10 American Things I Still Can’t Get Used To As a “Veteran” Immigrant

Stella Guan
10 min readJan 26, 2021

Culture shocks can sometimes last for over a decade

In the summer of 2008, I hopped on a plane for the first time in my life and landed in the U.S. sixteen hours later.

It was the beginning of an era. Like they said, I had my whole life in front of me.

Almost 13 years later, I’m still here.

Reflecting back on my experience from a cultural perspective, I realized so much has changed.

Many people I met here have commented on how “American” I sound and feel. Personally, I admit that I feel the same way.

I have adopted an American accent. I no longer translate sentences from English to Chinese in my head. I think in American ways. I even legally changed my name to an English one.

In recent years, however, the longer I stay in America, the more I feel the urge to reconnect with my cultural identity.

It has been many years since I started to feel like I am slipping away from my culture. I recognized that this is going to be a long and continuous process. So while I reflect, why don’t I start with some observations I had over the years on the unique quirks that make America, well, America.

#1. Flip flops are acceptable shoes outside of the house

When I first arrived in the small liberal arts college I attended, I was shocked to see almost every other students walking around campus in flip flops, shorts and hoodies.

What’s even weirder to me was some students wearing a huge coat at the top and tiny shorts at the bottom in the dead of winter.

The “winner” was probably people wearing UGG boots with T-shirts and shorts in the hottest summer days.

Back home, students would not have been allowed to enter classrooms wearing flip flops, as they are considered only for the home.

But that’s what I love about America — people do what feels great to them and care less about what others might think.

#2. Strangers randomly give out compliments to your outfits on the streets