Our perceptions often reflect reality, yet in some cases, we find that reality isn’t everything we thought it to be. International students have an expectation of what American culture is like - the people, and its colleges are like. The America portrayed in movies, television, music, and media paint one picture, but is that reflective of the truth? There are two sides to every story. We’re here to confirm (or debunk) some of the most common myths about American Culture!
Common Myths About American Culture
Myth #1: Everything is bigger in America
We’ll start with one of the most common myths about American culture. There’s a belief that everything, and we mean EVERYTHING, is bigger in America — and you wouldn’t be wrong to think that. Movies like “Supersize Me” have shown that Americans love to do things BIG.
Make a trip to your neighborhood grocery store, and you’ll find food stacked to the ceiling (probably an excessively high ceiling at that). Want to order a meal at a nice restaurant? We hope you brought your appetite because it’ll be enough to feed (at least) two. From portion sizes to ultra-Trenta-sized cups and even the buildings themselves, America is just as supersized as you thought.
Fact or Fiction? FACT.
Myth #2: It’s the land of the free
For a long time, America was the hallmark ‘freedom’ capital of the world. If you had a dream, you could come to the U.S. and fight to make it a reality. Somewhere along the way, America and american culture lost sight of what made it a global leader and beacon for freedom, giving way to different myths about American culture. As Emma Lazarus famously said, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
“The land of opportunity” is a more appropriate title, in our opinion, with cities like New York deemed as a dream city for most students to study and settle. The U.S. is still home to the majority of top colleges and universities in the world, and there are work opportunities for people from all walks of life. If you’re looking to start a career, continue your education, or settle down, America is still one of the best places to be in the world, — but the land of the free? We’ll have to get back to you on that one, but we don’t see many other candidates either.
Fact or Fiction? TBD
Myth #3: Party culture is big in college
Is party culture big in the U.S.? That depends on a couple of factors, but if that’s what you’re looking for, there are plenty of universities that’ll fit your criteria. There are many reasons to study in an American college, and whichever university you choose to attend, it’s more than likely that there will be a ‘party scene’ or ‘greek life’ at said school. Whether you choose to participate is up to you.
It’s just as easy to find friends who prefer a peaceful evening playing board games as it is to find friends to party with, which is the beauty of american culture. American campuses are so diverse that meeting friends to who you can relate is just a matter of “when,” not “if.”
Fact or Fiction? FACT.
Myth #4: Everyone is rude
Now, this is the big myth about American culture. While it may not be easy to adapt to a new culture, or american culture for that matter, movies and TV shows don’t make it any easier, given that they depict Americans as either brash (rude) or standoff-ish (rude). This myth about American culture couldn’t be further from the truth. As is the case with people from any region, there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, Americans are generally pleasant, albeit shallow, people. This myth about American culture has been busted!
What do we mean by shallow? When you first arrive in the U.S., you’ll find that strangers and passersby will ask you, “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” It’s not an invitation for a conversation as much as an acknowledgment of your existence (but hey, at least you get that!). One of the most common complaints you’ll hear from international students is that it’s easy to meet people — it’s a bit harder to make friends. We’d agree.
Fact or Fiction? FICTION.
Myth #5: Racism is widespread in America.
It’s hard to separate fact from fiction when the president of the country has publicly spewed toxic words about other races. This doesn’t include all of America's media attention related to racially-motivated news. However, as we’ve mentioned before, there are exceptions to every rule. Conversations are being had; people are trying to understand one another.
We can’t say there isn’t racism — we acknowledge that our country and the american culture has problems. We can say, however, that more people than not are actively working toward making a country that’s accepting of all races. Colleges and universities are constantly making efforts to be more welcoming, more supportive, and more inclusive of international student populations.
Fact or Fiction? FACT.
If you dig a little deeper, however, you’ll find that many of these myths aren’t exactly how they seem. One can only find out through living the experience of studying in the USA and pursuing a career. American culture may just really suit you, you never know!
Study in the USA is your guide through the study abroad process; from finding your dream school, taking your English Language Tests, and getting your visa - we have you covered.