- Three years ago, I moved from Guiyang, China, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to attend college.
- Before moving, I had certain perceptions and expectations of what the US would be like.
- Several aspects of US culture were different than I had imagined. And in some cases, those cultural differences left me disappointed.
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Three years ago, I moved from my hometown of Guiyang, China, to go to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
It was my first time living in America, and like many people who move to a new country, I found that my perception of the United States didn’t exactly line up with reality.
As it turned out, several aspects of US culture, from food to transportation to nightlife, were different than I had imagined. And in some cases, those differences left me disappointed.
Here are 14 of the most disappointing aspects of US culture, according to someone who moved from China.
Everything closes early in the US
In the North Carolina town I lived in, most places shut down around 9 p.m., except for bars, nightclubs, and a few grocery stores that stayed open 24 hours.
That’s very different from what I was used to in China, where shopping malls, restaurants, and cafes stayed open for business much later. At night markets, food hawkers start setting up their booths around 10 p.m. and don’t leave until 3 a.m.
In the US, it’s hard for me to find a coffee shop that’s open after midnight if I need to cram for finals, and it can often be hard to find an eatery for late-night cravings.
Parts of the US are much emptier than I expected
China is the most populous country in the world, and naturally, I’m used to seeing huge crowds on every corner. Whenever you go out, you’re likely to see hundreds of people exercising in parks, shopping in malls, and hanging out at coffee shops.
The population of the US is only about a quarter of China’s, and in smaller towns, people are much more spread out.
In the town where I live, I usually never see big crowds of people anywhere, giving the impression of a ghost town. Although I’d see people walking around in the daytime, it was disappointing to see that the outdoor activity would usually die down after sunset.
While the US is also home to crowded, bustling cities, it’s far from the only way people live in America.
You have to drive everywhere
In America, if you don’t have a car, and you don’t live in a city with convenient public transportation, your life is very, very difficult.
Unlike China, where most people rely on buses and subways, the US is very much a car country. If you don’t have a car, it might take you an hour and a half to get somewhere on the other side of the town. This aspect of US culture isn’t something that’s usually shown on TV and in movies, so I had no idea before I arrived.
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