When you are an immigrant, American culture can seem hard to understand. But don’t worry, here are some tips to get you started and smooth your immigration journey to the land of opportunity.
Newcomer immigrants have to deal with a ton of challenges: from learning a new language to navigating through the complex US immigration system, nothing seems easy or straightforward. And getting what American culture is all about can be another challenge on top of the others.
America is a land that inspires great dreams in people from all over the world, and helps dreamers push forward no matter what. But even if you think you already know the stereotypical aspects of the American way of life, there is always room for surprise. Believe it or not, culture-shock can be one of the best parts of beginning your immigration journey in the US.
This is why we chose eight characteristics and other quirky aspects of American culture to help you navigate better your first impressions of the country. Some of these may leave you scratching your head for a while!
Cars are a MUST
Even if you are new to the country, you probably noticed that American culture is incredibly car-centered. Most public transportation isn’t as efficient or user-friendly as in other parts of the world, and save some particular cities like New York, Chicago or Washington D.C., you might find that getting around without a car won’t be so easy.
Punctuality matters (a lot)
Being punctual and staying on previously arranged schedules is one of those things that are probably valued everywhere in the world. But some cultures have much more tolerance for being late than others, and Latin American countries are famed for their laid back attitudes in this respect.
In this regard, most people in the US are very serious about punctuality. Arriving late for a meeting, be it with friends or work-related, can be taken as a personal offense or even damage your reputation in formal situations. Remember that American culture is very much centered around work, and since work takes up so much time of the day, wasting other people’s time is often seen as disrespectful.
Don’t forget to tip your waiter!
The practice of tipping waiters and bartenders varies from country to country, depending mostly on how well paid are these professions in each place. In the United States, however, most servers are paid as littles a 2 dollars per hour, and tips are an important part of their daily wages.
For this reason, not tipping can be seen as disrespectful, as it is a necessary contribution for these hard-working individuals, many of whom might be immigrants and dreamers just as you. This is a very important part of American culture, and even if you disagree, it’s best to not argue about it. As a rule of thumb, tipping from 15% to 20% of the total you paid for your meal is seen as optimal, but you can leave more if you can spare it.
A super-sized land
In the United States, everything might seem bigger than usual. This is because, well… yes, things are normally just bigger than in other parts of the world. And this includes everything, from supermarkets, to burgers and even cars.
Luckily, this somewhat weird but fun part of American culture of super-sizing everything will guarantee you that most meal portions or beverage servings will be extra generous. It might take a while to take used to it, but trust me, you will learn to enjoy it.
The thing with the bread
You will probably notice this right away. In the United States, the bread seems to be sweeter than elsewhere. This is due to the industrial process used to make it quickly and in large scales.
Industrial bread usually doesn’t have as much flavor as breads that are left to fully ferment and develop, so many manufacturers add sugars to mask this flaw. Funnily enough, the high sugar amounts in Subway bread even led one Irish judge to determine that it’s not legally bread.
Everyone just eats on the go
Although this might not seem too weird, if you are not used to eating while walking or going somewhere else, the extent to which this practice is commonplace in American culture will likely surprise you. If you walk down any busy US street you will probably notice people taking coffee or food orders to go, or even eating while they commute to their jobs or homes.
No such thing as vacations
In other parts of the world, the need for vacations or leisure time is even legally recognized. But in the United States, most people working in the private sector only have an average of 10 paid vacation days after a whole year of work. And many people don’t even use their paid vacations each year.
Ice, Ice, baby
In most places, you have to ask for ice to be included in your drinks. This is not the case of the United States, where most drinks are jam-packed with ice by default. So, if you are feeling a bit chilly and don’t feel like having that much ice with your drink, remember to tell your server. Otherwise, they will normally assume you just want a lot of it, it’s just part of American culture.
If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at 281-606-5362!