One Country:One City – The United States

When I was studying abroad in Spain, many Spaniards told me that they wanted to visit the United States. Some already had their minds made up of places they wanted to go: New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington D.C., and drive the Route 66.  Others had asked me where I think they should visit.

Route 66 (Source)

In any country it would be difficult to pinpoint just one city that someone should visit in order to gain the full experience of that culture. However, many people who are going to a new country only are able to see one city and want that all-encompassing experience. Whether or not simply visiting a specific city of a country will give you a real cultural experience is in a way up to one’s discretion. In my mind, it’s more about what you do, opposed to where you go. However, that certainly doesn’t stop many from trying to just simply visit a certain city to get that experience.

This notion of getting an all-in-one cultural experience in a single city got me thinking. If I wanted to visit a country but could only go to one city in it during a trip where would it be, or where would I recommend others to go? The more I thought about this the harder it became because every country and city has so much to offer. Almost every country is diverse and traditions, food, and sometimes even language differ from one part of the country to the other. For instance, in Spain would you select Madrid where pure castellano is spoken, traditional Sevilla, or funky, lively Barcelona? These are just three cities in Spain that most travel to, yet I feel as though a traveler would have to see so much more to experience Spain. It would be difficult for me to decide or myself, nonetheless recommend just one to a fellow traveler.

In seeing that Tom of Waegook Tom was going on a trip across the United States stopping in Boston, Miami, and San Francisco, my thinking about this one-city concept came back to my own country, one I know more about than any other: the United States of America. I’ve lived here my entire life other than when I studied abroad. Which single city would I suggest a foreign traveler visit to experience American culture, while being in an exciting city with exciting things to do and see?

While I haven’t been everywhere in America, I feel as though I’m pretty well traveled. The first place to float through my mind was undoubtedly New York City. NYC is a busy, exciting city, which always has something going on, but I felt as though it was almost too much of an international city to get the true American experience.

Philadelphia almost did it for me, but not quite. A friend recommended Boston; however, since I haven’t been there (yet) I feel as though I couldn’t recommend it. All the cities I’d been to out west or in the south had their own distinct feel, but to me, did not capture the broader picture of the entire American culture.

As parts of the United States’ map began to be crossed out in my mind, there was one area that remained: the Midwest. Now, before anyone rushes to judgement, yes, I am from the upper Midwest. I know that had to be stated in the name of full disclosure. In all my pondering of what city encapsulates all of America the best, I came up with Chicago.

Chicago (Source)

The third largest city in the U.S. exudes Americana. There is great ethnic diversity, which mean a great mix of food options. A Chicago style hot dog would be a must for any visitor. The downtown area is large, with wonderful shopping, transit, sports teams, and world class museums. Chicago has history, albeit a heck of a lot less than anywhere in Europe, Asia or most other places established long before America, as well as modern amenities. It’s an international city, but not nearly as much of one as New York City. In terms of population, it’s very large, roughly 2.6 million, but it feels smaller.

Chicago Style Hot Dog (Source)

Chicagoans and people from the Midwest in general are considered to be hospitable and friendly. This has always been my experience in Chicago and anywhere in the Midwest, which played into me picking Chicago as the one city I’d recommend to visit to get the most authentic American experience. I believe it mixes and blends the best of both the east and west coast while maintaining a down-to-earth Midwest feel. There are smaller cities that would give a traveler a true American experience, but I was trying to stick to larger cities that still offered a lot for a visitor to do.

In my travels, it’s obviously preferable to visit more than a single city in a country, but I realize that’s not always a possibility. Plus, there are a lot of people who want to try and grab that one city, all-in-one experience, so they can say they got to experience that country’s culture.

In your country, what one city would you recommend to a visitor to get a true experience that typified your entire country? Do you agree with me suggesting Chicago for the United States?

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4 responses to “One Country:One City – The United States

  1. I’ve only been once to the US- to New York. And you’d not definitely recommend it as the typical US city (that’s what most of my American friends told me).
    I’m Portuguese and, in my country, I could probably tell you: go visit Lisbon. And that’s FOR SURE the most beautiful city, but people are somehow a bit colder than in other places. Porto would be a clever choice then 🙂

    • New York is a very fun city, but definitely not representative of the entire US, in my opinion. I went to Lisbon and loved it! It’s a beautiful city. Most of the people I met were pretty friendly, but not overly welcoming. Porto is on my list of places I want to visit, so I’m glad you suggested it!

  2. I love Chicago! Midwest is best, for sure. Mario (my husband) also loves it. I feel like it’s got a lot of good things going for it: the lake, the food (e.g., Rick Bayless), the people (much friendlier than on the east coast), the architecture, the history, the sports (Cubs, Bulls, etc.). I don’t know, I just love it!

    I like NYC, but I just think it’s so hyped. I know Spaniards who only visit NYC, and I just don’t get it. But one of my Spanish cousins did the Route 66 last year which she loved, and I thought it was a great way to see the U.S.

    • I’m glad you’re in agreement on Chicago Kaley! I think the Midwest is often overlooked when traveling the U.S., by both foreigners and Americans. It’s funny because doing the Route 66 was never something I thought of doing to see my own country, so it shocked me to hear a Spaniard say that’s what they wanted to do…plus they wanted to rent a Ford Mustang and do it to get the full experience.

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