17 People Share Their Biggest Culture Shock After Arriving In America.

I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
Ev'rything free in America
For a small fee in America!


- America, West Side Story


Thanks to everyone who shared their perspectives on Quora.


1/17. Religion is more of a personal choice: It's amazing to me that how religion is just in the background, at least in NYC. Where I am from, people have a hard time separating religion for law and culture.

Khalid Nawab

2/17. Tipping - It is a big thing here. It is said that the waiters, hairdressers and others in the service industry make much less than normal standards. But I personally feel it is just a BS propaganda for the business owners to pay their hard working employees peanuts.

Vinoth Ramalingam


3/17. The houses: Enormous houses with enormous yards - trampolines in the back yard, five-foot tall dollhouses for children, ornamental wells, perhaps even brooks and golf-carts running through the property. Three floors and a basement, two staircases in one house, enormous rooms and kitchens so big they made my mom lose her mind (especially the refrigerators - big enough to store a whole cow or possibly, your wife). Granted this is in a rural area, but the sheer size of those houses blew my mind - they were like miniature palaces.

Senjuti Kundu

4/17. The American flag is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere: You're never likely to forget which country you're in. I've never been to any country which had their own flag proudly plastered every few feet (except bizarrely, the islands in Thailand, where the Thai flag was similarly ubiquitous). And it wasn't anywhere even close to Independence Day.

Senjuti Kundu

5/17. People smile and greet you with a happy face even if they don't mean it. It kinda creeps you out and mesmerizes you at the same moment. I've noticed people with really grumpy faces instantly change expression when talking with someone and immediately after they part ways they change back their expression to the default "grumpy". You might think it's a nice gesture and people should smile more but for me it lacks being genuine and comes off as fake.

Andrei Cimbru

6/17. Mass promotion of the American military - Literally everywhere, specially in schools, and contrasting it from Mexico, it feels as if the U.S. were in a current WWIII and wanted as much people as possible. Mexico has military forces, but if you want to join it is more of an independent path for you.

Alex Pizarro




7/17. Food is a reward. In the US, food is perceived as a reward. If a teacher to give something to students for answering a question right or winning a trivia game, they bring candy. If you were successful in something, you get cake. If you want to raise money for a cause, you start a bake sale. If its your birthday, you go out for dinner with your family or friends. In America, eating is a way of spending free time and the culture seems to me to be really centered around food.

Margaret Nowakowska


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8/17. Drinking culture. In the US, the drinking age is 21 - which I knew before moving there and was expecting to not be able to buy alcohol. I did not realize what comes with the higher drinking age. College students drink both in the US and in Europe (of course, not all), but the drinking culture in America is much more reckless than it is in Europe - because the students have to hide with what they do and are afraid to seek help in cases like alcohol poisoning etc. Because they cant go to bars and pubs to observe responsible drinking behaviours of other adults, they are forced to drink in their dorm or at frat parties, where binge drinking, beer pong, and other alcohol-related games are extremely popular. On the contrary, European students usually just go to a bar and have a beer - or five. I was also surprised that the red party cups present in all American teenage movies also made the appearance. Before moving to the US I thought that movies like American Pie are mostly fiction, but college proved me wrong.

Margaret Nowakowska



9/17. Everything is SUPER BIG MEGA size.

If I get an appetizer at a restaurant 90% of the time I'm full even before I see my meal. Don't get me wrong, coming from Sri Lanka I can easily down at least three plates of rice like it's nobody's business but damn. Also the soft drink containers. My god they're huge. How do you finish it? Also, why does your 4 door sedan commuter car needs a V8 engine? I lived in PA and it's still twice as big as my home country. I drove for 7 hours and I was still in PA. I don't want to think about Texas or Alaska.

Jayaruwan Gunathilake

10/17. I've lived overseas twice, as a kid and as an adult, both times for a period of years in a third-world country. Coming back to the U.S. the things that I noticed the most included...

No bars on windows.

No overt bribes or price haggling.

Conversely, surveillance is less overt.

Body type. Its rare to see an overweight person in South America. Not so much in the U.S.

Adrin Lamo

11/17. Sex ratio. When you leave your house and go to any public place you'll find approximately equal number of males and females which is different from the place where I come from.

Jay Patel

12/17. 1 person in 1 car: One thing I noticed right off the bat was that most cars have 1 person in them, and all the other seats are empty. It reminded me of back home, where in public buses during rush hours the conductor said 3 people could cram into 2 attached seats.

It really took some months to digest to this lifestyle difference. But now, it's just too normal for me, and I myself drive 4 seated car all by myself.

Bishwa Kiran

13/17. Education cost-UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn't believe how many of my friends here, who are young undergrads and graduate students, have loans of thousands of dollars from an undergraduate education. Education is pretty affordable in my country.

Divya Kamath


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14/17. Holy mother of pearl on the sugar. I thought the Philippines has sweet food, but American dishes felt so full of syrup and sugar that my daughter came home from a birthday party once and told me the cake was crunchy from it. You soon learn to order a salad dressing on the side or else you will get a sugary lettuce soup.

Ken Eckert



15/17. Interracial Marriage. Well, I knew this happens but didn't knew it is so common. My Indian female colleague is married to American. I would never had met any interracial couple in India.

Akash Khandelwal

16/17. Acceptance of LGBTQ people: people being openly gay and it not being a thing, like not at all. Now, I know we have a long way to go on gay rights but the concept of gay rights doesnt even exist where I grew up. Homosexuality isnt viewed as a matter of sexual orientation so much as a matter of sexual deviancy. But here were people being gay and the sky wasnt dropping. What a concept!

Habib Fanny

17/17. How forthcoming people were with personal matters. Youd meet strangers on the bus and have a conversation with them where theyd proceed to tell you their dad was dying from cancer, or that their parents were getting divorced. I still cant get my mom to tell me exactly how my grandma died. People are really, really, really protective of that kind of info where I grew up.
Habib Fanny

BONUS ANSWERS!

How quickly children here grow up: As I stay pretty close to the university, I usually walk to classes, passing a school on my way. On the days when I end up passing the place after school hours are done, its not uncommon to see middle school kids making out happily on the sidewalk.
Nikhil Ravi Shankar

More goal-oriented work culture. For many Europeans, work is just a source of income that enables their real hobbies and affiliations. Americans take work much more aggressively.
Anonymous

Disposable chopsticks: It is really amusing to find such cheap chopsticks in almost any kind of Asian restaurants, including some high-end Asian Fusion. Normally, only the cheapest restaurants in China use disposable chopsticks and better ones will have designed chopsticks with the restaurant's name on it.

Lulu Jia

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It's hard working in customer service, especially with irate customers. You need to be able to empathize and understand where your customers are coming from, show sympathy, and be willing to help them with their problem. However, if they come at you ranting and raving about an issue which clearly has nothing to do with you, well, then you're free to rant about them on the internet.

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