16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America Until They Moved Here

12. Francisco Feijó Delgado

It’s not that I didn’t believe, but it’s more things I didn’t expect or couldn’t anticipate before coming here (I’m from Portugal). My experience is limited to Boston and in particular MIT which can congregate some odd folks:

  • Bottles of water. For some reason, people carry huge Nalgene bottles around. And the funny thing is, there’s a (refrigerated) water fountain in almost every corridor.
  • Tests in pajamas. Ok, this might be an MIT thing, but I’ve seen several students (mostly undergrad) take exams in pajamas.
  • Snapping your [spinal] column. I had not seen this in my country, but in every class, seminar or other situation when people sit for a long time, they occasionally tend to straighten up and snap the column by rotating their backs left and right.
  • Immediate check and taking away empty plates. For me this was incredibly rude as back home you never take the empty plates before everyone who’s dining has finished their meals. Also, back home one asks for the check, so when waiters bring you the check here without you asking can feel very much like you’re being rushed. This has lead me to leave several food places without paying, when I go home, only to have to return to pay after realizing that no, the check had not been given to me and I had not paid yet.
  • Ice cold water immediately when you sit at a table.
  • Tips. why does every meal need to be an algebra exercise when almost always you pay the same percentage?
  • Infantile and convenient food (and I’m not talking about the fast food). No bones, no spines, hardly ever find an entire fish, it’s mostly filets, very little diversity (little lamb, or duck, hardly ever rabbit, and for fish it’s almost always tuna, salmon, haddock and bass), seedless everything. A lot of things (not desserts) are sweetened, like honey smoked, glazed, etc. Even desserts sometimes look like 5-y.o. were left alone in the kitchen: cookie dough ice cream, oreo cheese cake…
  • “How are you?” at every shop.
  • How people feel it’s important to immediately know your first name and use it.
  • Jogging. Everybody jogs in Boston.
  • Doing an online transfer and hearing that the other party was sent a printed paper check by mail > retail banking, in many aspects is not modern at all.
  • Personal greetings. the almost-best-friends-but-I-still-don’t-want-to-get-your-germs hugging. Beyond the formal handshake the greetings seem, to me, awkward. As a southern european I’m used to the face kissing with women or heart-felt embraces with men. I appreciate that not all cultures like this type of physical contact, but the american (new england?) embracing is somewhat in between: it’s a hug, which implies proximity and contact, but it’s done in a way that avoids being too intimate.

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