Updated: Jun 9
It's been almost 2 months since I arrived in Texas, USA, and I'm still discovering new things every day. Culture shock is unavoidable when we relocate to a new country, especially for a Vietnamese who had never travelled abroad.
Here are the top 10 interesting things that have impressed me the most since moving here.
Within my journey from Vietnam to the US, I had to transit twice through Incheon airport (ICN), Korea and Dallas airport (DFW), USA. My first surprise came when I was at the Dallas airport and found that I needed to take an automatic train named Skyline to travel from Teminal D to Terminal A. To be frank, it was my first time going in a vehicle with no human driver, and I enjoyed the views along the trip so far. DFW's Skylink is the world's largest automated people mover (APM) guideway of its type and could raise an average of 50 feet above ground, which is quite remarkable to me!
Second fantastic automation experience is the bank drive-thru service. My husband was having some trouble withdrawing cash from the drive-thru ATM, so we needed help from the bank staff. And that was the first time I had seen Bank Vacuum Tube Technology in person. The inside staff sent us documents, pens, cards, or everything else they could think of by placing them in the tube inside their office, and that system will assist in delivering them to you. How convenient! At first I simply assumed they developed it to the Covid 19 restriction. Later, I did some research and learned that they had this technology for around 80 years. Wonderful!
2. Dishwasher takes more than 3 hours each cycle
Dishwasher is common in every American household. What shocked me is that one cycle of the dish washer takes around three hours to finish. Modern dishwashers, however, are said to consume less water and energy than earlier versions, making them more efficient. That means they must operate for longer periods of time to achieve the same level of performance and allow sensors to determine if your dishes are adequately cleaned.
You've probably heard the myth about Asians, especially Asian Americans using the dish washer as a dish rack for air drying after hand washing. After getting taught by my mom-in-law that we needed to rinse all of the huge trunks off the plates before placing them in the dish washer, I got even more puzzled because with a little more effort, I can clean the same plate without using the machine. But I must agree that the detergent is never a good option for hand skin no matter how mild they claim and you can't use too hot water with your bare hands while using gloves makes it harder to tell if the plate is clean. Studies have also shown that dishwashers consume much less water than the faucet. According to the EPA, the standard flow of a kitchen tap is 2.2 gallons per minute, which means that you’d use an estimated 27 gallons by washing an entire dishwasher load by hand while a modern dishwasher uses no more than 5.5 gallons of water for the entire load (and some use as little as 3 gallons). Even older dishwashers only use 10 to 15 gallons per cycle, which is still half as much water as handwashing.
3. Unpredictable weather and AC 24/7
It was mid April when I first came. The sky was deep blue and it was quite chilly and breezy outside. Later on in May, it became hotter and hotter, reaching 36 degrees Celsius at points.. The pattern, however, was never so obvious to me. Some nights there were thunder storms and it would get cold on the next morning. Or some odd light rains in the day time that cooled down the atmosphere. I've developed a new habit of checking the weather forecast before planning any outdoor activity. I think weather pattern is more obvious in Vietnam that in the rain season (April to November), it will often rain in the afternoon, so I always carried one raincoat when going outside and that's all what I needed.
With such unexpected weather, AC is a must 24/7. And also in our house, we always keep our doors closed to keep insects and other animals out. It's because we live in a suburban area with lots of trees and wildlife like deer, coyotes, squirrels, and so on.
4. People say hi to me on the street
Not everywhere in the US will be the same. However, in our neighborhood, people often greet us in the parks, coffee shops, and, on occasion, at grocery stores. In Vietnam, greeting strangers on the street would be quite odd. We only greet friends, family, relatives, and acquaintances sometimes. However, being welcomed by the locals has warmed my heart so much!
5. High living standard and conscious consumers
For many decades throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the US was recognized as having the highest standard of living in the world. I had been repeatedly cautioned that everything in the US would be far more costly than I could have imagined before moving here. I believe I understand better now. The quality of the goods is noticeably greater, making them a wonderful value for money in my opinion.
However, there are also some less expensive categories as well. The first category that comes to mind is local fruits and vegetables that are grown best in the local soil. As a strawberry lover, I used to buy lovely and juicy imported strawberries from Korea (Vietnam strawberries tend to be less sweet and soft in my opinion), which were pricey at $5/250g, while I could get equal quality local strawberries for $3.8 here in Texas.
58% of Americans consider themselves conscious consumers. This notion was particularly popular among Millennials, who indicated they are concerned about where they shop and the things they buy, favoring local, sustainable, or ethically sourced products. People here, in my experience, are more concerned with the origin and ingredient list of a product before purchasing it. I didn't pay much attention to the details on the back of a package. Despite the attractive design, the package and label are quite informative. Even on online marketplaces, sellers typically include an image of the ingredient list as well as clear instructions.
Speaking of product origin, we've all heard how much Americans love "made in the USA" products. Even more fascinating to me is the fact that they encourage the consumption of locally made items rather than just American goods and 57 percent of Americans shop local to keep money in their community. Buying locally made items from locally owned businesses is an essential method for obtaining local wealth, I agree.
I love the way people drive in the area where I live. Unlike in other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Vietnam, where motorbikes are the norm, people here mainly go by car, even for running small errands. Aside from the broad roads and consistent sign system, what I enjoy most about most drivers is their attitude. They obey speed limits, follow the traffic lights, drive calmly, yield to vehicles approaching from intersecting roads, and rarely rush or cut in front of other people's cars on the road.
Aside from vehicles, you could see some innocent deer walking about or even crossing the street slowly, especially during fawn season. They are indeed adorable, but keep an eye on them when driving in the suburbs.
7. Writing the date beginning with the month
People in the US usually write the date in the format month-day-year (mm-dd-yyyy). Other parts of the world, such as the UK, Europe and Vietnam, use the format day-month-year, which is the one that I have used my whole life and it is not logical either. I started reading a bit about this topic on some forums, but to my surprise, no one really got the answer. Some explain that it is because in English, they say the month first and the written format should match the verbal one used in society. While some say that it has to do with the bias against the word "of" in English. For example, the Spanish would say "cargador de telefono" whereas Americans/Brits would say "phone charger". It's the same for the rest of the romance languages, as well. So they prefer not to say 22nd of November because they normally don't use "A of B" but "B A". Therefore, November 22nd. Therefore, it is "11/22" in written language. Whatever the reason, it is how it is, and as a newcomer, I believe it will take some time for me to adjust.
8. Using the imperial system of measurement instead of the metric system
The US is one of just 3 nations that still use the Imperial System of measurement, which made grocery shopping quite difficult for me. Distances are measured in miles, yards and inches, weight in pounds and stones; liquids in pints and gallons. This Imperial System arrived in North America with the British Empire hundreds of years ago. Even in 1965, when the UK moved to the metric system in order to trade with the rest of EU (at that time), the US was still happy with its Imperial System because most essentials are manufactured within USA.
9. Taking leftover food home from a restaurant.
American meal portions are at least twice as large as mine. Taking leftovers home is therefore necessary. And I don't hesitate to ask the waitress to box up my uneaten dinner so I can take it home to finish later here. In other nations, I'm sure this would be regarded unusual, if not offensive.
10. Tipping waiters and waitresses and other service professionals.
Tipping is not expected in certain countries, however it is encouraged in the US. When I arrived at Dallas International Airport and was unsure what to do next, some airport staff offered to assist me. I simply assumed he was being kind or that it was part of his job. However, after taking my luggage to the recheck-in area, he proactively requested a tip. I had forgotten about the tipping culture in America until that point. Now for the exciting part. I spent some time converting USD to VND before deciding to leave him a $2 tip. For your reference, one USD equals around 23,500 VND. In Vietnam, I rarely tipped the service staff because I felt it is their responsibility to provide excellent service. As you might expect, he was furious, turning his back on me and calling it a bad day.
I suppose there will be more exciting things for me to discover. I've also included some photographs from around Lakeway below. I believe it will give you a greater sense of how lovely this area is.
Credit to my husband, Will Snyder
Moving to a new country has been an amazing experience for me. I feel like I'm back in primary school, when they teach you everything from the beginning. I always told my husband that I was a new book ready to be written, haha. What are your thoughts on the 10 points I mentioned above? What are some bizarre things you discovered in a new country when you moved or traveled? Please do let me know in the comments!