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16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America Until They Moved Here

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When I lived overseas I was always surprised at how many people thought all of the US must be like Florida or Texas.   I am originally from Minnesota and was asked more than once if I usually wore cowboy boots at home.   Minneapolis...not so much unless you're going to a country western bar.   :)

When we moved from the UK to Alabama, people couldn't wrap their head around the fact that the entire UK and the single state of Alabama have nearly the same land mass in Sq. miles.

In reading the link I am left with both pride that so many of the points were very positive, and sadness that we don't use our resources more responsibly. 

What a fascinating article. Some things I'm not surprised about, like how big the US is (I get that a lot from my co-workers from other countries), how big the food portions are, how necessary cars are, how big the houses are, moving away from/not living with family. The part about America consisting of only a few major cities was kind of funny... I tend to think that even people in America, at least in the media, seem to believe this as well!

I was surprised that several people said they found it unusual to build a house out of wood--someone from I think Germany said that there, you only build a wooden house if you're poor or making an environmental statement. What other material do people use? Steel and concrete would be typical here for, say, a skyscraper, but do people use that for ordinary homes in other areas? Another person made the point that sound travels through wooden houses, which is a peeve of mine, so I want to know how I can build a house that's quieter! :)

I was also surprised at other people's surprise about religion being more prominent in America than they were expecting. I suppose it depends on what kind of country they're from, and if their expectation of America as being more secular was positive or negative to them. I couldn't tell from a lot of the comments which angle they were coming from. For some reason I have it in my head that a lot of countries are more religious than America is--kind of the "Old World conservative traditional" stereotype. I've worked with people who originated in a lot of other countries (South Korea, India, Bangladesh for example) and they generally strike me as being more religious (for example, attending religious services regularly) and holding views that in America would be called traditional/conservative (for example, that women should not travel alone but only with their husbands, which of course they have). I kind of got the sense that many of these people found America alarmingly liberal and secular.

Another thing that I've heard from non-US natives is their amazement about the gun culture. Interestingly, in this article one person was surprised that they weren't always being shot at (so, fewer guns than they were expecting), and others said there were more guns than they'd expected. My co-worker from South Korea is quite shocked that I have cousins who enjoy recreational hunting with guns and other weapons. And at the number of criminals who use guns--a few months ago there was a report in town of something being swiped from someone as they sat outside, and the person who ran off with it had a gun. My South Korean friend said that in his country, a group of people would probably have started chasing the thief, who would not have had a gun. But of course here that would be very odd, and quite likely dangerous. His mind has also been boggled by the history of slavery in this country.

I thought this was really interesting, too. It's nice to see that many of them realized that yes, in most place in the US, it is necessary to drive nearly everywhere. We're not just lazy.

I loved that almost every single one cited the large portions. That's something I love about going out to eat. I get a huge plate of food that I didn't have to make and that tastes delicious. I take 2/3 of it home and get to eat two more delicious meals that I didn't have to make. You're not required to eat the whole thing right there in the restaurant.


--- Quote from: MrsJWine on November 15, 2013, 01:09:10 PM ---You're not required to eat the whole thing right there in the restaurant.

--- End quote ---

That's another thing that boggled a brain or two, that you can get part of your meal wrapped to go home with you.  On the other hand, my brain is slightly boggled that other countries don't do that.  Sure, the portions are much smaller, but what if you aren't feeling well or the appetizer was more filling than you expected?

Wooden houses--in many countries the common material for building houses is concrete blocks. Older houses might be stone or brick.

I've mentioned that I hang out on a travel board. I'd say that the biggest surprises for visitors and potential visitors have to do with transport. People are very surprised that there are so many famous places that you can't get to by without a car or a tour. Yellowstone, Death Valley, Big Sur, for instance. People are also surprised to discover that there is only one passenger train company and one major long-distance bus company.

Car buying. Australians seem to be the most surprised at how hard it can be to buy a car. In the US, laws are set by the individual states, but Registration includes some insurance. So, in Australia there is a traveler's market in used cars. You just buy one from someone who is finishing a trip, take care of minor paperwork and you are on your way. In the US, each time a car changes hands, it must be registered anew. You have to produce an address in the state where you want to register it. Some states require you to prove you live there, say, with an electric bill in your name. Some states have ID requirements that are impossible for most non-residents to fulfill. Then there's having to get the mandatory insurance.

Camping. In the US, camping is seen as a way to experience nature, so most campgrounds are out in the wilderness. In many countries, camping is an inexpensive lodging alternative. Campgrounds are located in or near cities, with convenient public transit. They may have cafes, laundries & other amenities. People are surprised that they cannot visit a large city, stay in a campground, and use transit to get around.

People are also surprised to find that it is hard ot find campervans for rent, as opposed to larger RVs, and that a rental car + a cheap motel may be less expensive.

In many countries, "Wild" or "free" camping is allowed or at least tolerated. That's were you pull over at a likely spot at the side of the road & set up for the night. As long as you are respectful and quiet, you are probably OK. In the US, you may just meet a police officer or an angry landowner. So, people are surprised that they can't save money by renting that campervan and doing wild camping.

Distances, yes. We once had someone planning to drive from Chicago to the Grand Canyon in one day.

That American B&Bs are usually luxury lodging, often in restored old homes furnished with antiques. Not some rooms with shared bath in a home or small hotel, often described as "cheap and cheerful."

Edited to add: a visitor from Brazil wondered if the high number of wooden buildings was the reason there were so many fires. Every day in Los Angeles, he saw fire trucks racing somewhere. He was surprised to find that the Fire Dept responded to everything--fires, medical emergencies, traffic accidents, hazardous waste spills… (My local FD recently released a report showing that something like 80% of calls were medical.)


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