Deep fried? –yes, deep fried everything, and I am not exaggerating as I’ve been confronted with fried ice cream and deep fried beer. Besides the missing logic and reason behind this, one breaks several rules of physics at once, making me wonder if maybe gravity is a lie too and it just works because we lack a better explanation. Drifting off topic, what I actually wanted to say is: „Different countries have different cultures.“ – and in the lone star state we go big or go home.
As one may be able to tell I am talking specifically about the States and their pride in themselves and their home for big dreams and hopes. Thanking Wikipedia at this point for making every student’s life easier and coming up with this grand definition of culture shock: „Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life“, I would like to touch this topic and not only graze at its surface, but also uncover some things that could possibly burn into our collective conscience.
There is no handbook to this, you discover most things as you go, by surrendering and learning. You may consider yourself prepared because you watched every movie tagged with high school and/or life but what you will never know beforehand is that it’s rarely the big things that shake your ground, more so the small things, which will leave you baffled and unable to believe.
Before I go into detail about the little things that might make you miss home or just a familiar environment, I want to talk about a scary experience that makes life here a little harder. Public transport is nonexistent, if you are not living in a major city, and with major, I really mean major as only a handful of cities here even have a metro. The driving age in Northern America is 16 yet it is not legal for foreign exchange students to get a drivers license in most cases, meaning you are depending on others to pick you up and drop you off, as it is nearly impossible to walk anywhere or ride a bike, since everything is so spread out. Having set this straight, we can now turn to what I like to call paper cuts of culture shock, meaning they aren’t as harmful as a stabbing but still hurt quite a lot.
From what I experienced, Americans are more vocal about their opinions concerning economics, the social system and politics. While back home we seem to have certain no-go topics we all know not to touch when first meeting someone, that almost seems inevitable here. Maybe because of the power given to the President of the United States, or just the fact that a lot is happening on this continent. Another slight, yet noticeable difference is the one concerning table manners. I didn’t think it would bother me so much, but the switch of the cutlery from the left to the right hand left me baffled. I knew that things like these are common, yet I couldn’t fully wrap my head around it.
Thinking about my everyday encounters, I can’t help but wonder if maybe the people actually felt my culture shock when I was around. I met a darling chinese exchange-student, who, for me, fulfilled every stereotype I can think of about the chinese population.
Tolerance is key, and if you learn how to cook, you don’t have to eat only deep fried things.
Greetings from the other side of the pond,