Culture Shock: 10 Things Unusual for a Non-American

To travel. It is everyone’s dream and bucket list.

Culture. Meeting the local people. Seeing the amazing sceneries. Dipping to the paradise-like beaches. Sunrise and sunset watching. Satisfying taste buds from the different local delicacies. These are what you can see on the various blogs or videos of travelers or adventures on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and many more.

But, I never thought of a million times that I would be traveling outside my country. It is my first time. It is not easy. But, its fun and challenging.

However, I am not here just for fun. I am traveling for a mission to serve the people. That entails integrating myself into the place where I am called to the mission-the United States of America.

Six months. Yes. I have been here in the US in the past six months and counting. In that six months, I observed cultural practices that surprised me. It was interesting.

Here’s the list.

  1. American Flag almost everywhere. In the first few days after I arrived in the US, the flags were the most visible things I saw. Flags in the lawn, in front of offices, in private places even in cars. Literally, in every turn of your head left and right, there is a flag waving freely in the air. Interestingly, even inside the church. There is a flag near the altar. I think this is an expression of nationalism.
  2. Supersize everything. One time I joined my American brother doing his ministry, he was exasperated and thirsty. So, he said we will go to the store to buy a soda drink. Lo and behold, they have a humongous size of cup that you can fill with soda. It was literally the size of three or four large cups combined together. After drinking that amount of soda, I feel I was out of breath. Almost everything is sized up. Burgers, fries, steak, meals and more.
  3. Drinks can be refilled especially soda or tea. I have to admit. I was really ignorant about this thing. In the Philippines, when you refill, you have to pay. That is why at first I was hesitant for any refill. I was so afraid of being asked to pay additional charges.
  4. Tip. Every time you are at a restaurant you give a tip. It may not be obligatory, but it became part of the culture of the people. In a way, they appreciate the excellent service. I think it is helpful for the service crew to add up to their income for the day. One person I know said that workers in restaurants have an only minimum wage. So, your tip is of great help to them.
  5. Ice almost in all of the drinks. I thought that ice is a big thing to other countries especially those places which are hot. I think I’m wrong. I always notice in the restaurant or even at the house my American brothers will always put ice on their drink. Just imagine, I am not used to it offered a drink with ice in a cold place, I was shivering to death. But, I learned to say no ice but with lemon, please.
  6. Baseball World Series. One time my brother in the house was filled with energy about the baseball game because it the world series. So, out of ignorance, I ask, “what country are part of the game?” He looks at me, smile and begins explaining. To cut the story short, it all American teams playing in the world series. With, one Canadian team participating. I do want to know where did it all started that they call it “World Series.”
  7. Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving especially when you know the history of it and its rationale. Of how to different culture share together their produce because they collaborated and helped each other. What is crazy in a positive way, is that people will travel back home just for that day. Just for the whole family to get together and be thankful for all the bounty of grace they receive for the year. It’s just amazing.
  8. Chat with Strangers. I grew up watching American movies which often do have the line, “Do not talk to strangers.” It made an image to me that talking to people you do not know is dangerous. It created a skeptical attitude. However, when I arrived here in the US, people you do not know says “hi” or “hello,” “how are you?”, “how’s your day?” In the airport, I often notice newly met strangers talking and laughing at each joke as if they have known each other for a long time. It amazed me. You know us Asians, we would be quite and smile.
  9. Measure in miles, feet, inches, North, South, East and West. America is one of just three countries to follow the imperial system of measurement. The rest of the world uses the metric system. My cellphone becomes handy in converting those miles into kilometers. Regarding direction, Americans will use North, South, East, and West. As an Asian, I honestly am confused about where is that place be. In the Philippines in particular, we use landmarks to help guide people. I think this is one of the areas I have to learn which I think I need in living here in the US.
  10. Public restrooms have space in the doors. Not to offend anyone, it just shocked me of realizing that gap in your door in the cubicle restroom. Anyone can see you through inside even from a little distance with your number one. (hahaha)

I learned that there are a lot of things to learn in life and cultures. To be shocked at first is part of adjusting but to remain on it is denying to integrate to the cultural norms of the society. Especially standards that are highly positive and developmental and integrative.

In the next months and years, I will update this list of the new cultural experience I encounter as unique, exciting and amazing.

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