The US are a great country. Beautiful landscapes, super diverse people, awesome on turning any subject into a reality TV program and all that. But it can also be kind of, let’s say, polarizing. It’s obvious that each and every country have their own their culture, people have specific habits and behaviors, but there are some stuff about the American life that can shape your daily life in such a way, that you just have to have them in mind if you’re thinking about ever living in the US.
Because once you’re here, it’s gonna be hard to try and dodge from these stuff. And it’s not bad stuff. It’s just kind of small details.
So here it is: after 10 months of US life, my own “American life compatibility check-list”! You’ve been advised. Now act at your own risk.
- TV: Definitely, number 1 in my list. A tricky little object that will cross your path about 17 times a day. And how, you might ask, can that be if you wouldn’t even go to 17 different places in one day? A-ha. That’s it. You don’t have to. In an average bar/restaurant/bank/supermarket/line for any purpose you will encounter about 3 TVs turned on at the same time. The content? Random. Can be the news, can be a college basketball game, highly likely a Kardashian will pop up at some point. In US bars, TV is the new wallpaper.
- Baseball cap. Ok, just to be clear, you don’t have to like to wear a baseball cap. I mean, if you do, great, it will help you make friends and pass as a local, specially around the Boston area. But you actually just have to be ok with others using baseball caps. All the time. At restaurants, bars, movie theaters, class, concerts, you name it. It might sound strange that this is even listed here, I mean, who cares what people wear in their heads. But when there’s such a high density of baseball caps surrounding you and in places (and times of day) that you wouldn’t expect them to be, you’ll have to embrace that some how. So if baseball caps annoy you, maybe try Canada.
- Extremely social people: This is actually one of the things I love the most about the US life, but if you feel harassed when strange people try to make a conversation with you or make a comment on what you’re saying to a friend at the bar, you better not move here. If you do, you have to come prepared to listen to random comments from random people on the streets – always very nice, by the way. They’ll usually be something like “nice shoes, bro”. And warning: you will soon be making them too.
- Owning Car: Boston/Cambridge are one of the few urban areas that I think one can actually get around quite well without having a car. But once you’ve left the city, my dear friend, you’ll necessarily need a car. When able to chose, pick the biggest SUV available, it’s what you’ll encounter on the highways and, trust me, it’s quite intimidating when you’re in a Smart.
- Take 16 pay for 12 (aka: Bulk buying): Unless you have a very strong stand against stocking toilet paper for one year/ buying milk in gallons/getting tuna cans by the dozen, you’ll fall in love with this concept. From my experience here, you can either pay a lot for a tiny can of organic-bio dynamic-gluten free Nordic see tuna or next to nothing for a case of 24 family size cans of “this is probably tuna”. I usually go for the latter. You’re gonna become a master of inventory management AND learn at least 15 new ways of eating canned tuna.
- There’s now mild indoor temperature: I read a story here the other day about how places like shops, hotels and restaurants manage their air conditioning in the summer: apparently, the fancier the place, the chillier the air should be. Same thing with winter: the nicer the place, the more likely you’ll feel you’ve just landed in Turks and Caicos. Not actually truth though, Wholefoods is usually as chilling the dodgy Korean supermarket around the corner. Expect extreme indoor temperatures everywhere.
- The Kardashians. Any of them: You think you see a lot of them in your home country? Ha! That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Be prepared to see one of them in every magazine cover while you wait in line at CVS and on the – many! – TVs around the city, whenever it’s not college basketball season. They’re harmless, though.
- Politics: It’s basically a constant theme, since whenever a president is elected it’s virtually the time to start the campaign (and media coverage) for the next term. I do advise watching the debates, though – way more entertaining then Netflix.
- Liter sized cup of coffee. Please note that I don’t mean you have to like to drink liters of coffe a day. The relevance is not so much on the drink itself, but in the fact that one should have, invariably, a large disposable cup in one’s hands. Doesn’t have to be filled with coffee – or you don’t have to drink all of it. It’s more of a personal item, something you’ll wear, like a purse. To fit in from the beginning I recommend you boarding the plane already holding one of those, it will help you mingle from minute one. And once you’re at it, I not put on a baseball cap and start a conversation with the stranger sitting next to you? About… politics, maybe? Welcome to America, my friend.