As a Nigerian non-immigrant, I grew up in Nigeria for most of my life but I was exposed to a good amount of Western culture. My country was colonized by the British and we got our independence in 1960; not too long ago. So growing up, we were exposed to a lot of their culture including American culture. We grew up watching Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon and some of my favorite shows were Big Time Rush, Victorious, and iCarly. Obviously, these shows only showed some part of the American culture but the basic information about the culture, food, way of life was now familiar to me. I had little to no issues understanding the accents. As such, I did not experience great culture shock when I came to America.
However, I still experienced some culture shock, and here are some of them I listed below:
1. Smiles are a way of greetingGiphy
I would be on the walkway to my class in a hurry and someone walking the opposite way towards me would glance in my direction and give me a quick smile. Initially, I did not know how to respond because the questions in my head were: Do I know you? Why in the world are you smiling at a stranger? I would just look away and keep walking. I had no intention to be rude but it was very weird and uncomfortable. I got used to it though over time and I had to remind myself consciously to smile back. Now, I do it out of reflex reaction.
2. Eating at restaurants are the normGiphy
I found it interesting that Americans loved eating out so often as three times a week. In Nigeria, we mostly cook our food and eat out on days of special occasions like lunch on Sunday after church, birthday, or weekend dinner. For us, there is always a reason before visiting a restaurant. But here, people eat out just because.
3. Informality with elders/people in authorityGiphy
At home, we have to give utmost respect to people who are older than us or in authority because it is our culture. We take what they say as extremely important and are never meant to disobey them. This is not a bad practice but on the flip side, the young ones fear the elders and are never allowed to express how they really feel. So it is mostly a one-way conversation. In America, everyone is free with themselves in sharing their opinion. I noticed that when I give my opinion sometimes, naturally I tense up because I expecting the person to shout or tell me to keep my opinion to myself. My culture makes me more cautious about what comes out of my mouth. It's a nice feeling to just speak my mind.
Also, older folks are okay with others calling them by their first name. That till today is absurd. In Nigeria, there has to be a title attached like Mr., Mrs, Aunty, or Uncle.
4. Education is FREE?!Giphy
WHAT? If that is not a blessing, I don't know what is. It is incredible to see that pre-university education is free for everyone living in America so that everybody has a chance with at least a high school diploma. However, the case is different in other countries.
5. Being out in the countryside is a choiceGiphy
I found it weird that people chose to live out in the countryside with animals BY CHOICE. They were not forced into it because of the unfavorable conditions but genuinely enjoy it. Don't get me wrong, people do the same back in Nigeria but they employ people to do the work for them. But here, the owners enjoy the work even without profit.
6. Americans are quite ignorantGiphy
Due to no fault of their own, a lot of Americans have never left the confines of their state, not to mention their country. They have lived with the same class of people all their lives and it tells on them especially with the kinds of questions they ask me. It's uncomfortable to be asked questions that they should already know the answer to about Africa but, I guess the media does not do its job well and, gives an inadequate or partially true story of my continent.
Since they live in their bubble, they have an obscure understanding of other cultures around the world. Compared to the number of people who travel outside the country for exposure, Americans are the least inclined to travel out of the country. I believe it is because it provides a comfortable lifestyle for the average American so there is no curiosity beyond their four walls.
7. Influx of other languagesGiphy
I was surprised to see that Spanish was spoken by a large group of people in Texas. I was not expecting that at all.
8. The lack of public transportationGiphy
It was surprising that some American states do not have basic public transportation, especially in Texas excluding the major cities. It was hard to wrap my head around it because I thought it was a basic necessity for a city to have public transportation. Cars are expensive and have become a necessity in these areas. In Nigeria, owning a car is a luxury.
9. Children can be independent at 18Giphy
Some parents cut their children off of their finances at 18 or the children choose to live by themselves. The economy of Nigeria does not really allow this to be a possibility because it is harder to survive independently at such a young age. So it is normal for a college student to expect money from their parents in Nigeria but it is different in the U.S. A lot of college kids I know are independent of their parents when paying for their bills like rent, utilities, and so on and they find it very hard to request for money from their parents.