5 Culture Shocks Every European Encounters When Moving To America

by Jelena Colak

There are a couple of us crazy kids who decided to leave behind the chic European lifestyle for a more fast-paced, thrilling life of the “promised land” in order to pursue our dreams.

While some decide the American life is not for them, the ones who stay realize how magical it can be.

Here are the five main things you should expect to be shocked by when you finally move to the land of opportunity:

1. The first thing that will surprise you is how friendly Americans are.

Walk into a store, restaurant, bar or club, and nine out of 10 times, the employees will smile at you, greet you with enthusiasm and make small talk.

Even though it's their job, and they probably don’t care about how your cat Snuffles got her name, it's refreshing to feel a sense of warmth wherever you go.

This friendliness extends to the people you meet at work, school, the gym and wherever else you spend your time. If there’s one thing in America you won’t have to worry about, it's making friends.

Americans like to talk about everything, so the fact that you’re from a different country gives them plenty of questions to ask. And you also have a bunch of material to talk about.

Oh, and did I mention they just love Europe?

2. Dating is a whole new concept.

When you come from a small city, where everyone is the same nationality as you, you all share the same culture. Almost everybody knows each other, and dating options are very small.

This is not the case in America.

Forget everything you knew about dating; you will be introduced to a whole new world here. First thing you need to know is your options are endless.

You can meet someone new and interesting anywhere you go. From that cute guy who works at your local coffee shop to the sweet girl you saw on your first day of classes, there’s plenty of fish in the sea for both women and men.

Sometimes, you’re going to have to act fast. You might have seen that girl on your first day of classes, but the chances are you’ll never see her again.

That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised when people come up to you and just straight up ask for your number. Dating is very straightforward here.

If you'd just be setting up your first date with a guy back home, in America, you'd already be onto candidate number three.

3. Forget the lifestyle you lived by back home.

Be prepared to get used to a completely new lifestyle. No more hour-long afternoon coffee dates with your best friend on a work day, no more tanning on the beach after school or work, no more sleeping in and no more 1 pm happy hours.

While I can’t say you won’t be doing these things at all, the activities that were part of your everyday life back home will be substituted by work, school and life obligations.

Life goes by fast, and there’s no time for funny business.

I like to say America makes you a responsible adult, whether you want it or not. However, your weekends will be packed with Friday nights at the bar, Saturday-night concerts and Sunday brunch dates.

Even though life is more fast-paced here, people still like to make time to hang out with their friends, explore their interests outside of school and work and just have a good time.

It helps that, since it is such a big country with so many different people with different interests, the amount of things you can do is endless. You can be sure you’ll never be bored.

4. You will never eat the same lunch two days in a row again.

Oh, yes. America is the land of big portions, endless choices, dining out and free refills. The way you eat will change forever.

You will be mesmerized by the sweet smells of donut shops, caramel popcorn and brownies. You will be obsessed with the magnificent taste of one-of-a-kind burgers, hot dogs and pizzas. You can have Italian, Chinese, Greek and any other kind of food whenever and wherever.

You will never have to worry about having the same lunch two days in a row because there are countless options around you. If, for some odd reason, you really don't have that many options, any food you're craving is just a click away.

I’m just going to warn you that everything is so big. Portions in restaurants are usually huge, jumbo pizza is a whole different concept, and a small size of a drink here is the equivalent of a large size drink in Europe. It’s great to have so much variety, but you should be careful.

Stay active and healthy because it’s easy to overindulge. If you’re not much of a foodie, and/or you’re watching what you’re eating, the options are endless for you, too. You can eat every fruit and vegetable known to human kind every day, no matter what season it is.

Choose wisely, for while the good food will bring you life, too much of the bad will make the freshman 15 a reality.

5. You’ll find yourself looking up a lot.

Just like the food portions, everything else in America is big.

City roads are the size of the highways back home. Buildings hold world records for being the tallest in the world. People prefer SUVs over sedans. Everything is big, and almost everything is shiny and new.

Some people would say the architecture here is almost futuristic. And when you compare it to some classic European cities, it is. You won’t find a floating city like Venice, a medieval city sitting by a beautiful sea like Dubrovnik or a city with a royal vibe like London or Monaco.

But that’s what makes it different in so many great ways.

You'll find a city of lights in the middle of a desert, concrete cities on the shores of lakes and the oceans, ranches and little tows with Wild West vibes and cities and towns with a European feel, but an American twist.

If you end up living in a metropolitan area, which is usually the case, you'll find yourself looking up a lot. Your mind will be blown over and over again by the wide streets and the big parking spaces.

However, once in a while, you’ll stumble upon Renaissance-like churches inspired by the Florence Cathedral, marble triumphal arches inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and museum buildings that look like they were built in ancient Greece or Rome.

You'll find little neighborhoods inspired by Italy, France, Poland, Germany, Austria, England, Greece or any other European country you can think of.

That’s what will make this whole new world feel a little bit closer to home. But then again, you won’t be able to compare it to anything you’ve seen before.

Whether you move to America and stay forever, or you move to stay for just a period of time, you will miss your home a lot. But in the midst of all the city lights, shiny cars, hard concrete, glossy billboards, friendly faces and shiny smiles, you'll find your spot in this crazy world and a place where you belong.

You'll see that chasing your dreams wasn't so bad, and all the struggles and adjustments were completely worth it. After all, who doesn't like free refills?