United States of America through the eyes of an immigrant.
#1. The entire country hates math, but the book stores are wonderful.
The teachers don't like math, the parents don't like math, even elementary age kiddos can't stand math. Where does this hatered begin? It's goes beyond preferences, beyond simple likes and dislikes. It is the most bizarre cultural phenomenon, very apparent to the outsider.
#2. Everyone is reading labels on food products, yet most packaged foods have ingredients unknown to even well-educated people, and no one is actually enjoying the food.
The entire country seems to have a very unhealthy relationship with eating habits. People either overeat or skip meals. No one is really enjoying the food: half the people you meet are on a painful diet, and the other half sacrifices health to the convenience of fast food. Food is no longer the source of enjoyment and nourishment, but instead it is a source if stress. Everyone seem to have heard of Borsch, native to my country of origin, but very few actually make soups from scratch.
#3. Children are reminded daily that they can do anything they put their mind to.
You see ten year olds raising money for Cancer research with lemonade stands. High School kids start their own businesses and turn them into successful ventures. It is very inspirational, and it reminds me every day that this is why we came to this country - everyone has a chance.
#4. Christmas is about buying things - there is too much "stuff".
There is a definite movement to bring the meaning of holidays back into this yearly celebrations, but let's face it, the trash bins fill up with wrapping paper, and the kids have a room full of useless, broken toys just a month after they got them. Quality does not catch up with quantity. There is little to no sentiment behind most of the presents, and the real meaning of giving gets lost. The houses are suffocated with junk, and people drown in their own things! There is no stop to it.
#5. Teenagers have jobs and drive cars.
This seemed a little bit unreal at first, but I was more than happy to join the ranks. When we came to the US, I was 16 years old. I found a job at a local Stop&Shop, and shared Daewoo with my older sister. I felt amazingly in control of my own destiny. If I can work - there is nothing I can't do!
#6. No one knows where the second largest country in Europe is. Geography skills need serious work.
I can't even count how many times I've been asked where exactly my country of origin is located. Some can't even name the right continent.
#7. World War II is a distant past. So much so, that kids in High School can barely name the decade when it took place.
This is quite a change. We certainly remembered the dates, and knew names like Himmler.
#8. People either drive or run - no one walks anywhere.
Aside from large cities, public transportation is strangely underdeveloped. You absolutely must drive everywhere, which results in the lack of general exercise. To compensate - people run around their neighborhoods without any other purpose, but to work some of the forgotten muscles. I get the purpose of it, and get my share of exercise by walking my dog, but it still seems strange that you have to remind yourself to exercise. There was no question in getting enough exercise growing up, since we walked everywhere all.the.time.
#9. Dogs are an inconvinience and are kept in crates all day long, but at the same time, there aren't any on the streets.
Instead of teaching dogs to behave inside the house, people just stick them in a cage, and pat themselves on the back for keeping their puppy "safe" and "well-trained". It's a strange concept to me. Dogs are definitely not "den animals", as everyone insists. Wolves don't spend much time in dens past their puppyhood. But some things are better: growing up, we always had the sad sight of homeless animals. It is a relief that it's not the case here. I do wonder, though, are their fates any better at the shelters where they are held in cages or killed, if not adopted?
#10. The pursuit of an American Dream.
I absolutely wanted a house, a stable job, a dog, and a family. All of it appealed to me on a very basic level. I have the confidence in my bones that I can make anything happen, if I put my mind to it, and it wasn't there before we moved to this country. For all the good and the bad, I appreciate the opportunities I have now, that I didn't have before we moved here. I will always remember the Ukraine as my home. I will always treasure my origin. I will pass on family recipes and my childhood memories, picture books, and matreshkas to my children. I will visit my relatives, and do my best to keep Russian and Ukrainian languages, but I know now that I have a second home home here, and I am in no way unappreciative of what it has to offer to me.