10 Things that Might Surprise You When You Move to the United States

I was born and raised in the United States. However, I did not become a citizen until I became an adult.

This is because my parents lived and worked in America as staff members of a foreign diplomat to the United States, and then I returned to live in France.

Believe me, that’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Because of their work, I grew up with other diplomat kids and attended a school that was focused on educating international students.

Here is a list of ten things that I know might surprise people who move to the United States.

1. So Much Food (In More Ways Than One)!
The United States really stands out because of the amount of food that is available here. Some of this has to do with plenitude. There literally is a huge abundance of food and drink. Stores don’t run out of food, and water is freely available. But, there are other factors at play.

One of these is the selection. The idea that you can purchase multiple brands or versions of bread and milk is a new thing for many immigrants. Huge serving sizes in restaurants is another factor. My parents still remain stunned at the idea that portions are actually doled out with the assumption that people will ask for a doggy bag. Then, there is the fact that you can buy food everywhere. The gas station has food. The office supply store has food.

2. You Learn to Speak English Faster than You Learn to Think in It
I was raised speaking English, so this doesn’t affect me. But, I can say that I have known several people who were raised speaking languages other than English. One experience that I have heard is that it is very common for people who move to the United States to be able to speak and write in English. After all, many kids are taught English from an early age.

In spite of this, most people still think in their native languages. This can be awkward for them because they have to translate both their thoughts and their words into English before they can interact with the Americans.

3. It’s Really Easy to Buy a Gun Here
In the United States, you can buy a gun at Walmart. There are conventions where people attend to do nothing more than display, talk about, buy and sell guns. Many feel as if they are being abused by their government if they are not allowed to own as many guns or bullets that they want.

Guns are usually associated with military service or gun clubs. Many crimes and disputes seem to involve guns. In spite of this, it is a politically divisive issue in the United States.

4. Everything is Really Big
Cars, homes, stores, etc. – all of these are big things that new arrivals will encounter when the move to the United States. Department stores and ‘big box stores’ sell a wide variety of goods that are available only in specialty stores in other countries.

The idea that homes can be built over an acre of land or span several stories is also new to many people trying to make America their home. In many countries, everything is much more scaled down.

5. Families don’t Live Together
In the United States, it is fairly rare for a great-grandparent, grandparent, parent, and a child to live in the same home. Sometimes it does happen, but it is usually the result of an embarrassing event when it does happen. Young adults are expected to move out of their homes at the earliest opportunity.

Parents who do not launch their kids are often deemed failures, as are their kids. The only exception to this is parents or grandparents. It is usually acceptable to bring them home to live with you. I get the respect for elders. It’s just that in my experience households contain members of multiple generations and nobody finds fault in that.

6. You have to Get a Permit or License for Everything
In the United States, you cannot simply move, build a house, keep animals for food, or farmland just because you want to. Filling out forms such as the citizenship application can certainly be threatening. In spite of this, most people choose to work and live where they must live under certain rules. These include whether or not people can keep livestock, hang laundry outside, or perform other standard tasks that are considered to be normal, but are blocked by neighborhood watch groups and homeowners associations.

One area where new immigrants can find some relief from the red tape and bureaucracy is with the ESTA application. This visa waiver application can be completed online in ten minutes or less.

7. There is Amazing Cultural and Geographical Diversity
Because the United States is so big, it is possible to live, work, and interact with a very small piece of this nation that does not reflect the whole of this nation. Get in a car and drive for several hours and you will go from the prairie land to beaches, deserts, urban landscapes and farms. In each area, people have different points of view, personal history, and values.

Get in a car and drive for several hours and you will go from the prairie land to beaches, deserts, urban landscapes and farms. In each area, people have different points of view, personal history, and values.

8. Everybody Drives!
My friends, my parents, and other immigrants have one thing in common. They are shocked at the number of people who own cars, and how many of them drive to every single errand that they encounter.

In some areas, it is literally impossible to move from one place to another without a car. For some people, it can be hard to negotiate because people cannot always rely on public transportation. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with interstate transportation.

9. All the Small Talk
On the train, in the line at the store, no matter where you are, people in the United States are going to ask you how you are. They are going to talk about sports, celebrities, and a variety of other topics. The complicated part is that sometimes these things really interest them, but these are just subjects that are intended to be

The complicated part is that sometimes these things really interest them, but mostly these are just subjects intended for small talk.

10. Obesity is More of a Problem with Poor People than Rich People
In America, the poor people are more likely to be overweight than the wealthy people. This is because, in the United States, foods that are processed, high in fat, and are unhealthy tend to be very cheap.

On the other hand, meat, seafood, fish, and fresh vegetables are either too expensive or simply not available to people. Because the United States is so large, there are many food deserts, where the access to affordable, healthy food options is limited or nonexistent because grocery stores are too far away.

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