When people think of moving to another country, they often focus their energy and worries about adjusting abroad. They’re scared of adapting to a new culture, new customs, and a new lifestyle. However, the most overlooked part of moving abroad is the reverse culture shock. For those who are unfamiliar, reverse culture shock is when you return to the country you grew up in, and you find yourself culture shocked where you grew up!
There are definitely countries more foreign to the US than the UK. But, there are still enough differences I noticed that are worth noting. Here are a few things I never realised about the US until moving abroad.
Everyone in the states is very, very positive. I never realised how weird it is that the coffee guy I’m going to see once in my life asks how I’m doing. I realise it’s more of a formality than an actual question, but it feels…weird. Why are servers at restaurants so smiley and telling me to have “the best day ever?” Is everything really so “awesome” all the time? It’s not that the UK is pessimistic by any means, but when compliments are thrown around in the UK, they mean it. I guess the niceness in the states feels very contrived, very artificial. Yes, I’m complaining about people being too nice; I’m an official Brit!
“Under one nation, under God” is a part of the pledge of allegiance, “in God we trust” is on the dollar bill and religion is very intertwined in politics and culture. Church in the US is a social event rather than a one-off thing for holidays, and even American vernacular (“god bless” “oh Jesus” “lord help me”) is more religious. This is not to incite discussion or debate; I just noticed that religion permeates daily life in America much more than the UK.
I’ve always been told I’m loud, but I never listened. I just assumed my voice was normal considering I have family members who are somehow much louder. Then, my British friends told me I’m loud and I disregarded them as Brits tend to be quieter. It wasn’t until I returned to the states after my exams that I realised, wait, I’m actually really loud. And so are Americans as a whole. If I’m going to adhere to any stereotype, I’m going to be the Typical Loud American. I do prefer this over the generally quieter attitude of the UK.
Everything in the states is really, really, really big. The food portions, the tank-like SUV’s on the road, sky-high skyscrapers, city-sized Walmarts, everything is so much bigger here! One time, my mom needed some things from the store so I went and I nearly passed out from the amount of choices. Why are there 80 different types of tomato sauces?? Why does the store have two different time zones?? I initially thought everything in the UK was so small and minuscule; but, I’ve actually come to prefer the “less is more” approach.
Why. Aren’t. Taxes. Included. With. The. Price. I am tired of being bamboozled and scammed by American stores telling me my overpriced avocado toast is $12 when it’s actually $13.86.
This sounds similar to the first one but rather than contrived niceness, Americans seem to be more optimistic about their futures. If there’s a problem, Americans have more of an “I can fix it attitude” and don’t seem to settle as much. This is one thing I miss in the UK; the positivity of the American mindset, artificial or not, is a welcome relief in situations of adversity.
Apparently, only 33% of Americans have passports, and only 36% have left the US! This is due to the US’s sheer size, but also Americans’ views on themselves. Many Americans believe that everything they need is in their own country. While this may be technically true, exploring other cultures in different countries opens one up to different worldviews and ways of life. Even the news is very America-centric. Currently, during Hurricane Harvey, I’m watching American and British news. Without British news channels, I wouldn’t have known that there are also the biggest rainstorms Southeast Asia’s seen in years! As a result, I’ve noticed that Brits generally have a more broad and well-rounded worldview.
Americans are very sensitive about a lot of things. Make of that what you will.
Americans are extremely patriotic. I’ve always known this but I never realised the true extent of American patriotism until I moved out. Upon coming back, I’ve seen more American flags than a Kid Rock concert and more “God Bless America” and “1776” apparel than a military school kid’s closet. Conversely, after a year of living in the UK, I’ve seen probably, 10 British flags outside London’s touristy spots? Also, British people think the Pledge of Allegiance is really weird.
10. College Sports
I always knew college sports were exclusively an American phenomenon, but I never realised the magnitude of American College Sports Culture until a recent weekend trip to Penn State. Visiting my best friend Katie, we tailgated (sport-speak for pre-gaming outdoors) and went to a football game, and it was insane. In the UK, uni sports don’t have nearly as much relevance, but Americans of all ages and backgrounds unite to relish in this extravagant national pastime.
Living in a foreign country makes me realise the good and bad about where I grew up. These differences, ultimately, are what make America and the UK great in their own ways. It’s always thrilling discovering foreign cultures, but the unique feeling of reverse culture shock is a truly fascinating experience.