Observing America

I read an online article about what shocked immigrants most about American Culture. This may not be the most representative article but it sure gives you a glimpse into what it feels like to come to America and observe its culture. Being somewhat of an immigrant myself – technically I don’t qualify as one but in practice I still am one – this piqued my interest and I spent some time thinking about my own experiences.
I grew up in a Western country, which I personally feel is more “civilized” than most parts of the USA. Yet – and maybe exactly because of that – there were things that struck me whenever I used to visit as a child and when I eventually moved here in my early 20s. I wouldn’t call it culture “shock” but it was a culture “surprise” nonetheless. Some of it good and some of it not so good. But the fact that I am still here tells me none of it was bad enough for me to shun the country yet.
Here are a few examples:
* Everything is massively big – milk containers, cereal boxes, cars, roads, even people.
* Most durables and consumables are dirt cheap – electronics, clothes, shoes, bulk groceries … it took me a while to realize you have to compromise on quality sometimes.
* Housing (at least in the Bay Area) is insanely expensive. The cost to quality-of-living ratio is so out of whack that this may be the only serious reason I sometimes think I am nuts to be living here.
* People can be astonishingly superficial. Finding authenticity can be a challenge and sadly being authentic is sometimes looked down upon.
* As an extension to the previous point – touting your own horn is rewarded vs. letting your actions speak for themselves is ignored. That’s the one I struggle most with. To the extent that I quickly develop an apathy for horn touters which I am unable to hide.
* You will find plenty of people that you may never develop a deep friendship with but that will always brighten up your day by just chit chatting with you. Just knowing they are around takes the fear of being in a foreign country away.
* The medical system in this country is inexplicably bad. Some of the most talented doctors claim to be here but the process to avail their services will make you sicker than you originally were.
* The variety of landscapes, weather conditions and vistas is delighting.
* Cultural diversity and the availability of literally anything from around the world widens your horizons.
* The gap in civilization between the coasts and all other parts of the country is mind-blowing. It’s like you are experiencing two different countries.
* Convenience justifies stupidity. I could never, and I highly doubt I will ever, understand why you would pay twice the price for a large drink at a fast food chain compared to a small one when there are unlimited free refills anyways?! People love to fuel themselves with sugary sodas and preferably without having to get up and walk 10 feet in between.
This is by far not an exhaustive list but just a few things that came to mind as I spent some time thinking about this topic. I would love to hear what your experiences of culture “shock” were when you first visited/moved to this country.

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