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Discovering and Understanding Cultural Differences for The Move to America

06 August, 2013 10:20  Erin Erin

In a new series, we are following the story of future expat Molly, a Brit who seeks to join her American husband in Ohio. At EasyExpat we try to provide you all the latest and greatest in Expat News and Resources, but sometimes a personal journey can best explain the unique challenges and triumphs involved in moving abroad. Meet Molly and follow along on her adventure in the Move to America.
move to america understanding differences
This article is where I get to share with you some of the subtle differences I noticed between the United States and the United Kingdom. I am getting closer to my final move to America, and although I am still here in Britain, I am going to write about what I experienced whilst I was last in the US. I aim to share a little bit of what I noticed most, and have come to understand better, since being with my husband.

Getting Comfortable with Appearing Foreign

The first and most significant thing that struck me when I was last in Ohio was that I stood out as distinctly foreign. I was surprised to find that even before I spoke, people were very aware I was not American. To this day I am not completely sure why, as I do not think I look particularly different from the locals, but they were aware I was from Europe.

The immediate assumption was that I was French (as I was often asked). At first I found it a bit awkward that people were very keen to ask lots of questions, but I soon came to understand that it was just part of a good natured and endearing curiosity towards me. Once I had got over my naturally reserved nature, I was happy to talk to people and just had to remember that I was a foreigner, people will be curious and to accept that they will ask questions. I soon got more used to being a cause of interest, although my husband found it a bit annoying, particularly when we went out shopping, as it took far longer than normal because we were regularly stopped by those wanting to talk to me!

Understanding the American Demeanor

The next thing that struck me was that Americans are not backwards about coming forwards. The people I met (my husband included) are far more forthcoming than I am. This, at first, I found difficult to deal with as I assumed people were being rude - this could not be further from the truth. Everyone I met was extremely polite and friendly, but if there was a question to ask - they ask it. If there is a complaint to make - they make it. If there is an opinion to express - they express it.

I am someone who dithers a bit or has an internal conversation with myself about whether I should complain or say something, so this will take a bit of getting used to. Once you realise it is just a cultural difference and not an affront, it all becomes much easier.

Adjusting to American Compliments

The next difference links in with the above point - specifically regarding paying compliments. I noticed that when I was in America, the people I met were very open and expressive when giving compliments. This is something I am not so used to and I found myself feeling a bit embarrassed because I did not really know how to receive a compliment (or give one without feeling like I was coming across as awkward). When I had realised (again) that this is just part of the unfussy, open and forthcoming nature of those around me, I grew in confidence.

Tax on Items in the USA

Lastly, I will just write about something that constantly tripped me up and caused embarrassment (it does not really link to the subtle cultural differences as mentioned so far). It is the tax on shop items. Here in the UK we have our tax on store items already included in the price. In the US, the price of non-food items does not include tax so the price you see is not the price you pay. There were many times I went to pay for something and did not have enough - my husband, once again, would remind me about this little difference whilst handing me more money.

I will be writing more about the differences I observe on my blog www.themovetoamerica.wordpress.com when I finally get to the US, so please visit, read and comment or ask any questions if you are curious about my visa journey.

Thanks for reading!


Read about the other preparations Molly has made in her articles,

Finding Health Insurance for The Move to America

Successful Networking for The Move to America


...and look out for a new article, The Medical/Interview Process for The Move to America, next month!



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