Monday, February 11, 2008

Unexpected and Surprising Revelations about America

A survey from AIPT (the company that manages our visas) asked me "What are some of the most unexpected or surprising things you have learned during your program?".

Obviously I couldn't think of everything off the top of my head, but here is what I wrote:

  • American audiences really love to get involved. It's hard to get a New Zealand audience to do much more than clap.
  • Americans in general are very outgoing. I actually can't recall meeting an American who would be "shy" by New Zealand standards.
  • Almost every major recreational activity has a specific set of foods associated with it. You can't buy Eggnog at any time other than Christmas, and no-one wants to shell their own peanuts unless there's a baseball game going on.
  • Even Americans are sometimes confused about when to tip, and how much. Am I really supposed to tip the postman at Christmas?
  • When you have an accent, wait staff are always relieved when they realize you intend to tip them.
  • A surprising number of Americans believe New Zealand is in Europe.
  • You cannot live without a car in San Jose.
  • Californians spend a lot of money on new cars.
  • You can get a full license in about a week (for over-18's anyway). In NZ this takes two years.
  • Living in America, you actually matter to those big well-known websites. Amazon delivers overnight, Google Maps will give you directions to almost anywhere, and all those tech products which take forever to make it to NZ are right there on
  • A small soda in MacDonalds is the size of a New Zealand large.
  • The physical distance between safe areas and dangerous areas of a city can be frighteningly small.
  • In many ways America is like 50 small countries in one. Generalizations and stereotypes rarely apply everywhere.
  • You can buy 2000 straws at Costco for the same price as 20 straws at Safeway. Costco is a wonderful store.
  • Labels in supermarkets usually list the price-per-pound of things, making it much easier to compare.

1 comment:

Alice said...

That is fascinating! I love the minutiae of subtle cultural differences that you never find out about until you go somewhere. Like how in Germany you only get tissues in little packets, not in boxes. Cool!