When I first moved to the U.S., I didn’t assume there would be a huge difference in the way people behaved. Frankly, coming from a Latin country with no study abroad experience, I had no idea what to expect. I arrived in America with an open mind but realized that there were many differences, which led me to experience a sense of a ‘culture shock’.
‘Culture shock’ occurs when a person feels disoriented in a new country and is not used to the routine or people. This often leads to homesickness but can be avoided if you’re aware of what to expect.
Some social customs can make you feel a certain level of ‘culture shock’. Here are a few examples from my experience:
Meeting Strangers: Citizens are accustomed to smiling at strangers or even starting a conversation with them. This is considered normal but it took me by surprise because I immediately began to overthink their intentions, rather than simply smiling or answering in return.
Tipping: One of the details that people take very seriously is the importance of tipping. I had been brought up with the understanding that tipping was optional because customer service was not a big deal. This can be a very big issue in the United States, since it is a big part of their culture.
Punctuality: Americans take timings very seriously. If people are not present for an event or appointment at a certain hour, it may be taking into offense. In this country, being on time demonstrates a person’s type of character. However, I was always used to people taking punctuality very lightly, so it took me a while to adjust.
Many of the above-mentioned details may sound very minor, but they have the power to affect the way locals perceive you. An international student could be considered rude or disrespectful, simply because they were never brought up with these customs.
I might have had an easier time adjusting to the United States, if I would have understood what was culturally acceptable.
Nevertheless, once I did, I began seeing the United States in a different perspective and citizens became more welcoming. This made me realize how great of a country this is and how important social norms are in any part of the world.