Tom and I had a wonderful 10 days in the USA… Florida to be exact. We flew in and out of Miami but did a bit of traveling within the state and made excellent use of our time there. Since I am American and lived my entire life in the USA until about 5 years ago, I won’t say that anything on vacation was really shocking. But since I hadn’t been there in over a year and a half, I did have a few culture surprise moments and interactions I wasn’t expecting that are worthy of noting — and that’s what we’re talking about here.
Reverse culture shock moments I had on my vacation back home in the USA
I guess you could say I’m pretty used to my life in small-town France these days, so a change-up to my routine in bustling Southern Florida was sure to mix things up. Here are some of the culture surprises I experienced while there.
Portions really are giant
Across the board, pretty much everywhere we went, portions were quite big and it’s not because Americans eat one meal a day or are particularly hungry — a ton of food goes in the trash uneaten. The plates are huge and restaurants fill them up! It came across as really unnecessary and wasteful. If people aren’t finishing their meals, why keep making them so big? I think I cleaned my plate once and it was a small lunch portion at a Singer Island hotel restaurant.
Focus on splitting the bill
We ate out a bunch and just about every time, the waitress asked if we needed separate checks or how we wanted to split the bill. Most of the time they asked before we ordered and I understand why — it’s just easier on their end — but this question wasn’t nearly as common the last time I was in the USA. If we wanted separate checks back in the day, we’d politely ask and it wasn’t something the waitress offered.
OMG this place is GREAT! I love going to Target but I’d never been to a Super Target until this trip. The selection is unreal and so are the hours. From new and interesting healthy products and snacks to clothes to toiletries to food, Super Target has everything and even closes at midnight Friday and Saturday. My aunt who came to visit assured me that even she is impressed with Super Target (and she lives in the USA year-round) so yea, it really is a great place to shop.
Chip card-ready payment terminals at stores
Last time I was in the USA, the little credit card terminals at the register in stores did not accommodate chipped debit/credit cards. And at the time, only a few banks were issuing chipped cards. Now, tons of people (myself included) have chipped cards and the terminals have the capability to accept inserted chipped cards. This was the case in over half of the stores we stopped in including Walgreens, Target and a bunch of mall shops. But are they secure?
At Walgreens, we had the card run as debit and it didn’t prompt us for a PIN at all. I could have dropped my card in the parking lot, a stranger could have picked it up and gone on a wild shopping spree grace a moi. Also, if you ask a store to run your debit card as credit, there’s no PIN required ever (we did this because Tom forgot his PIN on his American account) and stores didn’t even ask for ID! Seems like the US could do more to prevent fraud. In France, when you use your card, you always have to enter a PIN.
While perusing the magazine rack at Publix, Tom called me over to take a look at all the gun magazines. He had a laugh because you’d never see that in France. Definitely not at the grocery store anyway!
Everyone is more in your business
People in Florida tend to be friendly, but even I was a little taken aback when the cashier at Publix asked if we were having a good day and what we were doing. She asked if we were going to the beach, etc. She was just making conversation and being friendly but it felt a little invasive — and that instance wasn’t an isolated one.
In general, cashiers, waitresses and other people we ran into just seemed to be more chatty than what I’ve come to expect as normal. Most of the time it was fine and I enjoyed it but I definitely noticed the difference in France.