You may face a bigger culture shock in some countries more than others, but culture shock when visiting abroad is a common occurrence. Things are not the same everywhere and when you first visit America you will encounter things that will be very different compared to your culture: this doesn’t necessarily mean that culture differences are a bad thing.
Here are the five biggest culture shocks you may encounter in America:
1. Lack of public transportation
You may see in movies and TV shows that Americans frequently use some sort of public transportation, but in real life if you do not live in an urban and busy city your ability to get around without a car is very difficult.
People who live in suburban areas are almost “required” to own a car, not only because there is a lack of public transportation, but also everything is not within a walking distance. Schools, groceries, banks, shopping, and any other errand running, may not be within reach without driving.
2. Houses with no fences
If there is one thing you can compare movies to reality with is the houses in America. You are used to seeing in movies houses without fences, and that is not only in neighborhoods or houses created for movies. That is a reality here! In many countries houses not only have fences, but have big walls that cover the entire house and some even have electrical wiring on top. These barriers are mostly for safety reasons because in many countries there is a lack of security, and therefore, if you do not “hide” your property, you may be in risk of being robbed.
3. Greetings from strangers
Americans like to greet strangers and that may seem unusual to others, but for Americans that is a common courtesy. Though, whether you are in a park or in an elevator, an American may greet you with a “Hi, how are you?”. Their “Hi, how are you?” is just their way of saying “Hi”. They do not expect you to start a conversation, but you should always reply with a simple smile or a “good, thanks”.
Americans do make small talks with strangers, but that will depend on the person and situation. For instance, in subways or while waiting in line to buy something, you should not be surprised if someone starts small talk with you.
4. State sales tax
In most countries, a price tag means exactly how much you will pay for the good or the service. In America (with exemptions of some states) you will need to pay state sales tax or state-local sales tax for all goods and for some services in addition to the sale price.
5. The need to pay gratuity
When you go anywhere where you receive a service, for instance a restaurant, you not only will have to pay the service price and the state tax (with exemptions of some states), but you are also expected to pay a gratuity (best known as a tip). The amount you are expected to tip typically ranges from 10% – 20% of the total amount of the bill. In some establishments, for instance, restaurants, it is common to see a mandatory tip amount (fixed percentage) already included in the bill for groups of five or more people.
Questions? Let us know in the comments.