Opinion: An international student’s 10 biggest culture shocks when coming to the U.S.

This story was updated on Feb. 5, 2018 at 3:45 p.m.

By Blanca Izquerido—

Multimedia Journalist

The United States of America is one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world and its culture has been extended around the globe. Yet, some of the most popular American customs and traditions may seem a little weird to those coming from other countries. Here are the 10 biggest cultural shocks for Europeans who travel to the United States:

Jose Luis Izquierdo, a tourist from Spain, wears a cowboy hat for the first time. Photo by Blanca Izquerido.

  1. Burping. Most Europeans countries consider burping extremely rude, especially in public, while Americans do not see it as a big deal.
  2. Food in the classroom. This is my favorite one. Just like a dream come true, Americans bring food and beverages to the lectures habitually. While in Europe, bringing food or drinks to the classroom is not even allowed.
  3. The “cowboy” culture. Most Europeans believe that cowboys are a legend from the Old West. If they see someone wearing a cowboy hat they would probably think it is a costume.
  4. The importance of religion. Going to church every Sunday or offering blessings to the meals are very common religious practices in America. That is not the case in Europe where just a minority practices religion habitually. In addition, most European churches and cathedrals were built centuries ago, so they have become touristic places full of visitors.
  5. The size of everything. Compared to Europe, things in America are gigantic. Cars, food, buildings… most European cities were founded centuries ago, so streets are narrow and the construction is old and concentrated.
  6. Diversity. The word that best describes America is diversity. America is made up of many people, races, religions and different cultures. In Europe, the immigration is lower, so race and cultures are more homogeneous.
  7. Beauty standard. The United States diversity leads to many kinds of beauty. There is something very remarkable about Americans; unlike Europeans, the ideal beauty size is not zero. A woman’s curves are something to be proud of. Shout out to the U.S.
  8. Patriotism. In the United States, national flags are all over the country. Not just in institutional buildings, but in private properties and businesses. In Europe, it is rare to see a national flag, except in public places, and the national anthem is just played on very special occasions.
  9. Meal times. Compared to some European countries, American meal times are ridiculously early. In fact, people in Spain usually have lunch around 3 pm and dinner times vary from 9 to 11 p.m.
  10. Prom. There is no such thing in Europe. No princess dresses, no dates, no dances, just boring regular high-school classes. What we do have is an end-of-school trip usually to the beach.

There are a lot of cultural differences between the United States and Europe, and sometimes I wonder how wonderful it would be to have the best of both worlds. I guess I am a lucky Spaniard who happens to live in Texas.

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