Culture Shock: Thoughts of an International Student

Being an international student definitely comes with some culture shocks. As much as you love the big US of A, you’re naturally going have to put up with your new American friends poking fun at the way you say things like “tomato” (pronounced tom-ah-toe). There are some American customs that you won’t be able to wrap your head around. For example, in the UK, where I’m from originally, and in many other parts of the world, “pants” means underwear. When someone says they like my pants, I still can’t help feeling that I’m in a dream and have walked outside in my underwear.

There are a whole bunch of things that take getting used to in a new country, as I’m sure many of you will experience if you study abroad. Here are just a few that International Students at Kenyon are still adjusting to:

“I hate Fahrenheit!” – Anika Rodriguez ’18 (Sri Lanka)

“The metric system makes way more sense, and everything is huge, like the drinks and food portions.” – Felix Janssen ’16 (Germany)

“Fake crispy tacos!” – Peter Orlos ’18 (Mexico)

*They are traditionally soft.

“Americans call biscuits cookies, and call scones biscuits! What? Also, the standard punch for putting holes in writing paper has three holes not two." – Shannon Hart ’18 (Zimbabwe)

“Besides the huge food portions, there's a lot of variation on one type of food, like milk (chocolate milk, coconut, skim, 2%, 5%, full milk, 5% coconut milk)… I just want milk.” - Nonto Mdluli ’18 (Swaziland)

“The cheese and chocolate sucks. It’s not really a culture shock, but my tongue was definitely shocked by the taste of Hershey’s.” – Natasha Siyumbwa ’17 (Zambia)

“White picket fences. White picket fences creep me out. And how on earth do [Americans] manage to put so much sugar in food?” – Lucy Vincent ’17 (England)

“Why are the different values of the dollar bills the same color? Also, I never say anything, and I don't show it, but I'm actually disintegrating little by little inside every time someone's in my room with their shoes on.” – Winnie Thaw ’17 (Burma)

“Tipping. I feel awful when I get up to leave before realizing the tip is not included in the bill/tax here. A lot of people want to talk about politics, especially Singapore's politics. Also, it's not illegal to chew gum in Singapore! You just can't spit it out on the streets/in public!”  - Ashley Martens ’18 (Singapore)

“I hate it when people put their feet on their chairs or tables. The worst part is I'm getting used to it and have started doing the same thing...” – Ronnie Zhu ’18 (China)

“I don’t know why people love adding ice to everything, and when people mention ‘food’ or ‘good food’, ‘real food’, all they mean is just PIZZA. So don't get fooled when you hear people say ‘come over, we got food’ and it’s just pizza. Also, how can people do laundry this infrequently?” – Iris Chen ’18 (China)

So there you have it – a comprehensive list of the tiny little grievances you go through in order to adjust to the American way of life. Although, it’s not all strange and confusing; I actually prefer the peanut butter here.