What was the strangest cultural thing you have experienced as a foreigner/visitor in the United States?
I came here at age 17 in the 90's and it was a BIG culture shock! Remember this is BEFORE the internet era and the only ideas I have about the USA is from watching TV and from the pictures my father have sent me while he was at Disneyland or at Universal Studios posing right next to a fake shark.
So I boarded the plane and it flew some 14 hours and landed in Los Angeles. This is what I remember:
- Plane touches down and the pilot announced "Welcome to Los Angeles". Everyone in the plane clapped.. there were hugs, some crying, it was very emotional. As the plane slowed down, the Airport crew outside rushed to guide the plane to the terminal. I looked out the window and saw the FIRST WHITE DUDE I've ever seen in my life. Yes! I am in America! This is really happening!!
- I got out of the plane and fell in line at the immigration. Wait a minute.. not everyone in America is white and blonde! (Remember this is before the internets) I had no idea that America is multi-cultural. Damn Hollywood... I seriously thought I will be interrogated by Chuck Norris. Imagine my shock when some hispanic lady interviewed me and she was very sweet! America is more diverse than I thought. I like it here already!
- I finally got together with my father whom I have not seen in so many years. We drove out of the parking lot and next thing I noticed was that people seem to be super friendly, almost forced kind of friendly, you know? Parking attendant actually said "Hello". After paying the parking fee, my father said "have a good one" to the parking attendant. I asked him if he knows the person.. he says nope.
- Second day in America and we went to the world famous Huntington beach. Saw some shirtless dude running towards us... could this be David Hasselhoff? Nope, just some homeless dude being chased by cops. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching seagulls digging trash at the beach.
- Third day.. Disneyland!!! Was shocked to see the amount of public affection people display. They hug each other and lovers kiss passionately in public. I have to admit that I couldn't stand it the first year I was here.
- I noticed that people live for the weekends. Where I was from, we hung out everyday. Here people are busy working Monday to Friday so when the weekend comes, they go nuts. They have a long line of things to do and time seems so precious they don't want to waste it with you.
- Ads everywhere. On the TV, bus benches, on your food, your phone.. they are in your face all the time. Even politicians advertise on TV! This is insane.
- Food serving is HUGE. Went to a local Buca Di Beppo and ordered a plate of spaghetti. Waiter comes and hands over a HUGE spaghetti plate good for 5 people. I asked that perhaps he made a mistake and I only ordered for 1 person. He gave me a puzzled look.. "A plate of spaghetti, correct?" I said yes. Yep, that's it. Enjoy! wow!
- NOT Co-Sleeping with your kids. I am quite shocked that all my American friends make their kids sleep in another bedroom, even the very young babies. I mean, what if the baby couldn't breathe? How would you know? Also, isn't it more fun if you all tell stories at night before you sleep? In my family, we all sleep together in one bedroom. My wife and I actually have to sneak out of our room in the middle of the night and have sex in the garage so the kids won't wake up.
- Hot and Cold water on the faucet. Incredible! Where I was from, I had to boil water if I want hot water. But hey, hot water is rarely needed there because it's always hot!
- Lack of guns in plain sight. Weird, right? I know most of you must think that America is the gun capital of the world, but this PALES in comparison to Manila. Growing up, I saw security guards that carried freakin shotguns and M-16's with belts of ammos across their chest you'd think they're going to war! In reality they're just guarding a 7-Eleven. Shopping malls have shelves that say "Leave your firearms here". I'm shocked that in America, no one appears to carry guns except the police. Granted, I live in CA where gun control is fairly strong, but still.
- Pedestrian Right Of Way. I was blown that drivers actually STOP to let someone cross the street. That is so awesome! I even see people chat on their phones while leisurely crossing the street taking their sweet time (to the motorists' dismay) but they have no choice but to patiently wait. I've been living here for 20 years and I still FEAR that the cars will run me over. Everytime I cross the street, I try to hurry up because I always feel that the driver will get impatient and kill me.
- And finally, the mail system. USPS is freakin awesome! Those of you who hate the USPS should feel very thankful that we have something reliable here in America. I can't believe that when you send a package to someone that it will actually get there! Also, there's always something in my mailbox when I get home from work. Bills, offers from Columbia House, Pennysavers, coupons, credit card offers, Jury duty summons... I love it! Where I came from, I never get any mail, ever!
Thanks for all the upvotes. Will add more stuff as I remember them.