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First time in USA


Dear Reader, first please keep in mind that I am a Polish citizen. Not that it is sth to be particularly proud of … but Poles are particularly pro American (so Am I) and even though we joined Schengen treaty and can travel within EU only with ID – in order to go to USA we still need to have visa (and I don’t mean only credit oneJ).

Deciding to spend my holidays in US I went through this procedure.

Applied online, paid over 100 USD, took special size photos of my face, then made on the phone an appointment with a consul in Warsaw, waited in lines at the American Embassy for ca. 2 h, left my passport there for the whole week, but finally via mail together with getting my passport back I got my visa. Well, it is never exactly a visa but just a promise of a visa that is finally admitted (or not admitted) at the American border.

USA – here I come !

I awaited my first transatlantic flight. Got up early for a flight to Amsterdam from Warsaw at 6.10 am. Round 9.00 I was already in Holland waiting for my flight to San Francisco. Departure after 11 am, and altogether after 16 hours I landed on American soil.

I approached immigration stands, filled in custom declaration and white form I-94 declaring what am I going there for, how I got here, where I stay and some other detailed questions. I have nothing to hide – no problem. Waiting in line for my turn at immigration desk – pure pleasure. Finally my turn.

How are you, sir ? – immigration officer asked ?

Fine, thank you – I replied.

(After 16 hours on the plane how should I feel ? Super, rested and ready for detailed investigation, thanks for asking Mr. Officer – I thought).

What is the purpose of your visit ? –he asked.

Holidays – I answered. Short answer.

Your passport is pretty clean. – he said.

Because it is a pretty new passport – I answered. (Should I explain him that in Europe we rarely use passports so I do not have many stamps there – no, isn’t it obvious?)

What is your occupation ?

Managing director. – I answered.

Of what ?


Probably after 16 hour flight wearing jeans and sweat jacket I didn’t look like a managing director of anything.

Do you have your business card ?

Yes. – I answered. You start to piss me off – I thought. We stayed in silence for about 20 sec. Then I asked – Do you want to see one ?

Of course he wanted. Fortunately I had some in the wallet. When you go for holidays away from work you always bring your business cards with you – right ?

I showed him one. He compared name on the card with name in my passport. Hurrey !!! Looks like I passed the test.

Do you have more than 10 000 USD ? – he asked.

In cash ? – I asked. Why would I carry so much cash ? But I have credit cards – I answered, to assure him that I will afford to spend two weeks here.

Do you have food in your luggage ?

No, I don’t.

You may go.

Thank you.

First impression is the key – everybody says. This first impression of USA was really one of its kind. What a great way to start your holidays, don’t you think! You have two weeks in the year that you plan to spend your savings on, to do something unusual, exciting, and nice, yes nice  … well don’t let other people ruin your mood.

San Francisco – on the way to city centre

After I got my luggage I went outside. Have to admit that Dutch airlines works perfect. I read about many possibilities to get to the city. I headed for a taxi. Easy to find. From the airport to my hotel, which is by Union Square costed 35 USD. They say you have to tip the taxi and at restaurants here (20%). So I did. I had no problems.


A few weeks before I found online room in hotel Fusion, Ellis Street 140, great location, cheap price (ca. 60 USD per night). Check in went ok. People are friendly. But when I found my room I thought – I want this holidays to be over. Very small, view at the wall, no air-conditioning, noise of air-conditioning outside the window, thin walls so you can hear neighbors … well for 60 USD what do you expect – I thought.

Needed to buy an adapter to start my computer. Wireless Internet only in the lobby.

Walk around

What to see in San Francisco you can read in any guide. I will tell you what you will see even though you do not necessary want to. Hundreds (literally)  of homeless beggars. I know it is politically incorrect but this leaves you with an impression that sth is wrong with this place. They are everywhere, asking for money, or simply pushing their carts filled with their junk. And this smell … Later I’ve learned that  City of SF do not require to have a permanent residence, so it attracts homeless people from all over the States. If this is the policy of the City … pretty ironic to confront these views with the most expensive brands you can find on the streets – Tiffany, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s etc. (usually clothing). If you like shopping for clothes SF is a paradise for you. If your interests goes beyond the brand you have on your underwear you might get a little frustrated, like me.

Continental breakfast

Continental breakfast included in the price of the room. I was so excited, there is nothing betterin the morning than a good breakfast at the hotel.

You can imagine what a disappointment. In a room no bigger than 10 sq m you can make yourself a toast, pour some coffee or juice and grab a muffin or orange. Of course you take it to your room. Go & grab it – they say. Thank you – I will eat somewhere else.

Continental breakfast – wonder what continent they have in mind. I haven’t seen such a thing anywhere in Europe, and I was sleeping in better and worse places.

Lori’s Dinner

So I went to Lori’s Dinner – for a breakfast, very close to my hotel Fusion on Powell Street.

I was seated, offered coffee, I ordered breakfast (funny thing - fried eggs and pancakes with maple syrup served together) – but anything is better than continental breakfast – I thought. Being there alone I took USA today (newspaper) with me to read while I am eating. Health care system reform is an issue now, interesting thing. I am reading that ca. 40 million Americans cannot afford health insurance and obviously there is no free public health care. Hmmm, is it really that great to live here ?

Would you like some more coffee – waitress asked ?

Yes, thank you – what a nice place - I thought.

Am reading further about health care reform, still having full cup of coffee to drink. The same waitress brings me check – without me asking for it - and a coin to play jack pot at the back – cause there is a line of people waiting for the table.

Hmmm, I was there no longer than 30 minutes, she offered me extra coffee, I was busy reading … and suddenly I am requested to leave the table and in order to wipe away my tears expected to go and play some jack pot. Maybe they think that reading newspaper (for me in foreign language) is less interesting than playing jack pot. Well it is not ! I’ve seen incompetent personnel, too slow, not carrying about their job – but I have not seen sth like this. And I’d prefer never  to see it again.


I do not know if I will go there again ...

boxinbcn says:
I'm on my way, with a car, Alex, Danny... and we are going to work on adjusting that attitude and take you to some cool places because the cool far outweighs the un-cool... first step... new hotel, one more day in SF and see some more of CA!!
Posted on: Aug 21, 2009
Dutchz says:
Too bad you had such a bad time. As I have relatives in Poland that I have sponsored to USA I agree that process can be frustrating, maybe some day soon it will change. The questions at immigration are pretty standard, even for US citizens returning.
As a suggestion, before going on any trip I believe that sites such as TravelBuddy can provide many reccomendations. I was born and raised in SF and you stayed in probably the worst area of the city, the tenderloin district is the capitol of the homeless.
Also your comment that you get what you pay for regarding the hotel is spot on, $60 USD should not be considered for a hotel room "with breakfast" especially in a city center, alarms should go off when you are quoted such. As my wife and I travel worldwide frequently reasearch beforehand is invaluable.
Don't give up on the USA, there are many positives, use your trip as you said as educational, the lesson being you went about it wrong.
Pozdrowienie i bezpiecznie podroz

Posted on: Aug 20, 2009
michalmoleda says:
Of course there are a lot of things to see and do: like Golden Gate Bridge, I particularly liked to spend time on Fisherman's Wharf. In my opinion if you are with people you like it really doesn't matter the place you are with them.
Posted on: Aug 20, 2009
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