Grabbing coffee to-go, laughing so loud the windows tremble, and keeping your shoes on when walking into someone’s home don’t raise a single American brow. But it’s a whole different story if we are talking non-Americans who moved to the land of the free and are just getting used to things the American way.
So when one Reddit user put up a question “Non-Americans who moved to the US, what are some social customs that have been the hardest for you to get used to?” on r/AskReddit, people who left their native lands had a whole bunch of stuff to comment on.
From showing thumbs up, which is considered rude in foreign countries, to finding potluck dinners super odd, and realizing bidets are off the map, these are some of the most illuminating answers people shared.
Still blows my mind that healthcare isn't free, and people actually go bankrupt, legitimately bankrupt, from medical bills.
The work culture! You get so few vacation days and most people didn't use them all for fear of what it looks like. In the UK, if we don't use all our days, HR will normally ask us if everything is okay
Strangers asking you what church you go to. Or the rather competitive nature of religion here. It seems less important to actually believe and more important to let people know how much you believe.
Saying "I'm Irish" but they haven't been to Ireland and neither have their parents.
The pride people have in being unhealthy, ignoring serious symptoms, proudly eating like crap, proudly not exercising. And yet having the most expensive health care system in the world and refusing to accept alternatives. "that's whack man"
The crazy giant gaps in bathroom stalls. It drives me insane. My partner told me that it's there to prevent people from doing drugs/having sex. But I still don't understand why I need to see everyone while I poop.
I'm from Israel.
Keeping my shoes on when walking into someone's home. I feel like a barbarian
There is a toot-your-own-horn culture here in my experience that I find hard to deal with, especially in the workplace. It's not usually a typical someone saying they're good at something, it's more about making themselves out to be better and top-dog.
I'm from the UK and I'd say we are kind of modest.
Also, writing the date, I just can't get used to writing it with the month first.
Tipping culture is so alien to me as an Australian. I always over-tipped because I was never sure — some people would react like I'd made their day for what I thought wasn't a big tip. Coincidentally, I forgot to tip a bartender once and I was made to feel like the worst person ever
Pledge of allegiance. There's literally no other country that I've ever been to that does this! This is so strange and I feel so uncomfortable whether or not I do it.
Using the word "patriotic" in a good way. Seriously, I'd always thought it meant "blindly loving your country and think it's the best", which that definition would fit a lot of Americans better.
Not a social custom, but when i returned from my study abroad in Europe back to the US, I realized how enormous everything is here. The houses, cars, stores, drinks, food portions, and unfortunately many of the people.
Saying "hi how are you?" to strangers and nobody actually answering the question.
The size of food serving when going out to eat.
Thanksgiving and black friday.
And lastly, the fact that every form I have to fill out, they ask my race.
I guess these are not technically social customs, or maybe they are, but I find all of the above very strange. Ugh, I'll never get used to living here.
That Fahrenheit nonsense. I just never bothered to learn, always converted to Celsius, and then I ended up moving to Canada. I knew it would pay off to never learn.
A friend of mine is Russian. Her parents came to Russia and were still getting used to America. In Russia when you are pulled over by the police you get of the car and walk over to them. Her dad got pulled over and so he got out and started walking towards them. He didn’t know you are supposed to stay in the car. He learned that lesson very quickly.
He didn’t die they didn’t even shoot at him. He did get arrested though.
Sounding like someone cares about you or your answers when they talk, when all they really care is following their scripts, for tip, sales revenue, door sales etc. The tipping culture. Why tell a burger costs $9.99 when with tax you are supposed to pay $11.25 and are supposed to tip at least 20% to not seem like a cheapskate? When the waitstaff works for under $3 a hour... just make it $15 and pay adequately, please
My wife is an immigrant so I'll pass on that she struggled with.
The way many American families raise their children until age 18, then send them out the door to make it or beak it in the world. In many other countries, you never stop helping your children by paying for more education (Vo-Tech or college/university) and trying to avoid student loans, they always have a place to live free of rent, and are quite involved in everyday life of the parents, even if just by phone.
I moved to Minnesota two years ago. At first I thought I would make friends super easy because people where really friendly but I soon learnt that nobody wanted to make friends. I was mistaking people’s inquisitive nature and need to overshare for genuine friendship foundation laying. I’m from the UK and usually if someone asks you for a beer and chat they want to get to know you, here in the US I’m just an interesting story to tell their real friends about. I found this upsetting at first, but I stopped caring and I did actually make a few good friends in the end.
The alcohol laws, in the UK you can drink in private from a very young age as long as you have parental consent and can have one beer/cider/glass of wine in a restaurant as long as you have a meal with it. In America, I tried to hand a pint to my Dad from a bar and the barman started shouting at me telling me to put it down because I wasn’t 21
How hard it is to make friends in the USA. It seemed pretty easy from where I came (Europe), but after 20 years in the USA, I still don't have friends here.
I still don't know how to get invited to parties, so there's that.
Also the drug TV ads with the long disclaimers while showing video of happy people living their lives. Really weird.
I'm from New Zealand.
Lack of vacation days.
Weird health system tied to employment.
Otherwise it is a pretty easy adjustment.
Pounds. Ounces. Feet. Miles. I could never get the hang of it.
That fake condescending voice people use. I'm not a toddler looking for his mama; talk like a normal person.
The lack of irony in general. And the way most people take themselves very very seriously. Don’t get me wrong, life is hard (especially in the US), but I’ve met VERY few people in the US who can make fun at their own expense - which is considered the norm where I’m from. Not saying one is better that the other - just the biggest difference for me
Town and school spirit are a very big thing here. No one takes high school sports this seriously back in my old school in India
Sales tax not being included in the price (got pretty used to it after 4 years, but it still occasionally caught me off guard).
Tailgating on highway (even people complaining about tailgaters were themselves often tailgating).
Porch sitting, people sitting on their porch and watching passers by.
Distances (drove coast to coast, I thought it would never end).
Most men being pretty knowledgable about cars.
Drive thru ATMs, never stopped being funny to me for some reason.
People saying they will pray for me. Either in aggression to insult me by saying I need to be prayed for (as sometimes I can be an a-hole or a victim of prejudice). Or, they are trying to be empathetic when told of a sad/unfortunate situation. Of course, I don't ever doubt that they'll remember.
Younger Ppl calling adults by (just) their first name. I'm from the Caribbean so can't help but referring to ppl as Mr or Ms. Even if Im familiar with them.
According to my parents, it was people giving them thumbs up.
In their country of origin, thumbs up = middle finger in the US. So they kept jumping thinking they were being flipped off by random people. Took years for them to get used to it and understand no one was trying to insult them.
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