The “cultural shock”! First things you notice when you travel in the USA

The “cultural shock”! First things you notice when you travel in the USA

March 16, 2017
Discover, Experiences, Work Abroad
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Has it ever happened to you that you travel to another country and are surprised by some things, some things you would only see on TV or imagine in your mind? Well, when you travel in the USA, you’ll realise that this is one of those places in the world with the strangest things… and believe me, you will be really amazed!

Personally, I had never been outside Europe, so I had only a few ideas about what I could expect once I arrived in the U.S.

The food
The first thing I noticed once I arrived to the US was the food. American people make food from everything, there’s no food that does not exist in America! For example, we have different kinds of salad dressings in our country, but here in the United States, you have an entire aisle dedicated to them! And the fruit? Each apple is individually wrapped. There are even some fruits/vegetables that you will never find in your country, like “spaghetti squash”. It’s a kind of pumpkin that you cook in the oven (cut in half) and once it’s ready, you take out the inside and the result is the vegetable version of our spaghetti. Unbelievable! Not to mention there are countless brands of cereals, cookies, soft drinks and spreads like the famous marshmallow cream, and so on. My first time in the supermarket was like: “Alright, where do I start?” and I spent an hour inside just looking around curiously.

Some important details you can see on most foods are: “NO GMO” and “ORGANIC”. But the strangest thing is that the food seems to be without an expiry date. You can leave the milk open for weeks and it still smells okay.


Finally, another thing that I observed was that people use the microwave a lot, from defrosting to making omelettes and cooking ravioli. In fact, when you buy something, on each box there are instructions to cook in the oven, in the pan or in the microwave as well (which they choose to do a lot). With that in mind, I kind of got the impression that American people are a bit lazy when it comes to cooking their own meals.

Driving in the U.S. is possible if you have an international driving license which most states accept so that means you don’t need to get the local one. But be careful! Even if you don’t need to study to get the local driving license, you still have to know that some rules are differents from other countries. Here are some of the most important obvious rules:

  • Respect the speed limit

Here the police are very strict. If you get a ticket the bill will be very high and in some cases (normally if you exceed the limit of 20 mph) the police can arrest you for dangerous driving so DRIVE SAFE and RESPONSIBLY.

  • You can turn right even with the red light (unless there are some signs which don’t allow it)


Personally, this rule was the one that shocked me the most. All the time I wasn’t sure if I could turn or not with the fear to make a violation of the road since I have heard the police doesn’t tolerate any failure. Even now, after 6 months, I’m still uncertain if I can turn or not. It’s something I have to live with during my stay here.

  • When a school bus is stopped to let students go out, all the cars in both directions must stop
  • If on an intersection with four lanes, there are stop signs in each of them and everybody must stop and let the first one who arrived to go (first come, first go)

At the beginning, I’ve thought: “what a stupid rule!” because I couldn’t understand why there are stop signs in all directions but after some time I realised that it’s a clever rule. It helps to avoid car crashes due to negligence and lets the traffic flow.

While walking on the street I was surprised about how American people are. They are very respectful of the rules, they make orderly queues for everything (even to make pictures for some attractions along the street), they do a lot of charity work and they say “excuse me” a lot even if they didn’t touch you while you’re walking on the street. Although some people on the street ask for money when you just want information or directions, so always keep an eye out when you’re walking the streets.

Tips and taxes
In my opinion, tips & taxes are a big nuisance. You must give a tip in any place where you are served such as restaurants, pubs, hotels and it must be 15-20% of the bill. Even if you want to have a picture with a cosplay in the street. Furthermore, you can’t take pictures or videos of people who are performing on the streets without leaving a tip, very strange!. They will spot you and demand to be paid.

When you go to a shop and you find something you like, you’ll see the price on the label but when you go to the cashier, be sure that you’re going to pay more because they add the taxes when you’re about to make a purchase. I’ve always asked myself: “Why don’t they show the price with taxes already included?”. It would be less hassle as you already know how much you are going to spend then.

The security is one of the best things here I must admit which I appreciated very much. You never feel in danger or stressed out about what’s happening around you. There are police officers everywhere and even armed soldiers 24/7. There is no corner without supervision. Sometimes I feel safer here than I do in my hometown.
Holidays celebration
Last but not least is the way in which Americans celebrate the holidays. Have you ever seen in movies, the big houses with lots of decorations? The Thanksgiving dinner with the big turkey on the table or kids knocking on doors saying “Trick or Treat?” wearing extravagant Halloween costumes?


Well, be ready to be amazed, because all these things you saw in those movies actually happen in real life! I was unsure at the beginning but when I saw with my own eyes, I couldn’t believe it. It felt like I was living inside a movie for a while. People love holidays here and they are very conservative about their traditions.

I hope some of this information can be of help to you when deciding to make a visit to the United States to discover every little thing this vast country has to offer.


I am Monika, 21 years old, from Venice (Italy). Travelling is my biggest passion and dream. I’ve always daydreamed in my room to be in some place in the world. Thanks to my mum, I could live some experiences abroad. In Poland (it’s my mother’s birth place so that’s why Poland), then in Ireland for a year studying English and working as Au Pair and finally here in the United States for a year as Au Pair. It’s a dream which becomes true. I really love seeing new places, new people and different lifestyles.
I am also passionate about photography, walking in nature and cooking. When I have some free time, I like meeting some friends and explore together the City or shopping.
The reason why I started to write a blog is because I would like to share with everybody my experience and be useful for who would like to try new adventures =)

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