10 Biggest Culture Shocks in America

21K School · Jul 27, 2023 · 4 min read

Different countries have different cultures and societal norms. The United States of America, too, has its own unique culture. So let’s look through the lenses of international students studying in America and some of the biggest culture shocks they encountered.

Table of contents

·        Informal Interaction

·        Convenient Academic Hours

·        Larger than Life

·        Food Heaven

·        Total Strangers

·        Access to the internet

·        Diversity in Languages

·        The Teen Lifestyle

·        Unique Metric Units

·        Passion for Holidays

Informal Interactions:

It is no surprise that American culture is highly informal. Even the youngest of the clan doesn’t shy away from interacting with the elders on a first-name basis. However, this may seem odd to students from countries like India or China, where they are used to addressing their elders and superiors with politeness and respect. American culture prioritizes inclusivity. Thus, informal interactions don’t make people feel left out.

Convenient Academic Hours:

American culture emphasizes work-life balance. This means that students studying there do not have a daunting academic routine. American Universities conduct classes for only about 3-4 hours every day, either in the afternoon or evening as per the course. This gives enough time to focus on other curricular activities.

Larger than life:

America is beautiful with so much to offer, making it worth exploring and settling in. Students from around the globe are amazed and sometimes spellbound by ‘larger than life’ things in the USA. Everything is humongous, be it Costco, BestBuy, Walmart, and even the comfy seats in the cinemas, the products in the stores, and the generous portions at restaurants.

Food Heaven:

When it comes to American food, the country is best known for the stuff that’s described as greasy, delicious, and comforting. But citizens of the USA have an impressive appetite for healthy things, apart from junk food too. Food trucks, carts, and food stands are available at every nook and corner of the streets. Some of the best Michelin star restaurants are also nestled in the country.

Total strangers:

The day improves when you exchange a smile with a stranger or talk to one. In America, more often than not, strangers can be witnessed having a friendly conversation just anywhere. For example, you can maybe get asked about your day by restaurant staff or someone across the counter to compliment your outfit. America has a hot and inviting vibe with such people around.

Access to the Internet:

While access to the internet is sometimes limited and weak in many countries, a country like the USA dominates this sector with solid entry to the internet at all times and in all locations. Students across the campus also benefit from this by accessing content at the tip of their fingers.

Diversity in Languages:

A lesser-known fact is that the USA is a linguistically diverse country worldwide. Approximately 350-400 different languages are spoken across America. While many international students may think that English is the dominating language in America, be open to learning different dialects there.

The Teen Lifestyle:

The lifestyle of an average American teenager is to juggle academics and part-time work smartly. Young adults are expected to move out of their parent’s homes to experience an independent life. This may be different from other Asian countries where middle-class and upper-middle-class families look after and provide for their children so they can focus on their academic life.

Unique Metric Units:

Once you land in America, your baggage will be weighed in pounds instead of kilos. Also, public transport will show you the mile speed limit instead of kilometers per hour. The confusion is legit because America is among the very few countries that use the imperial system to measure (inches, feet, ounces, pounds, miles, etc.), unlike most countries that use the Metric System (Centimeters, Kilometers, grams, liters, etc.).

Passion for Holidays:

Hallmark movies portraying families spreading cheer on Christmas and Thanksgiving are the reality in America. Celebrating holidays is a big thing, and many families do it every year by calling in their friends and family to share happy moments with food, drinks, and even presents.

The USA tops the list of aspirational countries for students wanting to study and shape their careers. It can be slightly tricky to adjust initially, but eventually, you’ll give in to love this country because of its people, culture, and food. If you are planning to study in the USA and need assistance, reach out to the experts at 21K to help your academic career take off!

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