ciee - council on international educational exchange
BAFF

Participant Bloggers

What can your story be in the United States?

01/08/2015

Only in the US and A...

Everyone loves a numbered list, right? Well, below you can find my Only in the USA list, written based on my 8 months of living in the USA, but I'm sure other Europeans in America will relate to many of these.

Having lived in a couple of places around the world, and having a background in anthropology puts me in a curious place to put together an Only in the USA list. Actually, it puts me in a pretty good place to put together such a list.

3

1. Life is like in the movies. This may sound silly and you're probably thinking, "well, what kind of movies?". The thing is, life is like in the movies here because of the small things - - because everyone speaks American English around you, because of how the street signs look, because the products sold in your local grocery store are just like the ones you’ve seen on TV. After seeing a whole lot of American TV shows, movies and music videos over the years, not to mention everything online, these things just add up (well, and maybe playing GTA with my brothers has something to do with it as well). It's almost like all of that pop culture created another reality, and now you're in it.

IMG_4549

2. You get the feeling that the world is actually really tiny - - one day you get to put on the raincoat Robin Williams wore in Jumanji because someone your colleague knows was the locations manager for the movie. Or you find out that friend of your roommate you’re having dinner with was a certain rockstar's pilot for 7 years. And then a couple of weeks later, you have a business lunch with someone as accomplished as the CEO of Endeavor. And the list goes on…

10629310_10152349789212921_3430121012668615292_o

Wearing the Jumaji coat.

3. You drive from one shop to another… when they are just 100m apart. 

4. You accidentally walk onto the set of one of your favorite TV shows while sightseeing in LA, and see your favorite characters just strolling down the street.

1925141_10152469361872921_3635046874422568438_n

 Parks and Recreation stars on the streets of LA

5. Your waitress offers "potato salad, French fries, or rice" as a side dish for pasta… (Seriously though??) 

6. Free refills. 

7. You can go on a roadtrip covering more than 550 miles (~885km) in a day for $35. No, that’s not a typo, $35 per person for the car rental and gas with a company of 4 people. In 2015.

1554432_10152469357317921_8341161672188674122_n

8. You just go for months without using public transportation, even though you’re one of the few people here that does not have a car. Public transportation is just too inconvenient. I have never stayed in one place for more than 2 weeks without using public transportation, yet after moving to the USA I didn't use it until I was travelling with another European. The country was designed for cars (with some very few exceptions like Washington D.C.). If you don't have one, you're probably under 16, a foreigner or an environmentalist. Sorry. Anyone will tell you just how the US public transportation system just does not work well.

9. That being said, the public transportation facilities are not that bad actually. The long-distance Greyhound buses are, in fact, pretty nice (umm there’s WiFi, power plugs, comfy spacious seats - - what more would you ask for??). I was positively surprised when I took a 5-hour journey on the Greyhound after everyone had told me it was not a good idea (note that these were people who had not actually ever taken the Greyhound, because why would you). The Amtrak is no worse than many trains in Europe. My conclusion is that Americans are just too used to their personal space and the comfort of a car. It's more an extension of their home than a means of transportation. 

10. (Yes, I saved the best for the last.) People make friends building on the positives. It would have taken me way longer to realize this if a half-European friend hadn't spelled it out for me. This is the ONE single reason why Americans are stereotyped as being superficial. Foreigners are very quick to misinterpret the American way of socializing either as dishonest or shallow just because they are not complaining to you or wallowing in your sorrow. As my friend so eloquently put it: "In the USA, friendships are not made in co-misery."

People here will happily root for your success, cheer you on when you're sad, help you find the silver lining, or assist you in standing up if you have fallen down. And it's not because they don't feel for you, it is because they do. Moreover, they actually want to help you. And it doesn't matter if it's your barista, your boss, your roommate or your own brother. It's almost as if* everyone was asking "What's well with you?", and if you're in a low point, the question will translate to "Well, what can we do to make it better?". With these questions, they are not opening the door for you to start complaining (you can, if you REALLY want to make them feel awkward), but for helping you find what’s the next step. So don’t be surprised when you see a Polly Anna version of me the next time I’m in Europe. And I hope to keep it that way.

*"As if" - because these questions aren't actually articulated, but hidden in between the lines. To make things even more confusing for people that are not used to the American way of socializing, there’s a wealth of information in what is being left unsaid – so they will not spell it out for you. Americans are superficial only to those who can't read between the lines. 

---

Epilogue: 

No wonder foreigners often note Americans are so ~*self-centered*~, that so many Americans have never made it outside of the USA, that they don't know what's Estonia or who's Riga or where's Lithuania… The USA really IS a world of it's own. Its size and variety will never cease to amaze me. You can start driving from one edge of Texas to the other early in the morning and still not make it outside of the state by the end of the day. While one nation, there are intrinsic differences between the East Coast and the West Coast, cultural and linguistic, not to mention the cuisine. Just as the Southern states stand out with their character and the North is unique in its own way - - not to mention everything in the middle. 

That's what really makes it a world of its own in my own - how each state can be so patriotic about being American and so proud to be a state/region of its own at the same time. 

10

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment