Kiwis in America – 6 Things That Might Give You Culture Shock

Hello darling! Apologies for the radio silence, things have been very hectic in the world of Greatnews, but we’re back and adjusted to life back in New Zealand.

In case you missed the news, Mr Greatnews and I took off from Kiwi shores to spend a month in America. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to experience culture shock quite as badly as I did, so here’s a list of things that surprised me during our trip to America.

1) The food portions are much larger than in NZ

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I’m surprised I didn’t take more photos of my food

I know this is a clichΓ© criticism of American food, but gosh the portions are much bigger than what I’m used to.

At most of the restaurants we went to, they offered bread, soup or salad and the main, as well as doing deals on dessert, and the mains themselves were pretty sizeable! I highly recommend cooking a few of your own meals if you’re able to and getting fruits and such as snacks.

2) Flags! Everywhere!

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I understand patriotism runs a lot deeper in America than it does here in NZ, but HOLY MOLY are there are a lot of American flags. A flag flying in someone’s backyard in New Zealand is a rarity, whereas it almost seems mandatory in America.

3) The money is weeeeeiiirddd

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American notes…

I’m sure it’s the same for any tourists in any new country, but gosh the money was confusing. In New Zealand, our notes are different sizes and colours which helps differentiate them. American notes, not so much. Same size, same colour.

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And New Zealand notes – ours looks like Monopoly money by comparison, but at least they’re different colours and sizes!

And even by the end of the month, I couldn’t figure out the coins apart from quarters and pennies. And one dollar notes make you feel much richer than you are.

4) Why don’t they add sales tax and tips to your total?!

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I bet a total of about $2.00 at the casinos

There’s a lot of talk about America being cheaper for some items than New Zealand, and it was true in a lot of instances, but I always got the totals wrong because sales tax isn’t calculated until you go to pay for most places. And then you have to figure out tipping on top of all of that.

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And I won $0.25 – woo!

My advice, try to expect things will be about 30% more expensive at the counter than what you think it might be. Approximately 20% for tipping, 10% for sales tax as the latter varies by state.

5) American accents/isms vs. Kiwi accents/isms

It was fun picking up on the small differences in dialect between the four different states we visited (California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Hawaii), but hoo boy being surrounded by Americans for a month was an odd experience.

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One of the first things I realised while I was over there was Kiwis don’t say “you’re welcome” unless we’re being sassy or passive aggressive. We respond with phrases like “no worries”, “all good” or “sweet as”. So I was taken aback from being told “you’re welcome” constantly, due to the context I was used to hearing it in.

I was asked to repeat myself and asked where I was from a lot. New Zealand accents have quite flat vowels and soft consonants, so I wasn’t terribly surprised by this. I faked an American accent once or twice when dealing with automated phone systems because they couldn’t understand me.

6) American attitudes vs. Kiwi attitudes

It varies state by state, but Americans are very friendly and chatty on the whole. Kiwis tend to be pretty quiet and reserved and mostly keep to ourselves, so it was quite a difference to be spoken to by strangers so boldly and so regularly.

I feel I should mention there were a couple of exceptions. I had a 50/50 experience with super friendly Uber and Lyft drivers and drivers who didn’t speak at all, which was super unnerving.

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Pic unrelated, I just love this photo of us Disneybounding

The other stand out experience was in Boston, when a woman came up to me and we had the following exchange…

Her: And what are you so dressed up for?

Me: Oh, no reason.

Her: … I don’t believe you.

Me: Well it’s true, I dress like this every day.

Her: *eyes me up and down* … Okay then.

And walked away! It was so bizarre!

And the men are not shy to flirt. In New Zealand, I’m not sure people know how to flirt at all, we just somehow end up in relationships. In America, I was hit on in an Uber, a Lyft, a hotel lobby, an elevator, and my personal favourite, in a food court. This gentleman gifted me his unused, leftover napkins.

And those are the most obvious differences between America and New Zealand that gave me a bit of culture shock on our trip over – hopefully if you’re heading to the States you can use my advice to prepare accordingly! We loved our trip over and hope to head back there someday – especially to Disneyland!

Have you been to America? What were the strangest things in America for you? Or if you’re American, what do you find odd or confusing about other countries?

Lots of love,
Mrs Greatnews xx

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5 thoughts on “Kiwis in America – 6 Things That Might Give You Culture Shock

  1. Mark Hanna says:

    I’ve only been to America very briefly, passing through Los Angeles on my way to Canada, but I remember very vividly being in a Subway when a cop came in with a gun on his cup. He was just there to buy his lunch, but seeing someone carrying a gun so casually (and a handgun – I’ve never even seen one of those in person in New Zealand) was honestly pretty terrifying.

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    • Dr. Curiosity says:

      I found the casual way some of the police are there with their guns pretty terrifying too – and I grew up in a house where my father regularly carried sidearms for work. It’s a wonder more people there don’t get accidentally shot.

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  2. Kirsten says:

    As a Canadian, I still find one of the weirdest differences between us and the U.S. is that we often acknowledge when people speak by saying okay/sure/got it/etc. but in the U.S. they often say uh-huh. (My best example off the top of my head is a waiter/waitress taking your order.)

    Maybe it’s just me, but uh-huh is really kind of… Snotty. I guess this would be comparable to your “you’re welcome” point!

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  3. Kiersten says:

    You should go to Florida next time and expierence Disney World since you’ve done Disneyland. Disney Works is amazing! Thanks for posting the blog, very interesting to hear about differences in cultures πŸ™‚

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  4. Aura says:

    I live in the states, and even I agree with all of your points lol. The “you’re welcome” thing is mostly the older generation, the younger crowd usually says “no problem” but it also depends what state you visit. Also tipping is really confusing even for us haha I for the most part do 15%. And sales tax is different in every city, so if youre looking to save some coins look up the sales tax of the city youre in/cities around you before you go shopping!

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