Things Immigrants Couldn't Believe About the USA

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A lot of people around the world have ideas of what America is like, possibly thanks to Hollywood, or their local news channels, and maybe from what they’ve heard from families and friends. But then, they came here, to the grand old United States and their minds exploded. Taken from Quora.

I don't really know if this qualifies as "controversy", but we do seem to go back and forth a bit in this forum about how the United States is understood/seen/etc outside of the country. Someone forwarded me this article today and I thought it was actually kind of interesting. It reminded me (on a much larger scale) of what it was like to move from Kansas City to Austin - sometimes the culture shock just hits you in weird ways.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/michael-ko...

The answers are taken from Quora, which requires a sign-in, but there's more there.

I am going to be bad and cut and paste so people are more likely to talk about this interesting stuff.

Fruits and vegetables are way more expensive than meat and poultry.
That, generally speaking, the poor is more obese than the rich.
A lot of couples adopt children, sometimes in spite of having their own, and treat them exactly like their own. (To me, this alone is a marker of a great people)
By and large, people do not carry cash.
That you address your boss (and some of your professors) by some abbreviated variation of their first name. And that applies to pretty much everyone, regardless of how much older they are than you.
Parents can get arrested for physically punishing their children.
Severe poverty, homelessness, etc, no matter how limited, actually exist. Even in America.
A name as common and as easy to pronounce as mine is almost invariably incomprehensible to most Americans.
America is literally HUGE. My home country is roughly the size of Florida, one of the fifty states.
In spite of the society being openly hedonistic and liberal, the social norms and standards still have very strong conservative religious influences.
People don’t really care about the FIFA World Cup even though USA qualifies.
The importance of credit rating/ credit score.
Return policy.
The history behind Thanksgiving.
Black Friday and the frenzy associated with it.
Amazingly friendly, hospitable and helpful people. Yet, a very conveniently private lifestyle.
That, American foreign policy is a very inaccurate reflector of public consensus.
Grinding. The dance form.
That you cannot purchase alcohol unless you are 21 but can purchase a gun if you are 18.

Some of them make me wonder as well - buying alcohol at 21 but gun at 18, fruits and vegetables costing more than meat, and the poor being heavier than the rich all are ones that seem very bizarre to me.

Also, I should note they're not all immigrants (just visitors) and some of the comments are about Canada, but I couldn't fit all that into a damn topic line.

There are a lot of observations in that article that are very different from my own experiences - some better, some worse - in the US (living primarily in Louisiana and Iowa for most of my life).

Farscry wrote:
There are a lot of observations in that article that are very different from my own experiences - some better, some worse - in the US (living primarily in Louisiana and Iowa for most of my life).

Yeah, not to discount what these folks put in, but I did note that the vast majority of these were from people who lived in or visited metro areas exclusively. I wonder how badly their minds would be blown if they had the chance to acclimate to, say, Chicago, and then move to some town way outside Boise.

farley3k wrote:
I am going to be bad and cut and paste so people are more likely to talk about this interesting stuff.

There's 15 more entries after that, though many things are repeated.

I liked this.

Here in this discussion, others have responded that they were surprised that Americans live so far from family. These interpersonal issues may be related: perhaps the depth of relationships aren’t as strong here, and bonds quickly forged are more easily broken. I don’t know.
I do remember a Nigerian friend expounding on this by asking me, “If I woke you up in the middle of the night and asked you to come with me, what would you say?”

“I’d ask what was going on…”

“You see,” he said. “My friends from my village would come with me, and on the way would ask, ‘Ade, where are we going?’”

Yeah, I dug that too, Garion. Gave me pause and has me reconsidering my perspective on friendship and what I would/should do for my friends.

Hell, I barely made it through your post and it was all of two sentences.

Oh, and if you guys like the sort of insights into life in America from an outsiders perspective I highly recommend the documentary God Grew Tired of Us, which I believe is on Netflix IA but since I'm at work I can't access it. The film follows three Sudanese exiles who are brought to the United States. Quite touching and one of my favorite films of all time.

A lot of the things written here have been my experience growing up, so +1.

I guess since I've been in the states for a while now that I take a lot of it for granted. Especially the isolated from friends and family part.

My ex-gf is from Sweden and has been working in the US for uh, like 5+ years now. Of course I also have a bunch of international friends from MMO's and it was fun to talk to them about their perception of the US.

That, generally speaking, the poor is more obese than the rich.

My friends believe that America as a whole is obese. One said that she believes Homer Simpson represents the average American male.

By and large, people do not carry cash.

My ex works for a bank and said that people here in the US write far more checks and stuff isn't as centralized as in Europe.

Parents can get arrested for physically punishing their children.

Heh was just talking to my ex about this the other day. In Sweden it's been illegal to physically punish your child for many years (since the 70's, I think?)

In spite of the society being openly hedonistic and liberal, the social norms and standards still have very strong conservative religious influences.

They believe America is super religious (and they're mostly right, though they exaggerate it a good amount).

People don’t really care about the FIFA World Cup even though USA qualifies.

None of my friends would be surprised by that. They know we hate soccer.

My ex was always astonished by the size of the stores and number of items we have available to us. Walmart blows her away.
American patriotism is far more... intense? than European patriotism. American flags everywhere, the national anthem before games - all of it surprised my ex. In Sweden it's not really acceptable to loudly spout off that you're proud of your country, whereas here in the US it's practically encouraged. That's one of the things she loves about the US and she cried when she came to America and saw the flag waving in the wind, like in the movies.

cheeba wrote:
American patriotism is far more... intense? than European patriotism. American flags everywhere, the national anthem before games - all of it surprised my ex. In Sweden it's not really acceptable to loudly spout off that you're proud of your country, whereas here in the US it's practically encouraged. That's one of the things she loves about the US and she cried when she came to America and saw the flag waving in the wind, like in the movies.

I'd much prefer the Swedish version of patriotism, I distinctly recall getting in trouble during high school for not standing up during the national anthem when they started playing it every morning and before every school assembly after a new principal took over.

Yeah, color me disappointed at the idea of someone coming from a nice, moderate nation to the US and proclaiming "Jingoism, f*ck yeah!"

Stengah wrote:
cheeba wrote:
American patriotism is far more... intense? than European patriotism. American flags everywhere, the national anthem before games - all of it surprised my ex. In Sweden it's not really acceptable to loudly spout off that you're proud of your country, whereas here in the US it's practically encouraged. That's one of the things she loves about the US and she cried when she came to America and saw the flag waving in the wind, like in the movies.

I'd much prefer the Swedish version of patriotism, I distinctly recall getting in trouble during high school for not standing up during the national anthem when they started playing it every morning and before every school assembly after a new principal took over.

Quite the opposite here. I remember a few years ago a student got in trouble (as in national media coverage) for wearing a shirt with the Swedish flag on during class photos.

Eva Earlong wrote:
Stengah wrote:
cheeba wrote:
American patriotism is far more... intense? than European patriotism. American flags everywhere, the national anthem before games - all of it surprised my ex. In Sweden it's not really acceptable to loudly spout off that you're proud of your country, whereas here in the US it's practically encouraged. That's one of the things she loves about the US and she cried when she came to America and saw the flag waving in the wind, like in the movies.

I'd much prefer the Swedish version of patriotism, I distinctly recall getting in trouble during high school for not standing up during the national anthem when they started playing it every morning and before every school assembly after a new principal took over.

Quite the opposite here. I remember a few years ago a student got in trouble (as in national media coverage) for wearing a shirt with the Swedish flag on during class photos.

To be fair, it's kind of a boring flag and those colors probably clashed with someone else's outfit.

garion333 wrote:
I liked this.

“You see,” he said. “My friends from my village would come with me, and on the way would ask, ‘Ade, where are we going?’”

I thought that was very telling. On the other hand, I immediately thought, "Odds are low in Nigeria, but it's still possible he's going to say, 'We're gonna go kill the hyena that's been eating the tomatoes in my gramma's garden.'"

My observation that wasn't in the list: what an American friend called "fear of cooties." You have to take a little sheet of plastic or tongs to take a doughnut from a shelf of them, and forget about finding loose candy for sale anywhere (and bulk bins only rarely). What, are we all Howard Hughes here?

The flip side: straw condoms. I never tire of tearing the end off a drinking straw and blowing through the end to launch the paper sleeve into the air. Conversely, Mrs. Lovesauce's appreciation for same diminishes whenever we dine out together.

Politically, I think the thing that surprised me most is the expectation that you declare a party affiliation when you register to vote. "Guys, doesn't that ruin some of the suspense?"

Farscry wrote:
Yeah, color me disappointed at the idea of someone coming from a nice, moderate nation to the US and proclaiming "Jingoism, f*ck yeah!"

Yeah how dare immigrants be proud of the United States, don't these stupid foreigners know anything?!

IMAGE(http://www.octopusoverlords.com/forum/images/smilies/icon_rolleyes.gif)

H.P. Lovesauce wrote:

Politically, I think the thing that surprised me most is the expectation that you declare a party affiliation when you register to vote. "Guys, doesn't that ruin some of the suspense?"

Well, there's no law that says you *have* to vote for the party you register as, if you even register as one.

cheeba wrote:
Farscry wrote:
Yeah, color me disappointed at the idea of someone coming from a nice, moderate nation to the US and proclaiming "Jingoism, f*ck yeah!"

Yeah how dare immigrants be proud of the United States, don't these stupid foreigners know anything?!

IMAGE(http://www.octopusoverlords.com/forum/images/smilies/icon_rolleyes.gif)

Just because I've said one thing doesn't mean I've said something else. Because I'm stating that the idea of a foreigner from a good nation making a pro-jingoism statement is disappointing doesn't mean I'm saying foreigners are jingoistic.

oh god not here too

no god nooooo

I couldn't resist, Bloo

I was also interested to learn about myself the things I saw I couldn't believe when I traveled to other countries:

- Many places in Europe, that nearly everyone spoke excellent English and I didn't have to know any of the local language. Not proud of not knowing any other languages but was really surprised I could get away without them.
- India - crossing the street. There were rules but just very different from ours
- Japan - everything in a vending machine

cheeba wrote:
American patriotism is far more... intense? than European patriotism.

A Spaniard, a Catalan and a Basque walk into a bar... ;p

Rahmen wrote:
- Japan - everything in a vending machine

Yeah.

.... yeah.

Talk about culture shock.

cheeba wrote:
Farscry wrote:
Yeah, color me disappointed at the idea of someone coming from a nice, moderate nation to the US and proclaiming "Jingoism, f*ck yeah!"

Yeah how dare immigrants be proud of the United States, don't these stupid foreigners know anything?!

IMAGE(http://www.octopusoverlords.com/forum/images/smilies/icon_rolleyes.gif)

There is a difference between being proud of America (what you are referring to) and blindly shouting jingoistic slogans (which is what Farscry is referring to.)

Just leave it alooooooooooooone.

garion333 wrote:
I liked this.

Here in this discussion, others have responded that they were surprised that Americans live so far from family. These interpersonal issues may be related: perhaps the depth of relationships aren’t as strong here, and bonds quickly forged are more easily broken. I don’t know.
I do remember a Nigerian friend expounding on this by asking me, “If I woke you up in the middle of the night and asked you to come with me, what would you say?”

“I’d ask what was going on…”

“You see,” he said. “My friends from my village would come with me, and on the way would ask, ‘Ade, where are we going?’”

I liked it as well.

I also liked the one about the guy who was astonished that when you visited friends or family you stayed in a hotel rather than with your family and friends.

That also ties in with some of the comments that Americans were friendly, but that it was kind of a shallow friendliness. We'll be nice to people, but we won't immediately follow a friend that woke us up in the middle of night.

It makes me kinda wonder if the post-war ideal--a nuclear family living in a suburb--is necessarily a good thing or if it over-emphasizes individuality at the expense of extended family and, by extension, the greater community.

OG_slinger wrote:
I also liked the one about the guy who was astonished that when you visited friends or family you stayed in a hotel rather than with your family and friends.

I saw this mentioned by several people on the linked survey, and it surprised me that it was so commonly observed. Everyone I know who travels to visit family actually stays with them when they visit, not a hotel. Goes for me as well. I had no idea this was a common thing.

Even as a Child I found patriotism to be creepy.

OG_slinger wrote:
garion333 wrote:
I liked this.

Here in this discussion, others have responded that they were surprised that Americans live so far from family. These interpersonal issues may be related: perhaps the depth of relationships aren’t as strong here, and bonds quickly forged are more easily broken. I don’t know.
I do remember a Nigerian friend expounding on this by asking me, “If I woke you up in the middle of the night and asked you to come with me, what would you say?”

“I’d ask what was going on…”

“You see,” he said. “My friends from my village would come with me, and on the way would ask, ‘Ade, where are we going?’”

I liked it as well.

I also liked the one about the guy who was astonished that when you visited friends or family you stayed in a hotel rather than with your family and friends.

That also ties in with some of the comments that Americans were friendly, but that it was kind of a shallow friendliness. We'll be nice to people, but we won't immediately follow a friend that woke us up in the middle of night.

It makes me kinda wonder if the post-war ideal--a nuclear family living in a suburb--is necessarily a good thing or if it over-emphasizes individuality at the expense of extended family and, by extension, the greater community.


My take on it is that we are more liberal with the label of "friend" than they're used to, and that combined with the informal nature of our casual and working relationships is what they mistake as shallow friendliness. What they consider a friend is what we consider a close friend.

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