There are many things that are different in USA, but I thought I just mention some that we found different in our everyday life during the five months we lived in Florida. I’m sure there are much more that we have not come across but these are the ones that affected us here.
People – Most of the people here are very friendly and open. It is so nice to hear young people say “Yes ma’am” instead of Finnish “Joo – Yeah”. Where ever you go and whoever you meet, you are always asked how you are doing. And yes, I know, that is a way of greeting you, but such a nice way in my opinion. People are openly curious about you and very willing to tell you about themselves as well. The main difference here is that we Finns usually share all the negative things, where as here we get to discuss all the positive things in our lives. Positive feedback is given often and it is something that motivates you. That is especially important to young people. The amount of awards in high school here was enormous compared to our few scholarships at the end of the school year.
Environment protection – This is something bad here. Everything tells that this is not important, or maybe it is, but not much is done. In grocery store you get huge amount of plastic bags, at its best double packing or one product in each bag. We have been the vast minority who brings their own bags with them to the store. I bet more people would do that if plastics would cost here like in Finland. Also, at school all the food is served from plastic plates and students use plastic forks, knives and spoons. You can just imagine the amount of plastic waste in this size of a country. Most of the fruits and vegetables are packed in plastics here, at least in normal priced stores. Overall, the use of plastic is far too great here.
Food – This is something I could go on for long but I try to concentrate in the main points here. American food is mainly unhealthy, no matter what they say. You really have to take a close look what you buy. Food that sounds and looks quite ok, is most likely full of hidden sugar and fat. You need to read the ingredients very carefully if you wish to find groceries like you are used to eat at home. Another issue is the food preservatives, wau, those they put there a lot! Here you can store you milk or eggs for weeks, even months. That makes me wonder what might be in them… And at the end, the explanation for not so good diet in many families is just that the healthier food you eat, the more expensive it is.
Habits – One funny habit I always notice is the way Americans use the fork and knife. We are told to keep fork in left hand and knife in right hand but Americans first chop their food and then put the knife away, and start eating with the fork. By the way, this is an easy way to guess the origin of someone…
Another interesting thing is how they write the date; month first, then day. This causes confusion, especially when we European need to present our ID’s somewhere. And of course, here we have pounds, feets and inches. Luckily they have transferred to metric system is sports, otherwise it would have been quite hard for me to understand what were my daughters results.
Price tags – You rarely pay the price that is written on price tag. Taxes are usually excluded from those prices and sometimes you might be surprised in the counter that the price is higher than you thought. It took some time to get used to, and I have to say that I still don’t understand why that is so. From the pricing point of you, the taxes could be added to the communicated price. However, from marketing point of view, the products obviously sound cheaper than they actually are.
Transportation – Everyone is dependent on private cars. Here in gainesville the situation is better than average, the public transportation does exist , and I’m guessing it is due to a big university. In some parts of the State or the Country there is no public transportation at all. Not to mention, that here are really no railways and very few charter busses that would go between cities. People who has the money fly, and who has not, they drive. A twelve hour drive is just around the corner, whereas in Finland three hour drive is long. Since most families have multiple cars, we can only imagine what that does to the environment.
At the end, there are many good things in this society and people I have got to know are just awesome. However, some things Americans could learn from us, even though, raking the forests is not one of them…