What Surprises Foreigners About America

Many years ago I remember watching the reaction of a woman who had come to America from a Communist country and visited a super market for the first time. Seeing her facial expression was priceless. Her first reaction was that the store was for government officials. When she was told that there are stores like this everywhere in America, and anybody can shop in them, she broke down crying. Government officials had lied to her in their description of American capitalism.

We don’t know how good we have it. We also don’t realize how foreigners who live here are impressed with so much of what makes America great.

I came across an article with the title “16 People on Things They Couldn’t Believe about America Until They Moved Here.” It begins with the following:

“A lot of people around the world have ideas of what America is like, possibly thanks to Hollywood, or their local news channels, and maybe from what they’ve heard from families and friends. But then, they came here, to the grand old United States and their minds exploded.”

Not all the comments are positive. The following are ones I found most interesting. There are many more:

  • A lot of couples adopt children, sometimes in spite of having their own, and treat them exactly like their own. (To me, this alone is a marker of a great people)
  • Parents can get arrested for physically punishing their children.
  • In spite of the society being openly hedonistic and liberal, the social norms and standards still have very strong conservative religious influences.
  • Indian public toilets are usually in unmentionable conditions, and this was a refreshing change. Specially because half the stuff was automated. I remember thinking at first, that Americans are so lazy, they don’t want to flush their toilets.
  • Every cashier will greet you with “How are you today? You find everything okay?” with a smile, and you’re quite thrown off the first few times. Also, I had this really great cashier at Harris Teeter give me discounts because I always checked out at his counter 🙂 Really nice people! In general also, people were extremely polite, and many just complimented you too!
  • Coming from India, I found it amazing the way traffic behaved without any intervention from traffic policemen. Just everyone following the rules.
  • Philanthropy. There is no culture of philanthropy in Russia and many view American philanthropy either as a waste of money or as some intricate plot to get some additional benefits.
  • My Russian in-laws were shocked when they found out that we get packages left on our doorstep and no one steals them. They were also shocked by buffets. My father-in-law told everyone back in Moscow, “No, really! You just pay to enter!”
  • So much stuff for so little price. $2.99 for a pint of Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry. $6 for 24 cans of coke. Why get a $8 Hershey syrup if you can get TWO for $10.
  • It is easy to find obese people in USA. Some people are so obese that they require a special electric scooter to carry them around. This sighting can be seen easily in Walmart where obese people use scooters to shop more … food.
  • Religion being an actual thing. Prayer breakfasts in the White House. Educated people believing in creationism. The number of churches and denominations. People actually going to church.
  • Yes, you can buy guns without very much of a background check. When I was driving around yesterday I saw a guy walking out of a gun store with a bag, possibly enjoying his purchase of two new pistols. It was great!
  • It really is a diverse place, much more so than many foreigners really understand. A country that can produce both Snoop Dogg and Westboro Baptist Church is like no other place (seriously!).
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