Tinker Bell drawing
Cultural habits, General Writing

Ten things I still don’t get as an immigrant in the USA.

Being an outsider always lets you to interest conversations about habits and cultures. I chose to live in America when I was very young. As Princess Diana said, she knew was going to be royalty when she was a kid, I knew I was going to move to the United States eventually. After 8 years living here, there are some cultural habits I still scratch my head about it. I decided to make a list of the top ten items that still don’t make sense.

American Sports

I never understood the rules or the reason why the players play the way they do. The sports I watched growing up were volleyball, soccer, and dodgeball at school. When I moved to the United States, I had to quickly learn the difference between soccer and football.


Which makes no sense if you think logically, because football is supposedly played by foot, and yet, they play with their hands. They run, carrying the ball across the field, like a cousin who just wants to steal the ball to make you mad while you guys are playing. Once the player ran across the entire field, with all the other players chasing him, he is either jumped by the other side’s teammates or scores.

Let’s move on to baseball. Here is what I know: someone squat there making some hand gestures, whoever is throwing the ball gets ready, according to those gestures. The pitcher positions his legs far apart, winds up, and throws the ball. It’s a hit or miss for the guy holding the bat. If he hits it, he runs to the first base while a player on the other team has to run and catch the ball. If he misses, a song comes on and so does the Kiss cam, to distract us. I don’t know what happens next. I was just there for the music and hotdogs.

Prom


We always watch it in the movies, it looks like a special day, as you have to be formally invited, wear a nice dress and make memories with your friends. We don’t have that in Brazil. We have house parties that work the same. Nothing special and nobody buys a dress or expects to be invited, you just show up.

I don’t understand what Prom means, neither what is it for. My husband says he was nothing special, he took some photos, dance weirdly, and got back home later than usual, the same thing he does at any party until these days.

Thanksgiving

In Brazil, we don’t have a special date to sit around the table and give thanks for the entire year, during that day. We do this every Sunday, weather permitting. It’s called Barbecue, or Churrasco. We drink, we invite family members and friends, we dance and get ready for the week.

We don’t need to wait for a specific day to give thanks for what we have. What is crazy for me is the amount of food served, enough to put you in a food coma. The next thing is a turkey sandwich for a week, pasta with turkey, cranberry sauce cream face, mashed potatoes with Nutella french toast, and so on.

We never gather with anyone else, it’s usually the two of us, but a few times we gather with some other Latino friends and of them took a tray of spaghetti to the party, to my American husband horror. As other cultures don’t have Thanksgiving, we take whatever we feel like eating. Spaghetti is my friend’s comforting meal.

Christmas Snow

Unless you leave in the South, there is a bigger chance of you having a white, snowy Christmas. It’s a magical feeling, just like watching all those Christmas movies, like Home Alone, Santa Clause, and all the hallmark movies. I love the Christmas snow since I never have seen it until I was 23.

Christmas back home is not cozy, since it’s the starting of Summer. It gets hot, humid, sticky and eventually it rains. What makes no sense for me, its the mall Santa, dressed like he is in 30F weather when outside, it’s probably hitting 100F. Also, why would you let your kids sitting on a stranger’s lap to ask for stuff?

Driving at 16

When I turned 16, I got a bus pass and good luck wishes in getting a job since I could apply for a part-time position finally at that age. Kids in America get their driver’s license and usually a car key. They can barely control their legs yet, to walk, yet they are rewarded with a moving vehicle, that can kill them, or kill others.

Another thing that never made sense for me is the fact that they can have a killing machine in their hands, yet, they can’t legally buy drinks. Shouldn’t be the opposite? Most of us learn how to drive at 18. In cases where you have a present dad at home, or someone who drives to teach you. I had none.

The first time I drove a car, I was 26. In Sao Paulo, in the middle of that crazy traffic. I drove a manual car. I’m still traumatized and never got my license here in the states because I always lived in places where public transportation works. Or people to drive me around.

Leaving the house to go to college

Like a ritual, Senior year comes, all the college applications are sent and most likely you are shipped across the country, to live at a school dorm. With a stranger. You lived under your mom’s wings for the past 18 years and now, overnight, you are left alone to make your own decisions and take care of yourself.

That’s not maturing fast, that’s desperation and a whole lot of mistakes. It could be avoided if you leave the house once you are legal enough to buy your drinks. I grew up thinking that most Americans are more mature than the rest of the world because they get to leave their house early. I didn’t see how wrong I was until I work at a bar in Georgia and all those “mature” kids were breaking hell loose at my working place.

The Food

Should I start with my covid theory? No. Let’s talk about food, the American way of eating and feeding their body cells, so they could function. Middle ground America works too much and has no time for cooking, or they don’t enjoy cooking. They are stressed, anxious, and always worry about what’s next to come. It’s cultural.

The easiest way to feed themselves and others are frozen food, huge fruits filled with pesticides and no nutrients, 3 times sized chickens full of hormones, fish who come from a tank, and sugar cereal. In a country where the McSalad costs more than a big mac meal, it’s easy to see why the population is overweight.

Diabetic, has heart disease, iron deficiency among others. A full plate for Covid. It’s also hard when low-income people don’t have other choices when it comes to good food.

The Health System

People already don’t eat well, which pushes them to get sick and they can’t have the treatment, because they can’t afford it. A simple doctor’s appointment costs about 200 dollars just so they can look at your face and prescribe you medication. Universal Care should be free. My country is at a bottom of the eating chain, but we have free health care.

I cannot wrap my head around the fact that America, such a rich country, neglects their citizen’s health care. You have to be at work at least 3 months before applying for health insurance, most of the times, it doesn’t cover much. That’s actually if you are lucky, if you work in the service industry, you might as well die. Restaurants never give their employees insurance, but they expect you to be up and running at least 14 hours a day.

Obsession with reality tv shows and underground celebrities.

Kim Kardashian is probably one of the smartest persons around. Say whatever you want about her, but with a sex tape, she made her entire family rich, their brand is known across the globe and they will have money for generations to come. “Catch me out outside” girl is the same.

We don’t know if that was all an improvised act, but she turned herself around fast and morphed herself into Bhad Baby. A quick misbehaving on tv and she becomes a sensation. She is not a reality tv star yet, but I can see that coming.


I’m obsessed with all kinds of the reality show, the most relevant ones are the working/family relationship ones. I have a whole list of shows I can watch non-stop as I wrote here before, the 90-day fiance franchise, Below Deck, Love after lock-up, and recently I got into Welcome to Plathville. I will have to write about that one later.

Self-Check at the supermarket

First, let me say that would never work in my country. Not that we are not good people, there are just too many smart ones, who would take a few products without paying for granted. The supermarket would go broke. The first time I used a self-check I got very overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do.
“Do you just pass the bar code?”, me looking at my roommate like I was stealing something,
“Yes, and then when you are done, you pay for it.” my roommate thinking it was a normal thing to do.
“Nobody comes to check if I paid?”
“No, you can just take the receipt and leave”
“What if I buy alcohol?”
“Then someone comes and check your ID’

USA Flag
My USAversary, in 2016.

Still makes no sense.

I try to live life as happy as I can, but some days are just harder than others.

Please let me know in the comments what kind of habits or situations are weird for you still, as an American or a foreigner living here.

Have a great week!

J.G.Snelly

7 thoughts on “Ten things I still don’t get as an immigrant in the USA.”

  1. I don’t get why Americans let you drive at 16, and go to college at 18, but no drinking until 21! Seems so strange to me that you’re considered an adult, and old enough to live alone, but not old enough to have a drink. I like the UK’s rules of 17 to drive, 18 to drink (and 18 typically for university).

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