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What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Old Dec 12th 2016, 8:09 am
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Default What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

So with my interview date for a K1 visa pretty soon (January 20th) - I've been thinking alot about the differences in culture between the USA and the UK - for the people who have moved to the States - what was the biggest culture shock/surprise that you got, that you maybe didn't anticipate?
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 9:40 am
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

I came here feeling (transfer via my job) over-confident that I could handle the move, given the fact that I'd undertaken many work trips as well as vacations to the US.

After a kind of "honeymoon period" that probably lasted 3-4 months I began to feel quite alienated. It wasn't one specific thing, more a realization that absolutely everything was different (even if only a little bit) from "home". I felt quite out of sorts for about 18 months. Then, something kind of clicked. I remember going to the UK on a work trip and noticing that a few things seemed different and strange, and I remember driving back from the airport in Boston and feeling like I was "home".
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 12:36 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

I agree with Tonrob - everything is different, but usually only a little bit. I think it is the superficial similarity of almost everything that makes the universal small differences unsettling - like entering a parallel universe that diverged from the one you are familiar with 240 years ago!

I think the difference that struck me is how quickly it became normal to drive distances that would be considered insane in the UK. The distance to our nearest Walmart is the same as driving from the house where my mother lives in Gloucester all the way to Cheltenham, driving five miles for lunch or thirty miles for dinner has become quite normal - despite the massive difference in the price of petrol, we spend as much on petrol as we did in the UK because we drive 3-4 times as far!

Also, American houses are junk - they need perpetual repairs and maintenance just to keep them working properly and looking good. You will need to either get familiar with household plumbing and electrical work, as well as finish carpentary, painting, and sundry other handyman skills, or expect to be paying an average of a couple of hundred dollars a month on service calls. I enjoy doing DIY projects, and I used to joke that my house wasn't just a home, it's a hobby too. But after almost fourteen years, and with no end in sight to the relentless stream of tasks, the joke is wearing a bit thin.

Last edited by Pulaski; Dec 12th 2016 at 12:58 pm.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 12:44 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Originally Posted by Pulaski View Post
I agree with Tonrob - everything is different, but usually only a little bit. I think it is the superficial similarity of almost everything that makes the universal small differences unsettling - like entering a parallel universe that diverged from the one you are familiar with 240 years ago!

I think the difference that struck me is how quickly it became normal to drive distances that would be considered insane in the UK. The distance to our nearest Walmart is the same as driving from the house where my mother lives in Gloucester all the way to Cheltenham, driving five miles for lunch or thirty miles for dinner has become quite normal - despite the massive difference in the price of petrol, we spend as much on petrol as we did in the UK because we drive 3-4 times as far!

Also, American houses are junk - they need perpetual repairs and maintenance just to keep them working properly and running right. You will need to either get familiar with household plumbing and electrical work, as well as finish carpentary, painting, and sundry other handyman skills, or expect to be paying an average of a couple of hundred dollars a month on service calls. I enjoy doing DIY projects, and I used to joke that my house wasn't just a home, it's a hobby too. But after almost fourteen years, and with no end in sight to the relentless stream of tasks, the joke is wearing a bit thin.
Ah see that's interesting - because over here in the UK whenever I mention to anyone that I'm (hopefully!) moving to the USA in the near future they always comment on the sizes of the houses in comparison to houses in the UK - interesting to hear that they're prone to problems!
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 12:50 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Originally Posted by BigBoss1984 View Post
Ah see that's interesting - because over here in the UK whenever I mention to anyone that I'm (hopefully!) moving to the USA in the near future they always comment on the sizes of the houses in comparison to houses in the UK - interesting to hear that they're prone to problems!
I think most things are poorer in quality over here: houses, cars, consumer goods, customer service, banks, airlines... I could go on and on.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 12:53 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
I think most things are poorer in quality over here: houses, cars, consumer goods, customer service, banks, airlines... I could go on and on.
Very interesting. I think it's a case of the grass isn't always greener. Over here, people are head over heels for the United States. And don't get me wrong, I think the USA is a great country with some wonderful things that all Americans should be very proud of, but I'm not blind to the fact that it has flaws - like every other country.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 2:11 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

For me, it was the drive everywhere mentality. Back in the UK, I'd drive to/from work, but I'd *always* walk everywhere else, be it to Waitrose, Starbucks, gym or just to have a look in the shops.

In the USA's defense though, things are way more spread out, outside of urban areas though (in our town for example, its a good 8-10 mins drive to the nearest grocery store).

When I am in Manhattan, I still like to walk all over instead of taking the subway (unless its snowing/raining) - and still get puzzled looks from friends/family.

Originally Posted by BigBoss1984 View Post
Over here, people are head over heels for the United States.
When I announced to friends/colleagues/family back in the UK that I was moving to the USA, I got a mixed response. 50% were jealous and wanted loads of pics of NYC.etc .etc .etc, the other 50% were shall we say less than enthusiastic.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 2:14 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Originally Posted by livinginnyc View Post
For me, it was the drive everywhere mentality. Back in the UK, I'd drive to/from work, but I'd *always* walk everywhere else, be it to Waitrose, Starbucks, gym or just to have a look in the shops.

In the USA's defense though, things are way more spread out, outside of urban areas though (in our town for example, its a good 8-10 mins drive to the nearest grocery store).

When I am in Manhattan, I still like to walk all over instead of taking the subway (unless its snowing/raining) - and still get puzzled looks from friends/family.



When I announced to friends/colleagues/family back in the UK that I was moving to the USA, I got a mixed response. 50% were jealous and wanted loads of pics of NYC.etc .etc .etc, the other 50% were shall we say less than enthusiastic.
Ha, yeah - I think this will be my wake up call too. I've never owned a car in the United Kingdom because I've never felt it necessary to, I'll have to get my license in the USA though. I'm moving to Pennsylvania which has alot of rural areas, so a 2-3 hour drive is the norm for my fiances family!
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 2:22 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

So much of the typical British food is just not available here unless you go to specific importers and pay 3-4 times more than the UK cost.

Want Marmite on toast? No chance of that. Ploughman's lunch? Can't get the pickle or the right cheese. Mr Kipling's mini pies? Nope. Swiss roll? There's a small chance. Prawn cocktail crisps? Beef? Smokey Bacon? Cheese and onion? None of those.

But try not to moan, there are a million new things to try that are just as unhealthy and weird-sounding even if they don't fill the nostalgia hole.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 2:31 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Originally Posted by Anian View Post
So much of the typical British food is just not available here unless you go to specific importers and pay 3-4 times more than the UK cost.

Want Marmite on toast? No chance of that. Ploughman's lunch? Can't get the pickle or the right cheese. Mr Kipling's mini pies? Nope. Swiss roll? There's a small chance. Prawn cocktail crisps? Beef? Smokey Bacon? Cheese and onion? None of those.

But try not to moan, there are a million new things to try that are just as unhealthy and weird-sounding even if they don't fill the nostalgia hole.
See, I don't think food is something that'll particularly bother me. The only thing that I've found myself craving when I've spent time in the USA food wise was Branston Pickle haha.

I actually prefer American food for the most part (apart from breakfast, can't beat a Full English Breakfast!) so I'm good on the food thing :P
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 2:35 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Originally Posted by Anian View Post
So much of the typical British food is just not available here unless you go to specific importers and pay 3-4 times more than the UK cost.

Want Marmite on toast? No chance of that. Ploughman's lunch? Can't get the pickle or the right cheese. Mr Kipling's mini pies? Nope. Swiss roll? There's a small chance. Prawn cocktail crisps? Beef? Smokey Bacon? Cheese and onion? None of those.
I'd say hunt around! Our local Stop'n'shop has about a quarter of an aisle dedicated to Brit products... which is interesting as I'm 90% sure I'm the only Brit in town (but feel the love all the same), and they stock Marmite, Hob Nobs and a few other stuff (Quavers!!!!!). The price isn't significantly more expensive than US products.

On the subject of food. I'm always amazed here by just how much stuff has 'Partially produced with genetic engineering'. Under the ingredients.

^^ Organic it is.

Originally Posted by BigBoss1984 View Post
I'll have to get my license in the USA though. I'm moving to Pennsylvania which has alot of rural areas, so a 2-3 hour drive is the norm for my fiances family!
Yeah, its helpful for a whole number of things besides driving (like buying booze, entering bars.etc). I got a discount on my car insurance here because of my UK license (apparently that makes me competent... fools), and also scored some kudos from my examiner during my NY state driving test, and he was a real A-hole.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 2:36 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Originally Posted by BigBoss1984 View Post
Very interesting. I think it's a case of the grass isn't always greener.
My view isn't that the grass is greener, but it is a different shade of green (even if it is currently under the Pennsylvania snow ).

I would agree with Pulaski on there being lots of small differences that add up to a slightly unsettled feeling until you adapt. Generally I don't think we have had any major culture shock, except, possibly, the boys found American high school quite a change, but even that was just a case of accepting that the new system still worked and it just wasn't what they were used to.

Yes more driving, yes a different sense of scale, and that varies from state to state and within the state. A much higher status for anything military - a higher proportion of the general populace seem to do some form of military service. A very strong sense of America being "the best". A belief that it rains all the time in England.

Keep an open mind and you will do fine I am sure.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 3:06 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

Originally Posted by BigBoss1984 View Post
So with my interview date for a K1 visa pretty soon (January 20th) - I've been thinking alot about the differences in culture between the USA and the UK - for the people who have moved to the States - what was the biggest culture shock/surprise that you got, that you maybe didn't anticipate?
That in college football you only need one foot in bounds when you catch the ball, while in the NFL it is both feet in bounds. Same game why different rules.

In this part of the USA I haven't found a full season Bowls club.

To be serious for a very rare once in a while Tonrob and Pulaski have hit it dead on in their posts.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 3:48 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

I agree with tonrob and Pulaski. I had been coming out here for years on holiday and loved it. Living here is very different though. Everything is similar, but just different enough for you to notice. The hardest things for me were the first 3 months were I couldn't work whilst I waited for my paperwork to go through. Technically I couldn't drive either, so that was a difficult 3 months. Also the working conditions are very different for most. I went from a 6 figure salary and loads of time off to earning below average with pretty much no time off. It's taken me 3 and a half years to find a decent job, although my area is t exactly awash with decent jobs. That being said, I did settle in quickly, only really get a little homesick when someone comes to visit and it's time for them to leave, and wouldn't change where I live at all.
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Old Dec 12th 2016, 4:47 pm
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Default Re: What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the USA?

The short term biggest culture shock IMO is catching up on American life that people born here have just accumulated naturally: getting bank account, getting SSN, getting driving licence, sorting health insurance, stocks and retirement stuff etc.

That'll keep you occupied for a while.

Right now I'm happy because after some googling there is a fish and chip takeaway in the city which I'm going to try out.

It's a 30 min drive away!! I had 3 in walking distance in England!
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