International students explain their biggest surprise coming to college in America

‘Some people are surprised that internationals are fluent in English’

Coming to live in the United States as an international student can definitely be a challenging experience. You are about to embark on a journey in a country with a sometimes completely different culture that can at many times catch you off guard. Coming back to live in the US, I was always shocked by how the Americans always did everything to the max: when it is hot outside, they will blast the AC until you turn blue and during all seasons the will put mounds of ice in whatever drink you order. But also, their understanding of foreign languages: the main dish on a menu is called entrée and gelato is a separate dessert from regular ice cream…

So we asked students at college on the East Coast what they thought was shocking, odd or different when they came to the United States. This is what they had to say.

One word: football. Bani, United Arab Emirates

People here take everything extremely seriously. I was shocked that some jokes or sarcasm I used back home in Argentina were completely unacceptable in the US. Similarly, some topics are so sensitive and so serious that it is problematic to even talk about them; you are forced to basically avoid them and keep your thoughts to yourself to prevent any misunderstanding or fight. Franco, Argentina

Coffee is not coffee. Juan José, Colombia

People don’t hug as often, or at all, and get very uncomfortable with meaningful eye contact. André, Brazil

The fact that some people are surprised that internationals are fluent in English. Arjun, India

When dinner plans are arranged for 6pm. Iris, Greece

When you go to the movie theatre always ask for the small sizes cause otherwise they’ll give you buckets. Oh and don’t try to kiss them when you say hi, they don’t do that. And freaking sale taxes! And the fact that they never include them in the price so you never know how much you have to pay and you’re not a math major! Laura, Cuba

Chai tea latte, wtf… Chai literally means tea in Hindi and latte means milk in Italian, so you’d be ordering: tea tea milk. Neel, India

Pennies are actually useless. Hannah, South Korea

When they say ‘hey how are you’ don’t actually stop to answer no one cares LOL. Poorvi, India

Fries are chips and chips are crisps?! Naomi, United Kingdom

What is brunch and why isn’t it a full meal? Why does fried chicken go on pancakes and syrup? Why does everyone drink milk with every single meal? Sheena, Bolivia

Having to pay 20% of tips every meal, including drinks at the bar. Sofia, Italy

Columbia University