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The Most Surprising Things about America According to an Indian Living There

One recent question on Quora was "What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America?" Aniruddh Chaturvedi, an Indian computer science student at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, responded:

  • The return policy on almost everything:

None of my friends back in India believed me when I told them that you can literally buy anything, including food, and return it within ninety days for a full refund even if you don't have a specific reason for doing so (most stores actually have a "Buyer's Remorse" category under Reason for Return options while returning the product). [...]

  • US Flag displayed everywhere

I was surprised to see that the US flag is displayed in schools, on rooftops of houses, etc. India has very strict rules governing the display and use of the national flag. Also, something that struck out to me was how it was completely normal to wear the US flag or a US flag-like pattern as a bikini. 

  • An almost-classless society

I've noticed that most Americans roughly have the same standard of living. 
Everybody has access to ample food, everybody shops at the same supermarkets, malls, stores, etc. I've seen plumbers, construction workers and janitors driving their own sedans, which was quite difficult for me to digest at first since I came from a country where construction workers and plumbers lived hand to mouth. 

Also, (almost) all sections of society are roughly equal. You'll see service professionals owning iPhones, etc. as well. This may be wrong but part of it has to do with the fact that obtaining credit in this country is extremely easy. Anybody can buy anything, for the most part, except for something like a Maserati, obviously. As a result, most monetary possessions aren't really status symbols. I believe that the only status symbol in America is your job, and possibly your educational qualifications.

Non-Americans who have lived in the United States, what would you add to this list?

Link -via Glenn Reynolds


Just for pedanticity, the thing he mentioned about the flag being worn on clothing is generally not frowned upon with proper flag protocol. I know many people either ignore, or don't even know about it, but there it is...
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An odd one I've heard several foreigners comment on American's commitment to family as being something they're friends back home don't believe. It is not that the commitment is exceptional, but that there are parts of the world with a strong rumor/myth that Americans have zero sense of family or connection to family. For example, their friends found it hard to believe that American's still talk to their parents after leaving for college or moving out of the house,or that Americans still return to see family on holidays.
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The fact that when people tell you they want to give you a lift or help you out in some way, they actually seem to mean it. I come from a culture when you offer to do something for someone (say, pick up a package at the post office) not only out of the goodness of your heart, but for a whole host of other reasons - they're older than you, they outrank you, etc. So when I would say, "Oh, it's no problem" to offers, because I'm expected to, in case they want to opt out, I was genuinely shocked when people said, "If I didn't want to, I wouldn't have offered." Wow. I liked the sincerity!
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As a Brazilian who have lived for 6 years in USA. Basically I think Americans has the need to live as intense as possible to fell alive. Seems that Americans are constantly to be on the edge of EVERYthing cause if it´s not the best, faster, stronger, tastier it´s not worth to have due to the fact of this need to feel alive.
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As a Canadian living in the US for the past ten years.... the absolute worst thing, that I still hate... is all the damn salt in your food. EVERYTHING is salty, terribly salty. SALT, SALT, SALT. No wonder Americans have heart issues.
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