This post is part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT current and prospective students. Enjoy!
Although I was aware about the cultural differences between the country I am from and the US (TV shows and movies give a clear hint about the western part of the globe), it was hard to know exactly what to expect. After living in the States for nearly 5 years, here I present 10 observations of American life that I did not realize before arrival:
1. As a Bangladeshi, I always take pride in being from a very hospitable nation; I was surprised that Americans are also very friendly, even to a complete stranger. In this part of the world, people initiate small talk and enjoy it a lot.
2. While #1 is true, people do value their personal space very much. People might talk a lot about traffic, weather or sports, but people would like to keep the family or personal stress related discussion for a more planned or organized gatherings.
3. Expressions like ‘see you later’ or ‘we should get together sometimes’ are just expressions. It doesn’t necessarily mean the person will see you or arrange an invitation for real. So, you shouldn’t stop by someone’s place just based on such invitation.
4. Americans are very informal in their social greetings and gathering. If you are not in a very formal setting like job interview, shaking hands while being introduced could look a bit awkward. Most social outings with college friends are unplanned.
5. Pumpkins are everywhere in American culture. Especially during the fall months, near Halloween, you’ll see a gazillion pumpkins in almost any food store. Here, people add pumpkin to many sweet treats such as coffee drinks, breads, cookies, and more!
6. People, especially students, do not care much about dressing up. College students seek comfortable clothes that often catch on as fads. Things could be different for a formal gathering though.
7. America is a consumers’ paradise. People shop a lot around the year, but things go crazy on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Many stores open at 3 a.m. or earlier to hold extreme sales throughout the day. This is a deal-loving nation; so they made a day just for awesome deals.
8. American football is a big deal. Every fan has their team and will dutifully sit through rain and cold for a game. Alumni and current students ‘tailgate’ before games, serving drinks and snacks for fellow fans.
9. Unlike eastern tradition, professors are very approachable in American schools. Many of them even prefer to go by their first name among students. They are pretty accessible inside and outside classroom with dedicated office hours and endless email support for the students struggling on the subject matter. Professors provide individual sessions, readings, and other suggestions to help students learn and grow as a person.
10. Finally, many Americans have extreme pride for their alma mater. So, once you arrive in the U.S. and get settled, take pride in your new home; and don’t be afraid to show it!