13 cultural and lifestyle differences I've spotted.
I've been going to the States for the summer quite a few years now, and here's a list of everything I've learned, experienced and noticed in their culture.
Once we asked a woman where the closest supermarket was. She told us: "If you go the highway, you'll soon see a sign claiming Walmart at next exit." We went to the road, and start driving. And we kept driving. We expect to find it in a 5 - 10 minutes time, but we just kept going on and on without spotting any poster. Maybe we've just got lost, we thought. After approximately 45 minutes later we finally saw the supermarket. So, that was apparently 'close'.
As the States are more than twice as big as Europe, they are just used to do much bigger distances. They have a huge territory, so it's normal to travel a huge distance. An hour-long drive to work is almost nothing, just near by. In America, you can drive for hours and hours and still be in the same State (especially if you are in Texas). While for us, in one day you can be in more than four or five different countries. It is more habitual in Europe to travel shorter spaces, as for example, an ideal location to have your apartment is where everything you'll need is at a walking distance place.
For a country that was formed in the late 18th Century, everything before it is completely ancient. An antiquity. A 100-years-old church is pretty old in the USA, but almost new in Europe. Time and oldness perception are just different, because our histories are different too. For times changing so fast like these, mainly if your country is usually the first one to launch innovation and inventions, everything can become old quite fast.
Things are simply huge. Much bigger. If you order a salad, they'll bring you a great bowl of lettuce, tomato, crispy bread and chicken. When you walk in the streets, trees are higher and cars are larger. Portions of everything can be gigantic. I get lost in those enormous shops. I never finish my meals. And sometimes it's hard to deal with.
Just in case you have a 3am whim of ice cream or a terribly bad headache at night and you don't have any tablets, America has a solution for that. Twenty-four hour open shops. And you can find pretty much everything there. They are used to get what they want, whenever they want. Nowadays, it's not only stores but also 24hs gyms, 24hs fast food restaurants and even 24hs libraries (we all might have a desire of a good book at midnight, right?). They are at your service anytime you need.
In Europe, shops close at 9pm (or later, in summer time). Most close on Sundays, too. If you are craving for a specific food you can't find at home, sorry! We'll have to wait until the sunrise. With time, you just learn to be organized and to buy ice cream, chocolate, tablets, movies and band aids before shops are closed (or invent a high speed teleporter to go to USA, do the shopping, and come back in a few minutes, is another solution).
It might turn out that they are not as willing to give hugs, kisses or just getting closer tan we are. I have been advised for years not to get too close to Americans while walking along the streets. They will probably get nervous or annoyed, they would tell me. It is better to keep distances. For us, specially the southern cultures, it is much more usual to do those kinds of things. The sun maybe warms us up and makes us a little too affectionate with everyone.
Despite this, they are lovely people! Their sense of freedom and their openmindness leads you to really be yourself, as you probably won't be judged or despised. They accept you for who you are. This is different in Europe, where you are usually criticized for your cloth, accent, studies, height, weight, nobility, culture... and probably everything else that you can't be criticized for. Well, maybe it is not that bad. But still.
Also, not to forget that they are mostly really easygoing and fun people to be with. they'll always come with a smile and go away with a 'Have a nice day!' and some 'honey' or 'sweetie' in between. We all sincerely appreciate that.
While being in the States, you're usually bombarded with ads, promotion and publicity. they don't miss a chance to do so. Billboards, TV spots and radio commercials are seen at all times at all places. It sometimes even gets to a point of being a little annoying. Just let me watch the landscape, or the movie, or TV in peace. I really don't need to know every single product this highly consumer society (and that applies for European countries too) has created.
On the other hand, they're really good at what they do. Simple but effective organisation, great public speaking and being the kings and queens of showbusiness, has just made them really really good at attracting people. And when it comes to travelling facilities, they just make your whole trip much painless. You won't get lost between stupid policies, incomprehensible payments, long texts and pointless instructions.
It is really pleasant to have clear road signs, they visual and interactive museums (where you can actually learn things rather than just stare at them) and useful given information as dividing the bill for you in restaurants or providing tips and advise in hotels. They are there to make your life just easier.
While in Europe there is a clear line separating personal spirituality with society's leadership, Americans seem to blurry it. It's a common thing to mention God (the well known famous quote of 'God bless America', for example) and going to church is a way of socializing with people, too. Politicians even use religion in their speeches as a manner to gain votes and win campaings.
I have only been during the summer in USA but I always bring some sweater with me everywhere I go. Not because of the outside temperature or because it might rain, but for the inside. Air conditioning is really really cold. And I still wonder why is it freezing. It's useless and a waste of energy to have those devices cooling down the room so much. I mean, we are not ice. We won't melt (and we will actually help the enviorment and our summer catarrhs)! Only if we rised just a few degrees...
Eating and food culture couldn't be more different. Europeans have a long history of cuisine, highly elaborated meals, local products and years of tradition. In one village you can have a special kind of cake and 100km away, it'll be different. And it's an important part of the day. We gather around, stop everything we're doing, to eat and sit together, and share.
This was lost in the way to America, where manufactured fast food brands got in the tron of food. Pizza, hot dog, hamburger, mac&cheese. Most people does not even know how to cook (horrible trend that it's making its way into Europe). Healthy food is hardly and option in most places. The whole point of eating is not being hungry, rather than enjoying.
'Una delle cose piú belle della vita é interrompere ció che stiamo facenoa pel dedicare tutta la nostra attenzione al mangiare!'
'One of the most beautiful things in live is to interrupt what we are doing to devote all of our attention to the food!'
12- Opening doors, closing doors.
That is a quite random fact, but we do open the doors upside down. While in Europe you usually push the door to enter and pull the door to get out, in America you normally pull it to go in and push it to get out. And you wouldn't imagine how much time it has made me lost! Minutes and minutes spent staring at doors and expecting them to open by themselves as pushing them wasn't working (until a normal American would come and pull them for me, thank you so much you all).
We all like football, but not the same one. Football (soccer), rugby, tennis and Formula 1 are among Europe's favorite sports. While in the USA those sports are away from the first spots. We would say (american) football, basketball, baseball and car racing. In both continents they atract crowds, supporters fidelity and money. It's Seattle Seahaws Vs Bayern Munich.
Many say that North America was designed for cars, not humans. It's hard to go anywhere without taking it. And it's hard to see people walking in many places too. Four-wheel vehicles are easier and more comfortable. if you're thinking of public transport as an option... forget about it! Unless you live in some great cities such as New York, Boston or Washington DC buses are usually late and dirty and the subway might as well not be working that day (if there even is one, of course).
In Europe, main towns usually have an important net of public transport. Anyway, long early jams in the morning are seen in every single big city. Indifferently of which flag is raising in your city hall.
There are some particular objects we could only find in the great United States of America, and we love them!
I hope you liked it!