My name is Karina. I was born in Saint Petersburg, was educated there and got married. Since 2014, I’ve been living in Seattle. My husband, a successful programmer, was transferred to the US. That’s how we ended up in the States. During my life here, I gave up a lot of stereotypes and prejudices regarding American people. To mention just one example, a lot of people in the US eat junk food and that’s why there are a lot of overweight people.
For viralbc.com I gathered the most interesting myths about Americans that should’ve been busted a long time ago.
Myth 1: All Americans are workaholics.
I used to believe that this myth was true. When I started working with Americans, I realized that they come to work earlier not to do more, but to leave a bit earlier. Many people in the US begin their working day at 7 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m. Working late hours isn’t what they usually want to do. Working extra hours is only possible if overtime pay or a day off is offered.
Myth 2: A lot of people suffer from obesity.
This is probably one of the most common prejudices about Americans. I can’t speak for the whole country, but you definitely can’t say that about the majority of people in Seattle. Most of the city population regularly play sports, jog, and are very health-conscious about what they eat. Almost every apartment building has a gym available to all of the residents, not to mention numerous sports clubs. Sometimes, however, you can meet people who suffer from obesity. In the majority of cases, they’re people with disabilities or health problems and they use automatic wheelchairs. Bus drivers help them get on the bus even if a person doesn’t have a wheelchair.
Myth 3: The US has a great tax system.
Unlike in other countries, where the taxes are paid by the employers and people don’t have to deal with the paperwork, the Americans have to do it themselves. Once a year, everyone goes crazy because it’s time to file the income statement and everyone has to do it on their own. However, many people hire a personal accountant and pay $400 for their services.
Myth 4: there are a lot of well-educated people.
Few people know that there are not that many people who have a completed college education in the US. They usually apply for a Masters degree several years after receiving a bachelor’s degree. There are 2 main reasons for this. First, the high cost of education in grad school. Many young people have to take out really big loans to complete their education. That’s why before applying for their masters, they take a break to choose the right direction. Second, to apply for a particular program, you have to study a certain amount of time in order to be able to do so.
Myth 5: Women are socially protected.
Yes, indeed, women are well-protected on certain aspects — you better not raise a hand on a woman or even hint at harassment or you’ll be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and even more. However, the period of maternity leave is extremely short in the US. It depends on your contract with your company. Most often, it’s not more than a month. International companies can provide you with a 6-month maternity leave without the preservation of employment. Of course, many women aren’t satisfied with such a circumstance.
Myth 6: There’s no bureaucracy.
Alas, there is. The work of government entities is characterized by considerable delays and falterings. My friends couldn’t go to work or leave the country because of issues with the paperwork. I, myself, received an erroneous visa-extension and almost lost my work permit and had to stay in Russia for 3 months.
Myth 7: Americans only eat fast food.
All the stories about how much Americans love fast food aren’t quite true. McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Subway, and others aren’t in favor here. Seattle has very few of them. In the majority of cases, they’re built along the highways because there are only 2 kinds of people who eat there: those who are in a hurry, and those who are short on cash.
However, hamburgers and sandwiches can be found in almost any restaurant. You can even choose how you want your burger done. Such quality hamburgers usually cost like any other meal from the menu — up to $20.
Myth 8: The US has the best health system.
Of course, there is modern equipment, high-quality service, and the best technology. However, even employees in the medico-social sector can be confused about the price of medical services and insurance. There’s no required health insurance, but there are a lot of different programs.
At best, an employer covers the insurance cost. At worst, you pay for it yourself or live without it at all at your own risk. Even if you have insurance, before the procedure you never know how much it will cost in the end. After the treatment, the insurance company and the hospital agree how much your insurance plan covers and how much you’ll have to pay yourself. Sometimes, it could be an insane amount of money.
One more difficulty: you can’t buy anything at the drugstore without a doctor’s prescription, except for the most common and simple drugs like ibuprofen. Once, when I poured boiling water on my belly the only thing I could buy was aloe vera. If you need real medicine, you must make an appointment with a doctor and wait at least a few days or even weeks.
Myth 9: Everyone’s polite and friendly.
This myth could be true if I were a tourist. When it comes to the service, if someone’s job depends on how polite they are, then they’ll be polite. However, drivers can easily be rude to anyone — showing a middle finger, shouting rude words, or even parking a car in 2 spots at once. The security officers aren’t too friendly, either. Sometimes, they’re even too aggressive without any reason.
Myth 10: Celebrities walk on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and there are a lot of high-end stores.
I was really disappointed when I first got to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I imagined that it was a place with gorgeous architecture, high-end stores, and celebrities. In fact, here you can meet mainly tourists, visit regular souvenir shops, fast food restaurants, and several movie theatres. However, having lived in the US for a while, I learned to love this place even though it looks nothing like I once imagined.
Just like any other country, the US has its own pros and cons. During my 4 years here, I had to cope with different pitfalls and disappointments, but at the same time, I discovered a lot of new and great things.