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Customs and Traditions for International Students
by Kari Lamanuzzi

Studying abroad can prove to be a gratifying and fun experience if one is willing to immerse him or herself in the American culture and live as an American while abroad. Depending on the student's country of origin, customs in American may be completely foreign or just slightly different but the following customs and traditions are a unique part of the American experience.

Unlike many countries in Europe, Americans do not often barter or haggle for goods. While in many countries it is standard to bargain for items in marketplaces and even stand alone stores, shops in America usually have set prices that are unwaivering. It is also uncommon to find street vendors and markets like one would see in many other countries. Flea markets are not that rare and are one of the only places where it is acceptable to try to haggle a seller for a lower price, but they are not a staple in American shopping.

Sports are a very large part of American life. Baseball, basketball and American football are important social staples of life in the US, especially in college. Sports teams provide a sense of pride and camaraderie among college communities and cities alike. They are wonderful topics of discussion amongst peers and the events themselves are great ways to make new friends and have fun. As with soccer teams in Europe and South America, Americans don football jerseys proudly on game days, and some even paint their faces with team colors to show support and pride.

International students may also find that housing is different here in the States. While some students may be used to paying rent weekly, in America most landlords would like rent to be paid monthly. Security deposits are almost always required by American landlords, as well. It is a deposit paid upon move in that is refunded once a student moves out, provided the property has not been damaged and rent has not been paid late.

Students may also notice differences in the classrooms of American institutions. Often times, professors and students are on a first-name basis, a less formal practice than most students experience in their home countries. Large lecture classes where students eat or even sleep may not be found in a student's home country and may come as a surprise. Professors and students alike will most likely be helpful in helping international students adjust to new surroundings, so one should not be afraid to ask questions about cultural differences in the classroom.

Pop culture is a huge part of American society. Television shows are hot topics of discussion on social networking sites, at parties, and at lunch outings. News stands in America are full of celebrity gossip magazines and the web is full of gossip blogs boasting the latest information on favorite celebrities and fashion trends. While it is not necessary to go out and buy the first pair of Ugg boots one sees, international students should at least take some time to learn about how pop culture plays a role in society and college life.

The adjustment from a home country is not always easy, especially if a student is not very comfortable with the language, but it is important to keep in mind the end goal: to learn. Students will gain a lot more information outside of the classroom if they allow themselves to be immersed in American life and embrace the differences between cultures.


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