Author Topic: 16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America Until They Moved Here  (Read 44456 times)

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Katana_Geldar

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I've lived in a house with wooden window frames, when the wind would blow the entire house sounded like it was going to shake itself apart. Most houses here are brick, but we do have wooden houses like Queenslanders.

Can someone explain why no one carries cash? Or why fruit and vegetables are more expensive?

Credit cards and EFTPOS is used here, but some places don't face them and you need cash. And fruits and vegetables are usually good value here...within season. There was one year storms took out a lot of banana crops and prices went sky high.

Peppergirl

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^^  No idea on the fruits/veggies thing, but on the no-cash thing - I'm guilty of that.

Even in rural areas (I just moved to central Florida) it's *rare* for a place not to take credit or debit, so I generally don't carry more than 2 or 3 dollars on me at any given time.  It helps me control my spending a bit.  I find that I spend more when I carry and pay for things with cash.

Even the local fruit stand (under a tent) takes credit/debit cards.  ;D  It really is widespread over here.  I tend to think that if a lot of places didn't take it, people would carry more cash.

Katana_Geldar

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A lot of places here don't take cards for small purchases. To $10 or $20. They say it's because of bank fees.

menley

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<snip>

Can someone explain why no one carries cash? Or why fruit and vegetables are more expensive?

Credit cards and EFTPOS is used here, but some places don't face them and you need cash. And fruits and vegetables are usually good value here...within season. There was one year storms took out a lot of banana crops and prices went sky high.

Cash is just rarely needed - even small vendors take card. I actually kept track once because a European friend asked me about it. I went over a year without needing cash for anything.

With regard to fruit and vegetables, it's because so many are imported so that we can have the same ones year-round. Unless you shop at a farmer's market, there's not an emphasis on seasonal fruits and vegetables. It's actually one of the biggest adjustments I've had to moving to Europe. In the US I could get strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries all year round (albeit at slightly higher prices… but we're talking $5 versus $2). Here in central Europe, there's a brief window of the summer where I can get them, unless I go to one of the expat imported goods stores where I can buy them for like $20 per kilo ;)

Katana_Geldar

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Here many fruits are snap frozen so we can have them year round, but there are exceptions like cherries and mangoes. And yes, they are pricier at certain times of the year as well.

camlan

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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! :)
concrete or bricks are the most common building materials here. (Off course, here we have loads of sand and canals everywhere to easily transport sand by ship.)

Off course, with these materials houses tend to last much longer. I once read here about people thinking that a 20 year old house is getting old (for maintenance etc.) I just bought an 18 year old house, so it is still relatively new and in great condition, only the interior needed a cosmetic fix-up and the wooden window- and doorframes were badly maintained. People live in 400 year old houses here that are still in good condition (though they have often been completely upgraded on the interior to make them suitable for modern standards.)

About older houses--a lot depends on where you live and what your personal feelings about older houses are.

On the east coast, you can still find a few houses, built of wood mostly, that were built in the 1600's. Some of these are still lived in, but many have been turned into museums. The Paul Revere house in Boston is an example. There's a house in my town that was built in 1875-ish, that is part of the local historical museum.

Four hundred years for any building in the US is going to be a stretch--there simply weren't that many non-Native Americans here at that time to be building a typical European style house. (You can still see the remains of some pretty incredible adobe dwellings built by Native Americans in the southeast, though.)

In general, along the east coast, in the older cities and towns, there are plenty of houses that are 100-150 years old. Most are of wood, but in the cities, you'll find row houses of brick or stone. Think of the New York City brownstones, which appeared sometime after 1830.

My city, which has been around in one form or another since the 1650s (which is old for the US), as a lot of housing stock that is over 100 years old, which is old for us. My house was built in 1900.

There are problems in dealing with an older house--money has to be spent upgrading the plumbing, the electrical system, the heating system. More repairs have to be done on the roof, the windows, that sort of thing.

The fact is, a lot of newer houses (but not all) aren't as well constructed as the older homes. And if they aren't maintained well, they do show signs of age within 20-50 years.

Those of us who like older houses like the solid plaster walls that reduce the amount of noise that travels from room to room, the details that newer homes sometimes lack, such as nice wood trim around doors and windows, the craftsmanship that went into the older buildings.

But in many places in the US, even on the east coast, there simply aren't very many older buildings. You really have little choice but to buy a newer home. And hope that the builder did a good job on it.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


kherbert05

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I've lived in a house with wooden window frames, when the wind would blow the entire house sounded like it was going to shake itself apart. Most houses here are brick, but we do have wooden houses like Queenslanders.

Can someone explain why no one carries cash? Or why fruit and vegetables are more expensive?

Credit cards and EFTPOS is used here, but some places don't face them and you need cash. And fruits and vegetables are usually good value here...within season. There was one year storms took out a lot of banana crops and prices went sky high.
Key words within season. Most fruit and vegetables are available year around here.


The no one carries cash isn't true. I get out my budget for the week each Saturday. Helps me stay in budget.
Don't Teach Them For Your Past. Teach Them For Their Future

perpetua

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You're not required to eat the whole thing right there in the restaurant.

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?

You can here in the UK, depending on what kind of restaurant it is, I think. If I go to my local Indian or Chinese I have no problems asking for leftovers to be boxed up to take home.

Admittedly I've never been to the States so my sole knowledge of eating out comes from TV and I'm sure it's all embellished for the purposes of entertainment, but I watch programmes about US restaurants with a mixture of fascination and horror. The portions are just *so* gluttonously huge, and there never seems to be any fresh veg - all meat and carbs. I remember when Jamie Oliver did his programme over there he said it was cheaper for low income families to eat junk in fast food places 7 nights a week than it is to buy food to cook at home and I found that a bit staggering.

On the subject of house building materials - and again obviously my knowledge comes from news reports on TV - I never understood why houses in tornado areas always seem to be built of wood. Doesn't that make them more likely to blow down? Or is the thought pattern 'it's going to blow down anyway, may as well build it out of something cheaper to rebuild than brick' ?

123sandy

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Absolutely the enormous food portions! Shortly after arriving in Georgia we went out for a quick bite, I wasn't very hungry so just ordered a ham sandwich. What arrived at the table was at least three inches thick, with a mound of crisps (way more than a standard sized bag in the UK) and a pickle spear leaking juice into it all. I promptly lost my appetite.

perpetua

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Absolutely the enormous food portions! Shortly after arriving in Georgia we went out for a quick bite, I wasn't very hungry so just ordered a ham sandwich. What arrived at the table was at least three inches thick, with a mound of crisps (way more than a standard sized bag in the UK) and a pickle spear leaking juice into it all. I promptly lost my appetite.

I'm not surprised - that sounds horrible!

Thipu1

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Our neighborhood has a number of small wooden houses that date from around 1820.  At the time they were built, wood was the building material of choice.  It was readily available as trees were being cleared for grazing land. Only the really wealthy had houses made of stone or brick. Many of these small wooden houses are quite stylish.     

Later in the century, the balloon frame made houses of considerable size available to people of quite modest means.  It was even possible to buy house 'kits' from catalogue merchants such as Mongomery Ward or Sears & Roebuck. 

When we visit Family in the upper Midwest, frame houses are the norm. 

Until I read this thread, I never considered that wooden houses would be considered odd.     

That's one of the things I love about E-Hell.  There are always new ideas and points of view to consider. 
« Last Edit: November 16, 2013, 11:13:05 AM by Thipu1 »

sparksals

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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.


If you think the US is big, check out Canada, which is the 2nd largest country in the world in land mass.  It is very easy to drive across a State or two in the US in one day, but it can take days to drive N/S in a province.   


I was also VERY surprised that the US can be so conservative and have strong religious views.  Coming from Canada, which is very diverse, but still very secular - religion is more private.  I am always surprised by the number of churches here.  We were driving through KY a few years ago and there were churches everywhere, but it was very rural.... I dont' know where the people were coming from for all these churches.


My town in MN has about 10 churches within a few miles. 

jmarvellous

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The fruit more expensive than meat thing is just objectively untrue. I mean, if you want imported starfruit vs. frozen  ground turkey, sure it'll be more expensive, just as Kobe beef will be much more expensive than in-season local apples. But I posted a link recently on a thread where someone mentioned a vegetarian diet being more expensive than a meat-eating diet that showed the unit prices of various staples nationwide and almost all vegetables and fruits were cheaper per pound than meats.

I can find fresh or frozen produce year-round in any regular grocer. The quality of fresh goes down in the winter (and prices rise), but that's just the way agriculture works.

My friends from other (European) countries are surprised by how noisy we are on public transit, which is interesting. It bugs me, but I don't know any different. :)

They are also annoyed by how captivated we are by their accents. Even when they're perfectly understandable, people will gawk. (Case in point, a guy whose parents are Chinese but who grew up in a posh British setting and has the accent to go with it--some people don't "get" that there are immigrants in other countries, or something. He says people have told him to his face that he "sounds weird.")

Funny that someone mentioned the Paul Revere house. I was just there and it's in great condition ... because it has been completely restored in recent years. I'm not sure there's much left from the original construction! It is still a neat place to visit because of the replication of old techniques. I'd love to go to other countries where things older than 300 years aren't as rare.

hyzenthlay

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On the subject of house building materials - and again obviously my knowledge comes from news reports on TV - I never understood why houses in tornado areas always seem to be built of wood. Doesn't that make them more likely to blow down? Or is the thought pattern 'it's going to blow down anyway, may as well build it out of something cheaper to rebuild than brick' ?


Well the quick and easy answer is that concrete walls don't do much good when the tornado rips off the roof.

But most people just don't get how destructive 'just wind' can be. An F5 has winds of up to 250 miles per hours. Take a car, throw it at a building at 250 miles per hour, see if the building holds up. Now try and price that at a level suitable for family homes . . .

Even an in home shelter runs $4,000 or more. Doing a whole home that way won't happen any time soon.

MommyPenguin

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I find that fruits and vegetables are a hugely expensive part of our grocery bill.  Meat, however, is pretty expensive, too.  Chicken is similar in price per pound to some fruits, depending on the season, but just about any other meat is more expensive pound for pound.  However, we also don't eat as much meat as we do fruit.  I tend to mostly buy inexpensive, in-season fruit, but we still spend more on it than meat.  Frozen vegetables are relatively cheap, and we tend to eat more of them than fresh.  But for fruit, fresh fruit just isn't the same as frozen (more crisp and crunchy, less mushy).  Bananas, thank goodness, are one of the cheapest fruits.  I say thank goodness, because we probably go through at least 6 a day.  The first things we run out of between grocery trips are milk and bananas.

With old houses, we visited Mount Vernon recently.  My understanding is that Mount Vernon was in pretty poor repair, and had become more than the landowner (descendant of Washington) could afford to maintain, so it was falling apart.  He sold it, and a women's society (Ladies of Mount Vernon, something like that?) bought it and restored it.  I'm sure some of it has been pretty much replaced, but as much of it was preserved as possible.  It's an absolutely lovely home and property, and gives a great view of life at the time.

I wouldn't say that a 20-year-old house was old, or even a 50-year-old house, if reasonably well-maintained.  We own a house from Victorian times.