The residents, or “Slabs” as we should refer to them, share one communal shower in this dusty part of the California badlands. As many as 4,000 people may live there in the winter, when it’s cooler, but it gets quite hot in the summer.

Often occupied by hippies, the homeless, drifters, drug addicts, artists, adventurers, and local weirdos, Slab City’s residents brag about their “town” being “the last free place in America.”[8] In this lawless land, a city with no rules, some arguments have resulted in absolute chaos, with tents and RVs set ablaze and even shoot-outs and duels.

Today, Slab City is managed by the state of California, but in the past, the site was known as Camp Dunlap, a former World War II base. But why is it called Slab City? The name comes from the large concrete slabs that remained after the Army abandoned the area. The site was returned to the state of California in 1961. The state eventually destroyed the remaining slabs.

2 The Bell Witch Cave

What makes this small town of Adams, Tennessee, so scary? Well, during the 19th century, the area was said to be haunted by a demon-like witch!

The legend goes that the Bell Witch’s original name was Kate Bates (or Batts). As rumor has it, Kate entered a poorly planned land deal with the neighboring family, whose name was the Bells. Kate promised to haunt the Bell family after learning she had been tricked. She seemed to keep her scary promise after one of the Bells’ daughters appeared to show signs of possession and strange aggression toward spirituality during the time. Some rumors hold that even former US president Andrew Jackson encountered the Bell Witch after investigating the cave that Kate’s spirit now seems to inhabit as she terrifies all who go near.[9]

For roughly two centuries, people in the area have told of experiencing strange feelings when they go anywhere near the cave. Despite her being known locally as a not very kind spirit, a major dare is to repeat the Bell Witch’s original name in a mirror three times. No thanks!

1 A Town Under One Roof

In Whittier, Alaska, nearly the entire population of 218 people resides in a single building! This 14-story condominium was originally designed as an Army barracks during the 1950s and was made a residence in 1969, about five years after the Army moved out. The building, now known as Begich Towers, doesn’t just have people living in it but is nearly a fully functional tiny town under one roof. The building also serves as a church, the police station, a convenience store, and the post office for the town, 100 kilometers (60 mi) south of Anchorage.

In this so-called “town under one roof,” keeping secrets is much more difficult than in other small towns. However, since Whittier is situated between mountains and the sea, the town, or rather building, can mostly only be accessed by boat from long distances. Or, you can take a very long one-lane tunnel that runs one way underneath the mountains for certain portions of the day. While this setup might look strange, isolated, and perhaps even uncomfortable, Whittier’s residents seem to get along quite well and are a very close-knit community.[10]

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Trip Ideas

Top 10 Unexpected Things About Denmark

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In August 2018, Trish Regan, who hosts The Intelligence Report with Trish Regan on Fox Business Network, created quite a stir when she disparaged Venezuela and Denmark in a searing commentary about socialism. In the US, a rising socialist movement, spearheaded by politicians such as Independent Bernie Sanders and Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, points to Denmark as a potential model for the US economy. But Regan vehemently disagreed.

“There’s something rotten in Denmark,” she said.

Regan argued that the country’s taxes are too high. Worse yet, just 3 of their 98 municipalities had more than half of the residents employed in 2013. She also ranted that “nobody graduates from school” in Denmark because they’re paid to go to educational institutions. You can see her commentary here.[1]

No matter how you feel about socialism, we can admit that we all have preconceived notions of places where we don’t live, especially when we plan to travel to those areas. Americans are now paying more attention to Denmark and what to expect there after Regan’s dismissal of socialism in Denmark on television.

We thought it might be interesting to talk about the realities of life in Denmark and not just theories of government. Here’s what I personally did not expect when I traveled to the country.

10 Bicycle Structure And Where You Can Take Your Bike

Many people understand that Danes often use bikes to get around. This heavy reliance on bicycles sparks many differences between the ways in which Americans and Danes use them.

Danish people like to ride high on their bikes, and the bicycle structure is mostly very thin.[2] My bike back home is a thick, mint green, average-size bicycle that a person can ride leisurely and plant her butt on easily. When I tried to purchase a similar bicycle in Denmark, I was told that I was not allowed to buy it because the bike was so short that it was child-size. I was told that it would hurt my knees. The seat was 1 centimeter (0.4 in) below my hip!

Additionally, when you live in America and want to travel to a city but you live too far into the suburbs to bring your bike with you, you have to find a place to squeeze your bike and yourself on a train or bus. Or you end up just abandoning your bike at home and settling for walking.

However, the S-tog (S-train) system in Denmark has designated cars where you can bring your bike as well as spaces to park the bike for the duration of your train ride. There are marked places where you bring the bike in and out the door so that no one struggles with transporting these vehicles in different directions.

You have to pay an extra fee to bring your bike on the Metro, but there is space for your bicycle if you purchase that pass.

Finally, even in suburban or rural areas of Denmark, bike paths are carved out for cyclists to get from place to place. I’ve been told by some Danes that there are groups of people in Denmark who want to get rid of the use of cars in the country altogether.

9 Bicycling Rules And Regulations

In the US, we are theoretically supposed to use hand signals to inform pedestrians and drivers of our directions. However, Americans rarely use them. We’re also supposed to wear helmets and refrain from texting while riding. However, little more than negative verbal reactions ensue if Americans do not follow these expectations.

If someone is found texting while riding or failing to use proper hand signals in Denmark, that person can be fined 100–700 Danish kroner. Danes also ride their bikes no matter what time it is, so it is expected that you will have bike lights. If you do not, people will panic about your safety and that of others during the nighttime.[3]

To allow for the transportation of children, there are child seats that attach to the back of a bike and bicycles that have wagons in the front. While these are also offered in America, they are used much more often in Denmark.

8 Pregnancy

Many pregnant women in the US know about the surgeon general’s long-standing warning: You should not drink while you are pregnant if you do not wish to inflict birth defects on your child.

However, in Denmark, studies have found that it’s okay to drink a standard serving of alcohol per day when you are pregnant.[4] According to social norms, not only is it okay, it is expected.

7 Child Care

If you leave your stroller with your child inside even a few yards away from you in America, it is expected that you will have a fair number of people verbally armed and ready to chastise and scorn you as a parent or caregiver.

I have been a guilty party at one point, although I did not say anything directly to the mother (which may be just as bad). However, in Denmark, it’s normal to leave your child in his stroller one grocery aisle over or at the edge of a public room.[5]

6 Water And Energy Conservation

Whether for tax purposes or in the spirit of ecological concern, Danes can be quite conscious of the ways and amounts they use their water and energy resources. Thirty-minute showers would probably not fly. Although laundry dryers can be in households, drying racks are preferred except in a laundry emergency. It is also expected that you turn off lights when you leave a room unless you plan to return to that room very soon.[6]

5 Animals

Like any city, it is hard for people in Copenhagen to take care of their pets outside their apartments other than walking them in the city. However, if you step outside Copenhagen, people will let their pets run free.

I’ve seen cats roaming the neighborhoods. At first, I felt bad for the little strays. Then I learned that they were not strays, just cats that were let out to be free for the day. Their owners knew they would return for food and quality time with the family.

Depending on the individual person, Danes may be more lax on leashes for their dogs during walks as well. However, that’s not the case too often.[7]

4 Education

Gap years are common for students who are at or near college age in Denmark. These students are not stigmatized or ashamed of their choice. Sometimes, it is natural for kids to take a year off between high school and college in Denmark.[8]

3 Technology

I don’t know why, but people do not always consider Denmark or Copenhagen when they think of technologically advanced countries or cities, respectively. In America, we do not hear much about companies like Cisco anymore, but this firm is on the cutting edge of collaborative business technology.

Cisco has partnered with Copenhagen to build groundbreaking digital infrastructures.[9] There’s also Khora, a virtual reality lab in the meatpacking district of Copenhagen, where people can try different virtual reality systems and games for a low price.

Copenhagen hosts a yearly Techfestival (motto: where humans and technology meet) and boasts the location of many other tech startups and well-established tech companies.

2 Parties

If you are invited to a dinner party in Denmark, you’d better set aside the whole night, starting at around 5:00 PM. It is not typically encouraged to jump from party to party if you have been invited to more than one on the same day. You eat dinner, drink, have dessert, and talk for nearly six hours.

Normally, the host has a seating plan and you should not arrive late or early.[10] If you arrive late, it is rude. If you arrive early, it is worrisome to the host, who may not be fully prepared yet. It’s not necessarily about partying but more about having a good time together and catching up.

1 Going Out

Okay, so Danes are a lot more fun and adventurous than Americans. At least this American. People don’t start hitting the bars until 11:00 PM, and sometimes, they won’t start leaving until 3:00–5:00 the next morning. When Danes want to party, they party hard.[11]

+ Perception Of Safety

In the US, women are often told to either go out in large groups or make sure they have a man around them if they go out after dark. However, people in Denmark, including women, don’t seem to be afraid to go out on their own.[12]

I’m not about to say that Denmark is a utopia because no place is. I’ve biked home at 1:00 AM here, taken trains at midnight, and felt completely safe. Back home, if I’m waiting outside the catering hall where I work in my town and I hear a sound behind me—even at 9:00 PM—it would be enough to make me curl up into a ball and picture the worst possible scenario.

I’ve talked about this to other young women who are studying abroad with me. They have had no problems going home with Danish men. One even said that any time she felt harassed or in danger in Denmark, it was a foreigner, not a Dane, who made her feel threatened.

++ Danes Are Blunt, And That Is Okay

Danes will tell you their honest opinions—whether it’s believing that certain activities or customs are silly or telling you that you’re wrong about something and exactly why or correcting a social behavior that they believe is rude.

Or maybe they just laugh at you when you mispronounce a street name. The Danes understand that it’s okay to be up-front and honest and there’s a way you can do that without being straight-up mean. In fact, most times, you get a good laugh out of the interaction.[13]

+++ Function In Fashion

Remember in 2008 when Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato wore high-top sneakers with their dresses? We thought it looked cute for a few years and then realized that it was just odd.

Danes don’t care. In fact, I’ve seen professors and women on my commute who wear the cutest dresses or outfits with the most beat-up sneakers either because they have to walk long distances or because they have to ride their bikes.

It’s actually made me reframe the idea of cute outfits with athletic sneakers to be wholly cute outfits. Danes also like to be warm. I’ve heard some Danish people tell me that it’s almost like Americans don’t care about the weather—they’ll wear what they think is good-looking in any type of weather and risk their comfort.[14]

However, Danes will wear sweaters and parkas and scarves and make them look cute when they think it’s going to be cold. I’ve seen that even toward the end of summer. However, other American girls and I are wearing skirts and freezing our legs off here when we go out. We dream of how to wear jeans and leather jackets to be warm and cute like the Danish girls.

I’ve continued to learn that changes or differences in the ways that various people live are not bad. Most of the time, our “comfort zone” is really more of a barrier to how we could be experiencing life than an actual comfort.

For me while living in Denmark, that lesson certainly applies. Danes live differently than what I’m used to, but I’m not upset about it at all. In fact, I find myself constantly enthusiastic about this new way of living.

Maher is in her fourth and last year of undergraduate studies at American University in Washington, DC. She studies journalism and health promotion and is currently studying in Scandinavia to understand herself and the world around her more. Maher’s dream is to be an investigative journalist or to work for NPR. Honestly, what journalism student doesn’t have that dream, though?

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Trip Ideas

10 Strangest US Roadside Attractions

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Roadside attractions have been a staple of American culture since the first mile of Route 66 was laid down. Fodder for postcards, novelty-seekers, and Instagram shots, these various noteworthy stopping points are often quite unique and bizarre.

While classics such as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine seem weird enough, an in-depth look reveals much stranger sights. Here are ten of the strangest US roadside attractions. (For those curious, the ball of twine is in Cawker City, Kansas.)

10 Unclaimed Baggage Center
Alabama

Born from the mind of a man named Doyle Owens in 1970, Unclaimed Baggage Center (UCB) is a secondhand store with a unique supply chain: US airline companies.[1] As of today, it is the only store in the country which sells lost luggage. The size of a city block, UCB has forged alliances with most major airlines, not only selling lost luggage but also random carry-on items which get left behind.

Originally sold on card tables in a rented house in Washington, DC, the nearly 7,000 new daily items were moved to their current home of Scottsboro, Alabama, by Bryan Owens in 1995. Thanks to the exclusive contracts signed with the major airlines of the US, UCB boasts more than a million visitors per year. In addition to their storefront, they also have a museum of oddities and curios, items which are not for sale. (An African djembe is one of the more unique exhibits.)

9 Lucy The Margate Elephant
New Jersey

Located just a short distance south of Atlantic City, a 20-meter (65 ft) building rises from the Margate sands. This isn’t your ordinary building, though; it’s in the shape of a large elephant, and its name is Lucy.[2] Since its construction in 1881, news of a giant elephant appearing to sailors began to trickle into various parts of the East Coast. Determined to uncover the truth, visitors began to flock to Absecon Island, shocked when they realized it was no mirage.

The brainchild of a man named James V. Lafferty, Jr., Lucy was eventually patented in 1882, with Lafferty receiving one for the invention of a “building in the form of an animal.” Later owners of the building eventually began guided tours, with such visiting luminaries as President Woodrow Wilson. At various times through its history, Lucy has been a summer home for an English doctor and his family, a tavern (which nearly resulted in it burning to the ground), and a tourist attraction, which it remains to this day.

8 Wall Drug
South Dakota

Perhaps the most famous tourist trap in the entire country, Wall Drug got its start in 1931 on the edge of the South Dakota Badlands.[3] Using his last $3,000, Ted Hustead brought his wife and child to the small town of Wall and purchased a small pharmacy. Business was tough, and they struggled to make ends meet for years while the Great Depression rolled on.

However, to this day, their biggest draw might still be one of their first: free water. Hustead’s wife, Dorothy, had the idea come to her while she tried to sleep one hot July afternoon. Due to her idea, and a number of ingeniously placed billboards, people flocked to the store, filling up on ice water as well as the occasional ice cream cone. Today, more than two million people visit each year, bringing more than $10 million with them.

7 Nicolas Cage’s Tomb
Louisiana

In a move which seems to solidify his eccentric reputation, Nicolas Cage purchased a tomb in an infamous New Orleans graveyard in 2010. Thanks to its below-sea-level elevation and numerous outbreaks of disease throughout its history, the city has strict rules about where cemeteries can be located, unless they’re aboveground. Those rules are what led Cage to purchase a 2.7-meter-tall (9 ft) stone pyramid in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

However, the exact reasoning behind the tomb’s purchase has been kept secret, though some locals are angry he was able to even get into the cemetery in the first place, going so far as to accuse the actor of knocking down much older burials in order to make room for the pyramid tomb.[4] The first New Orleans graveyard with aboveground burials, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is also the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the infamous voodoo queen of New Orleans.

6 Airstream Ranch
Florida

An homage to Cadillac Ranch, an art installation using junked Cadillac automobiles, Airstream Ranch was located not far from Tampa, Florida, and used old RVs as its medium.[5] It was the pet project of Frank Bates, a man who, coincidentally, happens to run an RV dealership nearby. Controversial for much of its existence (such is the life of modern art), state courts reversed local orders to tear it down after Bates fought for nearly two years.

Created in 2007 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Airstream company, the ranch was originally intended to be built using brand-new RVs, but Bates ended up deciding to get one from every decade of the company’s existence (though he only managed five decades’ worth). Bates had hoped to add to the ranch, envisioning a future where his installation would have become a park, as well as a home for weddings. In the end, however, Airstream Ranch was torn down to make room for a new Airstream dealership in 2017.

Another roadside attraction reminiscent of Airstream Ranch is Carhenge, located in Alliance, Nebraska. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Stonehenge, made of cars.

5 Cross Island Chapel
New York

Otherwise known as The World’s Smallest Church, the Cross Island Chapel was built in 1989 in the small town of Oneida, New York. In addition to having been certified by Guinness World Records, it also sits on a small dock in the middle of a pond. Only big enough for three standing people (or two seated), the church has nevertheless served as the location for a number of weddings. On one such occasion, wedding guests had to anchor their boats nearby.

Though it lost its title of World’s Smallest Church only a few months after its certification (a Swiss church holds the record), the Cross Island Chapel still attracts its fair share of visitors, most of whom come to pray or just take a look.[6] Built to honor God, the building no longer sits on “Cross Island,” as the water level has risen, forcing a dock to be built to house the 2.7-square-meter (28.7 ft2) chapel.

4 The Hobo Museum
Iowa

Located in Britt, Iowa, the home of the National Hobo Convention, an annual event which began in 1900, is the Hobo Museum, a building dedicated to the memory of hobos and their history. Housed in an old theater, the museum began its life with nothing more than a single box of random items. Today, the building is full, and exhibits extolling the origins and virtues of the hobo lifestyle are abundant. (To be clear, a hobo is a traveling migrant worker, whereas a tramp is a traveler who avoids work. A bum neither works nor travels.)

In 2008, students of various classes at nearby Iowa State University began work on getting the building onto the National Registry of Historic Places, as well as plans to remodel/restore the former glory of the theater.[7] Other sites throughout the city honor hobos, such as the Hobo Jungle and the Hobo Cemetery, a section of a larger graveyard reserved specifically for hobos.

3 Ben Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard
Vermont

Have you ever wondered what happens to discontinued ice creams, such as Festivus or Dublin Mudslide? Fear not, for they have gone to a better place: the Ben Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard. A tongue-in-cheek place for a tongue-in-cheek company, the graveyard is not only a page on their website but a physical place, located at their factory in Waterbury, Vermont.[8]

Originally opened in 1997, the graveyard only consisted of four flavors, with many more added over the years (35 at last count). Most of the graves are empty, with the exception being What A Cluster, for which they held an actual funeral. (Whether or not the pint of ice cream actually made it underground is anybody’s guess.) While it isn’t the most popular attraction on this list, Sean Greenwood, Ben Jerry’s head of publicity, says people do come to pay their respects to their favorite discontinued flavors, going so far as to leave flowers near the elaborate granite headstones erected there.

2 The Octopus Tree
Oregon

Bearing no relation to the mythical Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, the Octopus Tree of Oregon is an enormous spruce tree, notable for its branches, which resemble the tentacles of an octopus. Believed to be the largest Sitka spruce in the state, debate continues on the story of its origins, with Native American activity being the most likely.[9] Coastal tribes, such as the Tillamook tribe, were said to shape the trees as part of their ceremonial rites.

The idea behind the Native American theory is that the tree was used to hold cedar canoes, as well as other objects of ritual importance. As far as the Octopus Tree goes, it has been estimated to be hundreds of years old and has often gone by the name “The Council Tree,” as it was said that elders also congregated at it in order to make decisions.

1 World’s Largest Collection Of World’s Smallest Versions Of World’s Largest Things
Kansas

This one is going to take a little explaining. Intrigued by the great American pastime of creating the largest versions of things, artist Erika Nelson decided to riff on that idea. What sprung from her thought was a traveling attraction containing miniature replicas of said things. Extensive research on each and every exhibit is performed before construction, with precise measurements done on the originals.[10]

Appropriate materials are used whenever possible; for example, the World’s Smallest Version of the World’s Largest Ball of Rubber Bands was made using miniature rubber bands. In addition, a photo is taken of each exhibit sat in front of its original. While it is normally on the road, and best seen there, when the attraction is not traveling, it calls Lucas, Kansas, its home.

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