50 Things No One Told Me About America

Twelve years ago I arrived to the Salt Lake City International Airport with broken luggage (it was duct taped all over to hold my precious possessions) in hand, and two hundred dollars in my wallet. I came to America with great expectations and hope for a better future. I had a very vague idea about my new-to-be homeland, mostly gained from American movies that I watched and books that I read.

I was a complete rookie without any knowledge of the English language or the country I was going to call my home.

Looking back at that girl in the airport with broken luggage and big hopes, I wish someone had told me then (in no particular order):

  1. How easy it is to get into debt.
  2. How difficult it is to get out of debt.
  3. How hard it is to learn English. But when you learn it, you feel unstoppable.
  4. Credit cards can be evil.
  5. Credit cards if used correctly can help you to travel.
  6. Credit score and credit reports.
  7. Be careful with student loans.
  8. Start saving for retirement as soon as you can.
  9. Get health insurance.
  10. Save money!
  11. Save some more!
  12. Beware of department store credit cards and high interest rates.
  13. Everything Apple.
  14. Broadway shows.
  15. The Superbowl, it’s commercials and half time show.
  16. A lot of people chew gum. All the time. Even on TV.
  17. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available every day.
  18. Don’t start spending like crazy when you make some money.
  19. Don’t get into debt for a plain t-shirt and a pair of shoes.
  20. A car is a necessity not a luxury.
  21. You will never get rid of your accent.
  22. Racism is still a problem.
  23. Some folks still think that the Cold War never ended.
  24. People watch a lot of TV.
  25. Reality shows suck!
  26. Democracy!
  27. Walmart.
  28. Black Friday (WTF people?!)
  29. The Bill of Rights.
  30. The most complicated tax system in the world.
  31. Iced tea. Really?!
  32. Not everyone will know how to locate your country on a map.
  33. Not everyone will be able to find Russia on a map.
  34. Opportunity!
  35. The amazing Interstate Highway System.
  36. The biggest national debt in the world.
  37. Breakfast anytime.
  38. Drive-in movies! (I’ve been to one and that was enough.)
  39. Starbucks.
  40. Healthcare is outrageously expensive and not accessible to everyone.
  41. Health insurance, car insurance, home insurance, renters insurance.
  42. FedEx!
  43. Junk food tastes good.
  44. Junk food makes you fat.
  45. Watch out for high fructose corn syrup!
  46. Don’t eat processed food.
  47. You will walk very little.
  48. You will drive a lot.
  49. Pet insurance and vet bills.
  50. Blogging.

34 thoughts on “50 Things No One Told Me About America”

  1. Wow, so many things that we take for granted in the US. What about 50 (or more) choices of cereals and great food from every corner of the world and the Dollar Store. I’ve never been to your home country, but the most amazing things for me in Moscow were the incredible history (the US is too young) and the subway…what a work of art!

    1. The US has incredible history as well. It is not as old as European but it is as amazing. Yes, Moscow metro is an incredible piece of art.

  2. I like your list. It is astounding to me that as you said, racism is still a problem. As someone who is of two different races, it makes me sad. As a country, we’ve come far but not nearly far enough…

    1. It is as astounding to you as it is to me. With all the democracy and freedoms that this country offers, I am still amazed that racism is a problem. Still!

    1. Nope. I didn’t know about Walmart until I came to the US. Even now back home, not everyone is aware of this giant. So, when you say “in the world” it does not necessarily apply to the world. 🙂

  3. This is great! I can’t believe you came here and didn’t know a lick of English. Congratulations on that. You shouldn’t have to get rid of your accent anyway – accents make people more interesting.

    There are definitely things that I don’t even think about like the fresh fruit and veggies and the highway system. The gum one I don’t think I’ve noticed but I guess you’re right.

    I live in NYC so I never drive and walk so much. It is nothing to me to walk multiple miles and I only ever realize this when I have out of town friends come to visit. We can make it maybe, 6 blocks before people start to complain. It’s amazing. I also don’t own a car which is amazing in its own way, but there are few places in the US where you can get away with that.

    1. Oh, I feel somewhat jealous. First, because you live in NY. Second, because you walk everywhere. I miss walking. Here, in Salt Lake, you can walk in downtown area but you do need a car to get around.

  4. Dannielle @ Odd Cents

    I like your list. I think it’s an eye opener for someone moving to America. The ones that jumped out at me are:
    7. Be careful with student loans – I still do not understand how financial institions are so eager to load down students with debt.
    40. Healthcare – It’s sad that its so expensive and there are people opposing the process of making it available to everyone.

    How does your life in Russia compare?

    1. I was amazed that I was able to take student loan with almost no income. Yes, healthcare in this country needs to be fixed and be accessible to everyone. How about paid maternity leave?

  5. As a first generation immigrant to the U.S. (although I was younger than you when I came here), I love this list. The things I’d include on mine would be: the lack of proximity between people, McDonalds give you a toy when you buy a happy meal, American Girl dolls, schools get out at 3pm.

  6. It is amazing what we realize we didn’t know when we look back. Sorry you didn’t get a good orientation when you came over. I find in North America in general we move around so fast we don’t even know what we have. It’s a real shame.

  7. Breakfast all day, how awesome is that?!

    I love the fact that you arrived with a duct-taped suitcase. You were American in your heart from the start. WD40 and duct tape, that’s all you need. If it moves and it’s not supposed to, duct tape it. If it don’t move and it’s supposed to, WD40.

  8. It’s always so interesting to hear the things that people notice when they come to America for the first time. I will never forget a college classmate from Cyprus talking about how often we eat. She was used to 3 small meals a day with no snacking inbetween. It really made me stop and think about the fact that I’m eating SOMETHING almost all day! No wonder we’re all overweight!

    1. Interesting! Now that you’ve mentioned it, I do think we ate less back home during the day. We never snacked!

  9. Nice list. We really don’t realize how different life is here compared to other parts of the world. I’d love to see you do a similar list containing things we Americans should know about life in Moscow. I bet it would be truly enlightening!

  10. The credit thing you mentionned reminds me about a story I read in the newspaper for a while ago. It was about a guy who immigrated from some African country to Norway, can’t remember from which country he was. But the thing was that in the course of a few years he had managed to get a gianormous consumer debt. He just didn’t understand how credit cards work and here it is so much easier to get consumer credit than from the country he is from so he went all crazy about it. It was a sad story…

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