Coming to America is quite the journey... no matter how one gets here. There is always an immediate culture shock. You may even arrive here speaking the language but the way of life can be daunting for most. We a unique group of people. We can take some getting use to. The social norms and customs may always be a hurdle. Everyone is just always gonna do their own thing. When in doubt, ask for details.

Redditor u/TrustMe_ImDaHolyGhst wanted to discuss with everyone what are some of the ways getting use to life in America can be tricky by asking..... Non-americans who moved to the US, what are some social customs that have been the hardest for you to get used to?

All Thumbs

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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.


Be Car Still....

A friend of mine is Russian. Her parents came to Russia and was 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.

Edit: He didn't die they didn't even shoot at him. He did get arrested though.


Kiss Me....

Not hugging, kissing on cheek or handshake when saying hi to family. I'm from South America.


I was an RA when some Cuban exchange students came for the summer (Canada). They reeled me in for a kiss when they showed up and I was like WTF IS HAPPENING?! Just like hauled me right in aggressively. It was cool but totally took me a while.


I Wanna Dance

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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.


What. The. Fudge.

Carpet everywhere. I thought at first I had that beige, slightly too fluffy standard issue carpet in my first apartment because it was cheap and in a sh!tty area. Moved to a nicer place, still carpet. Visited relatives who have a really nice 5BR house in the best part of town: the same carpet! Add to that what someone already posted, that people don't take their shoes off, I am still bewildered. And don't get me started on carpet at high traffic public spaces, like banks, offices, and even /airports/! What. The. Fudge.



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.


So many differences.... 

Sales tax not being included in the price (got pretty used to it after 4 years, but it still occasionally caught me off guard).

Healthcare bills.

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.


The Metrics....

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Pounds. Ounces. Feet. Miles. I could never get the hang of it. I just still don't even have a concept of how long a mile is, and I lived in the U.S for 3 years. I completely acknowledge that I'm dumb, though.



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.


I was taught this growing up, but I learned pretty quickly to drop it. So many people come from divorced families that assuming a parent had the same last name as their kid caused a lot of awkward situations.


A Woman's Way

As a woman when I first moved to the US, I felt like there was something wrong with me because I didn't do my nails, or color my hair, or wear makeup like my friends did. The way I grew up, women who were not celebrities didn't do stuff like that at that frequency. I felt like maybe I wasn't feminine enough because those things seemed so tied to femininity.

Edit: To clarify, of course I don't think every single American woman is like this, it was just that I didn't know a single woman personally that did those things growing up, perhaps it's different now.


Not THAT Word!

Only lived there for five months for exchange. I'm from Scotland, and we use the word c*nt often as a term of endearment. You will know when it is NOT being used as a term of endearment, it's all about tone.

My first week in the country I went to a house party where I said c*nt casually in conversation. I'm not joking when I say everyone stopped their conversations and stared at me. One girl was properly glaring at me and then told me to apologize to the person I was talking about.

Cue my Australian friend starting to piss herself and the both of us having to explain to a room full of people that it wasn't meant offensively.

Not exactly the hardest social custom but I just thought it was funny.


No Broad Strokes

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My immigrant wife has had to learn not to publicly state any broad generalizations whatsoever about racial/ethnic groups. Such things are commonly said in other countries but are less acceptable in the U.S.


2 Countries in 1....

Don't need to be from outside the us. I'm from the south and going up north is a culture shock.


Everything in the south is so ungodly slow. Northerner here and the weirdest part of traveling the states is how in the south people seem to be really nice but kind of generic about it. In the north we're kind but it is more "let me help this guy out" instead of " oh this guy's cool I'm gonna be really nice". I've lived in the north for some time and I don't think I could ever live south of Nebraska because of the culture.


Never Stop! 

The importance of working, being "productive," and being in a position to continuously generate revenue. I am a medical researcher and have been doing this for about 15 years in the USA now. To this day it bothers me that I have to justify the need for my research in terms of healthcare costs. For example, when writing grants or presenting research proposals to higher-ups: "Pathology ABC impacts 100000 people in USA each year, and as a result of this patients suffer a lot." - this should be sufficient, right? Nope!

What I'd write instead is something like: "Pathology ABC impacts 100000 people in USA each year resulting in expense of NNN dollars to the healthcare system and additional losses of MMM dollars associated with missed work and productivity." If the research study involves athletes, you've hit pay dirt. Accounting for all those missed seasons, practices, etc. is such a strong selling point. It does not stop there though. Any study involving longitudinal follow up now more often than not asks patients to provide information about their work status before treatment and periodically up to 1, 2, 5, or even 10 years out.

This so that drug and device manufacturers can boast about how quickly their patients are able to return to work and being productive. It would be nice if the system incentivized genuine, intense focus on value of life and value of quality of life. I have worked in other countries before and do not recall having to pay attention to expenses in this manner. It may have changed within the last 15 years though.


Friend Quota....

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'm an American and can agree with this. Unless you were friends since childhood, no one needs to make "new friends"... like there's a friend quota.

Unless you two absolutely hit it off during the first conversation. Then you're allowed to be best friends. If there's one thing about you that doesn't match their way of life, they are most likely to end it quickly.

It used to not seem that way growing up before smart phones and social media. I think those two things have ruined how people communicate with each other.



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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.


American schools sometimes look like sports grounds who teach students as a side hustle.


American Ways

I'm from New Zealand.

Lack of vacation days.

Weird as crap health system tied to employment.

Food portions.

Otherwise it is a pretty easy adjustment.


The taking themselves seriously thing is very interesting and I agree. Nearly every American I speak to seems to have a really strong internal narrative, as if they and their lives are part of a movie/television show. I recognize this isn't the most useful way to describe this impression I get but it's also the truest.


Stop Scuffing....

Walking into someone's house with your shoes on.

And waving, everyone waves. Wasn't sure why. Did they think they knew me? Did they need help?


I think the waving is more a sign of goodwill in America. I do it a lot when driving or using a crosswalk to signal a thanks to the person letting me cross or pass them. I hope this helps!


Crazy Help

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Very attentive customer service. It felt almost psychotic.


Oh trust me, as an American in the service industry... it's an act. We have to act nice to you or lose our job. Internally we could often care less how your day is going, and would often prefer you never came in.


Where to Begin?

My wife is an immigrant so I'll pass on a couple that she struggled with.

Potluck dinners. Inviting people over to your house for a meal and then telling them to bring the food just isn't culturally acceptable in her background. She understands how the variety of foods can be exceptional and the amount of food automatically adjusts to the number of people, but it's a cultural form of hospitality that runs counter to offering what you have to your guests.

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.

The way Americans are so informal in addressing elders and people with the title "Dr" seems disrespectful. Titles would always be used and first names are only for people of approximately the same age and background.

Women have many freedoms and professional opportunities that are not open to them in some countries. This is a good attribute of the USA.



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