Sometimes when foreigners arrive in the United States for the first time, they get the shock of their lives. When your only information about the country comes through movies, television, and other parts of pop culture, it’s easy to buy into the stereotypes and misunderstand a few truths about the country.
So we’ve decided to set everybody straight. Keep reading to find out 10 of the most common misconceptions about the United States, and what the truth really is. If you’re not American, you may be in for a few surprises.
10 Everybody Is Super Cheerful
A common misunderstanding about the United States is that everybody is super cheerful and overly chipper. While as a whole Americans might be friendlier than other races, it definitely doesn’t mean that every single person in the country is cheerful.
According to Insider, this misconception may come from the fact that American servers and waiting staff tend to be much friendlier than people from other countries are used to. Especially in countries where tipping is not part of the culture, servers might not go out of their way to be as friendly because they’re not working extra hard for a tip. Because of this, foreigners might perceive that all Americans are that cheerful.
9 If You Don’t Have Health Care In The US, You Will Be Refused Treatment
One of the most famous misconceptions about the United States is that if you don’t have health insurance, medical staff won’t treat you in an emergency. You’d be surprised how many people truly believe that if you have a car accident in the US and aren’t covered by health insurance, the paramedics will just leave you to die.
Of course, that’s not the case. In the United States, you can’t be denied emergency medical care when you need it. Non-emergency procedures might be a different story, but you will always be treated in the case of an emergency.
8 There Is Only Fast Food Available
The United States has a pretty bad reputation when it comes to its cuisine. Ask Europeans, Brits, Aussies, and other foreigners and they’ll tell you that America is the land of fast food. A lot of people really believe that the only food you can get in the United States is some variation of burger and French fries.
If we’re being honest, the United States does have a lot of fast food options. But that’s definitely not all that’s available. If you do want to eat healthy food, it’s there. It’s also a misconception that all Americans are overweight. While a sizeable portion of the population is, there are also those who are dedicated to their health and nutrition.
7 All US Cities Look Like New York City
If the only portrayal of the United States you’ve ever seen has been through movies and TV, then it’s understandable that you’d think every American city resembles New York. A lot of US cities boast tall skyscrapers and concrete jungles (although not quite to the extent that New York does) but that doesn’t mean they all look like that.
There are infinite smaller cities that look nothing like New York as well as towns that couldn’t look further from a concrete jungle if they tried. This is definitely a huge misconception.
6 There Is A Lot Of Racism In The USA
We can see how it seems like there’s a lot of racism in the United States. When you turn on the news, there’s always another story about some kind of racially motivated attack or riot going on. It’s true that you might witness racism in the United States, but that doesn’t mean every American is racist or the country itself is racist.
It’s like anywhere—there are good and bad apples. There’s no country in the world that you can visit without seeing some kind of negative human behavior, whether it’s racism or something else.
5 American High Schools Are Just Like They’re Portrayed In Movies
The facts behind this misconception tend to shock foreign exchange students a lot when they start going to school in the United States. When you’re from another country, it’s only natural to assume that all US high schools resemble the schools you see in movies and TV shows like Mean Girls, Glee, Clueless, and American Pie.
In reality, American high schools aren’t automatically the same as the way they’re portrayed on TV. There might be some similarities in high school culture across the United States, every school is different.
4 Every American Is Extremely Patriotic
Americans have a reputation for being extremely patriotic. So when foreigners plan a trip to the United States, they expect every local they meet to be the same way. While Americans can certainly be nationalistic, this is nothing more than a generalization. In actuality, a lot of Americans realize that the United States isn’t perfect.
Of course, there are those Americans who are patriotic, but still, it’s not as if the majority of them walk around carrying the American flag and singing the Star-Spangled Banner wherever they go.
3 English Is The Only Language Spoken
Another reputation that Americans have amongst Europeans? That they’re monolingual. A lot of people believe that English is the only language spoken in the United States. While it is the most widely spoken, it’s far from the only spoken language in the country. Depending on where you go, you may come across a wide range of other languages.
And although most Americans only speak one language, one in four can actually carry a conversation in a second language. It is estimated that one in five Americans speak a language other than English when at home.
2 The Weather Is The Same All Over The Country
One of the biggest things that foreigners get wrong about the United States is the size of the country. It is seriously big. That means that the weather definitely isn’t the same wherever you go in the US. There’s no one single American climate.
This is important to remember when planning a trip. You don’t want to be caught without the proper winter gear in states where temperatures drop below freezing. And you don’t want to spend summer in states where the weather is positively sweltering. The weather does vary between states, so always be sure to do your research.
1 All States Share The Same Culture
Sometimes foreigners assume that every single state has the same culture. But like the weather, the culture tends to vary from state to state. What’s normal in California won’t be normal in Nebraska, for example.
States have their own dialects and vocabularies as well as their own traditions and customs. A person from Alabama, for example, may lead a completely different life from someone living in Maine. It’s definitely a misconception to believe that all states share the same culture just because they’re all apart of the United States.