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When you start your research on where you want to travel in the US, I can guarantee there is a 80% chance you start by typing in California and a 20% chance of typing New York. Despite knowing more than the typical American about their own politics, culture, history, and current events, you still only think of the US as California, New York and a bunch of nonsense in-between.
“Texas? Is that what’s between them? Who cares, most Americans probably don’t know either.” – You
Its okay, you are not too far off. If you are coming to the US for the first time, I would suggest CA or NY. This is because you are familiarized with American culture with movies, news, music, fashion, gadgets, celebrities, McDonalds, and so many ways I can’t even think about. It’s not that you don’t have pride in your own countries, its just that everything American is bigger, better, and more in your face. Before you are ready to experience Americans you must get a few things strait.
1. You act like you are culturally and intellectually superior to Americans but you secretly love everything about us.
You might not even notice it, or you might go to McDonalds as a “joke” even though you are loving every bite. You play Rap so you can “satirically twerk to it.” But face it, you love us.
2. You despise the dumb American Tourist sorority girls in the destinations of your home country…
(Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona), taking candid selfies and failing at trying to speak the native language when ordering or asking for directions. I have some terrible news; you are the same exact thing when you come to California. We all go for a semester abroad for the same type of first world adventure. It’s not a bad thing, we are all in the same boat!
Anyway you are doing your research on your school, visas, laws, and costs for about two minutes and then switch to Pinterest or Tumblr and look up “Cali.” Everything you have ever seen or heard has told you that California is a paradise. Well, you are right. California has so much to offer with incredible diversity, beauty, and history. You are getting excited to be spending a semester or a summer in a place you have seen in countless movies and have heard Snoopdogg rap about. But you are wondering, how accurate is all that stuff? Are Americans as crazy and ridiculous as it seems in movies. Is there really ghettos and shootings everyday? Does everyone own a surfboard?
Most Europeans have a fairly accurate pre-conceived idea of Americans but pop culture adds some major bias. When you get here, you can form your own opinion on Americans.
Here are the top 10 things my Europeans friends have said they noticed first about the US and Americans.
1. Americans are incredibly open and friendly.
Almost everyone that I have talked to says this is the something they notice when they get to the US. Even in cue in the airport or the cab ride home, you are noticing strangers being extremely nice to you. Smiling, talking to you, helping you find your way. For example, my friend Miguel’s car broke down. A very sweet old lady came over and helped him push it to the side, called a tow truck, waited with him, gave him some of her lunch, and even gave him some money because he was a young student. This is something you may only see in the US. Don’t expect everyone to be like this but it is not uncommon.
Also, almost anyone is ready for you to talk to them. People around you, on the bus, in cue at the store, at a bar, are all open ready to talk. You will find that people will be talking to you and telling you personal information out of nowhere. This is something Americans, especially Californians, are known for. My advice, talk and open up. You never know who they could be or where they can take you.
2. They think its “crazy” that you are from another country.
Yes, you are foreign and you don’t think it’s a big deal. But to Americans, foreign culture is something we only see synthesized like Panda Express as Chinese food, or Pizza Hut as Italian. We are starving to become more cultured and learn about you. Don’t get offended if they are completely murdering a French accent or being completely wrong about where your country is. Forgive us stupid Americans and take it as a compliment.
3. Americans are very prideful and opinionated.
We love our country. We think it is the greatest place on earth. The fact that you are here just proves it to us. We will talk about how the US is the best country in the world and that we have won both world wars like its common knowledge. We feel very strongly about about our country’s rights. We think freedom and guns were invented by Americans. Forgive us. Its easy to tell if you are speaking to an ignorant asshole or a cultured American who wants to engage in an intellectual conversation. Use your best judgment before you get into it.
4. There is so much to do and see in the US.
Seriously, the US is huge and diverse. There is so much out there. Simply driving up the coast of California may seem like several different countries. See as much as you can!! Grab your friends, rent a car, and go explore. You won’t be disappointed.
5. Americans Drink to get fucked up.
Yup. Americans don’t know what casual or responsible drinking looks like. If we do, we try wayyyy to hard to be trendy. In California, having 20 different IPA beers and two types of vodka is not uncommon. Don’t be afraid to be adventures, but don’t be intimidated to drink what you like.
6. Racism isn’t as bad as you think in the US. Americans are actually pretty tolerant.
The news or movies might make it seem that Americans are extremely racist or intolerant. You might see that if you went to the south (wouldn’t recommend it) but both coasts are extremely diverse melting pots. Most Americans know that being American does not mean you are a certain race or religion. Don’t be afraid to show your true colors!
7. American Universities are a joke.
Fraternities, house parties with red cups, casual sex? Yes, yes and yes. We go to Universities for the same two reasons you are coming to the US for a semester. 1.) Having an American degree is kinda important to get a job in the US. 2.) But really, we are going to college to have fun.
You might find that the school is easy and that everyone is partying. Except you are on a holiday and this is actually their university experience. Just live it up.
8. Regarding #7, Americans are very casual about sex.
This is something you might notice right away or later. Americans have more sexual partners by the time they get married, than almost any other culture. It is not uncommon to meet someone and go home with them the same night. Shit, especially if you are in college this is an “every weekend” occurrence. We are not slutty. Well maybe a little. But it’s okay. Try it, I bet there is an American that would forever remember the European they met that one semester.
9. Casual clothing is totally acceptable to wear in public.
Flip Flops, yoga pants, sweatshirt, and hair in a bun.
This is how most girls will go to class. It is not an indicator of their self respect but the lack of cultural need to get dressed up to go into public. You also might see people not wearing shirts or shoes in restaurants near the beach. Totally normal. My personal advice, dress how you want, casual or not. People may notice if you dress up for class and give you more respect. I don’t know.
10. When Americans ask “how are you?” or “what’s up” they are actually asking you, but you don’t have to actually tell them.
This one might seem obvious but I have seen a lot of foreign visitors get thrown off by it. Americans will ask you these things and you have two choices; it doesn’t matter which one you pick. You can either say, “good!” or actually tell them how you are doing. It is not uncommon for someone to actually say, “Im actually great! I woke up this morning and pissed excellence and then……” If you are confused by this, refer to to tip #1.
The truth is that no one can tell you anything about somewhere you have never been! It is up to you to go and form your own opinion. But I think it is important to celebrate our differences. Laugh it all the things you find weird and different! Joke about it. Share yourself with the world. It would not be the world we love without everyone in it! People are the my favorite part of going somewhere new.
I hope you liked my article. Sorry if I offended anyone, I only mean to be satirical.
Leave comments about things you have found to be surprising about Americans or other cultures and places.