15 Things That Amazed Me in the U.S. as a Foreigner

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Disclaimer: my comparative observations are very general and not necessarily represent all Americans or all people from Central Asians countries: Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.

  1. Smiling. Americans love smiling when they greet you, especially in the Southern states, not very much in the East Coast. While we, Central Asians, generally smile to those whom we personally know. Tough love!
  2. Women Drivers. Most American women are drivers and most amazingly for me was to see elder women drivers that I never saw on Central Asian roads. Can’t imagine our grandma’s driving a car in their 70th. First, our people usually don’t live that long, second, women are discouraged to get in front of the wheel. Sadly, we are part of “no women, no drive” culture. But we don’t place our elders in nursing homes because traditionally it is the youngest son’s duty to take care of their old parents.

    More Central Asian women need to start driving, otherwise they can be driven to “no men, yes driving” policies…
  3. Smoking. Americans do smoke, but you don’t see them that much in public compared to Central Asian countries. Maybe most Americans smoke in their cars because that’s where they spend most of their time?! U.S. colleges live by smoke-free rules and that’s great! Also, you can’t buy one cigarette or one bottle of beer as people do in our countries, you get everything in packages in U.S.
  4. Transportation. U.S. roads are made for cars and are pedestrian-unfriendly. Anywhere you call you get directions on how to get their on a car assuming that you have one. Public transportation is not developed or used here as in Central Asia. You can’t catch a taxi in small town America, but you can catch a fish in the nearby pond, of course, if you have a permission. U.S. stores don’t have the variety of fish that we eat in Central Asia.

    In U.S. you have to buy car to travel around. All the taxis are in museums..
    In U.S. you have to buy your own car to travel around. All the taxis are in museums..
  5. Food. It was only in Turkey and then in U.S. that I heard the concept of ‘organic’ food because in Central Asia organic food is taken for granted and we don’t genetically modify our food. Here you buy food in boxes and packages and you think you bought a lot of stuff, but half of it are boxes and plastic. But U.S. has a recycling system unlike in our countries.
  6. Money. In U.S. all money is on cards, no cash in hands, except on hands who work for cash. And every store has its own card for discounts, so my wallet is full of cards rather than cash that I used to carry. Credit carding makes everything seemingly accessible and seemingly cheap because swiping is a one touch process. So in U.S. living in debt is a norm and everything depends on your credit card report. Central Asians mostly rely on their relatives when it comes to borrowing money.
  7. Bread. American bread is sweetened, but it is not the major thing that they eat. While in Central Asia, bread is ‘the shape of our hearts’. So once I went to a store here and asked for unsweetened bread, the store manager said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.”

    Central Asian bread.
    You got to visit Central Asia to taste our bread. There’s no way around.
  8. Stores. Convenient stores in U.S., especially in small town America, are a rare thing. If you need to shop, you have to go to big stores, often miles away from the place you live. Small business is shrinking in America, as the Aral Sea in Central Asia.   
  9. Sports. Athletes are god-like creatures in America. Many Americans love running, camping, and going to parks, but there are very few amusement parks. You will rarely see Central Asians running to improve their health, even if the doctor says you’re going to die next year if you don’t start running today. “Ah, I still have a year…” you may hear in respond.
  10. Doctors. American doctors don’t spend much time talking or explaining or asking questions. Very quick check up time and you are set to go. You will receive your bill later in the mail. Facilities are good, but our doctors seems to be better compared to American ones just because they don’t act like unapproachable authority figures.
  11. Family. I used to think that Americans have only one or two kids but I was wrong. They’ve got big families just like in Central Asia. Although, some kids live with one of their divorced parents, who may be married to other people, who know and meet with each other and are ok to live that way. This kind of situation would be close to impossible for Central Asians.
  12. Other things: People are allergic here to things that are exotic to us like peanut butter; widespread fight against cancer, the disease that’s uncommon to us; advocacy for LGBTQ rights the thing that most of us blame the Western cultures for ‘importing’ it to us; people with disabilities that are invisible in our schools; and problems with obesity that we may never encounter with the way we live.

    America is green. Chicago, IL.
    Yahoo! Flying over pedestrian-unfriendly neighborhood streets! Which web should I use today?
  13. Housing. Most private houses in Central Asia are brick-made rather than wood-made as in U.S., maybe because we don’t have tornados?! A Central Asian house is a place where no one can enter with shoes for its considered disrespectful and shoes are seen as something unhygienic unlike in U.S.
  14. Green America. Americans love planting grass and flowers on their backyards and front yards and then buying expensive noisy mowers or hiring somebody to cut that grass. Most Central Asians love vegetable gardens or keep some livestock in their backyards, and sometimes it is our major source of income who also play the role of ‘organic’ mowers.

    Tulip Revolution in Albany, NY.
    Every spring people in Albany, NY celebrate Tulip Festival. Since 2005, tulips in Central Asia symbolize coup d’état.
  15. Race rather than ethnicity or nationality of people are asked on U.S. official forms. However, here who you are doesn’t matter that much as in Central Asia, and you don’t feel the pressure to be or to prove who you are. Perhaps, pressure is something you feel when you don’t know who the hell you are?!



Article written by Rustam NiyaRustam Niyazov photozov

ISV Reporter

4 thoughts on “15 Things That Amazed Me in the U.S. as a Foreigner

  1. I loved this article so much! Rustam makes several good points about comparing the two cultures. I never thought about taking off my shoes when going inside my home until I met someone from another country. When you think about it, you walk around outside tracking who knows what on your shoes, then you go home and walk around! I now take off my shoes before going inside my home and try to be respectful when going into the homes of others.

    Also, can I please have a piece of that bread? Wow!! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Carrie! We can only find truth in comparisons, but I also wanted to find some meaning on the way we live. Guess I found it: life is awesome!

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