Common misconceptions and clichés about life in the USA

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in the USA can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in the USA?

What are the most common clichés about life in the USA in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,



I like living in the US and would not move back to the UK, but I would move away from Orlando, the pace of life is slow and not very metropolitan.  But it has improved in the time I have been here. My opinion of America has not changed in the time I have been here.  I traveled here a lot before moving.

The most common misconception from US and non US citizen is the immigration process and how 'easy' or 'hard' it is to get here.



1) One of the more common misconceptions of life in the USA is that there is a "golden road to opportunity". Life here in the US can be and will be harsh and at times brutal when an expat first arrives. It will be so difficult that at times one will go through stages of despair, depression, and denial. But, after a period of time if one is willing to endure the hardship of accumulation into life here, things do get better. The cliche that "things will get worse before they get better" is very true.

2) If you are determined to succeed here in the USA, then pay attention to the cliche "the early bird catches the worm". I have learned from experience that it is easier dealing with people both in the business and personal arenas, early in the day. People tend to be less stressed and tired from the day, they are more patient and accepting.

The early bird catches the worm.”
Although there are many cases of wildly successful night owls, research has linked rising early with success and positive personality traits. One study found that college students who identified as morning people had significantly higher average GPAs than those who liked to stay up late (3.5 vs. 2.5), and a Harvard biologist found that early risers are more likely to have proactive personality traits, Forbes reports. Many of the world’s most influential CEOs say that they wake up by 6 a.m. (which we wouldn’t necessarily recommend, unless you’re hitting the hay by 10 p.m.), proving that, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

3) Reach out to all available resources to help you succeed in your quest to live here!

Californians may be laid back on the weekends but I've noticed that, at least in San Francisco, they're not so much. Everything is serious and about getting down to business.

You can come to the USA with a million dollars and buy anything you want but don't sell nothing. You need a licence to do everything and    even when you've got one they don't always honor it.

I once had a cop pull a gun on me for selling teddy love bears on Valentines day, "But officer I said, I've got a licence" Wipe your Ass with it he said, I don't care if you've got a damn licence or not, get outa here, We have the guns, Oh! you are English are you? How would you like me to come to Buckingham palace and sell my teddy bears there? But officer my licence says "Itinerant merchant roadside" Well the cop said "That's what you asked for wasn't it? so that's what we gave you, what is the problem?

Having said that about the licencing. America is still the best country in the world to live in, and no matter what you hear about gun violence the people here are very friendly  there are over 50 states to choose from here, all with their own laws. if you don't like one state, you can move to another.

Here's a few false, or at least rare, stereotypes, albeit small everyday stuffs, that I heard before moving to the US:

1 Americans don't like strong coffee.
True, if you're stuck in the 50s. With the rise of coffee shops such as Startbucks and the likes, Americans definitely developed a taste for flavorful and strong coffee.

2 Americans eat dinner at 5pm and go to bed early.
Some do (elderly people?), but this is not much the case anymore, especially when you finish work between 5pm and 7pm. We very rarely eat before 8pm at home and sometimes even 9pm. We rarely go to bed before midnight.

3 Americans can't drive stick shift.
Half of my native friends drive sticks. My GF and her 5 sisters and brothers drive or know how to drive sticks.

4 Americans only eat fast or processed food.
We cook a lot at home and most of my native friends like to cook and share recipes. Beside college students and teenagers, I don't know a lot of people who don't cook from scratch at home. And we also eat at the table, not on the couch.

5 Americans are very individualists.
I think that the misconception is that most natives are very independents and usually don't ask for anything, hence being perceived as individualists. But there's actually a lot of communitarism and family ties are often strong. My GF family is very close, like many people I know. People volunteer their time for a large number of diverse causes. We live in a small community and you can always find help from some neighbor if needed and we look after each other. Not so individualist after all.

I'm sure I can come up with a bunch of funny stereotypes if I take the time.

I have lived in the US for 14 years and the coffee is bad 80% of the time, if there are Europeans and Americans at a party its the Europeans that stay longer, not many of my American friends can dive a manual car, and the food is a lot more processed here that it is in Europe.

Granted that I can't talk about Florida, but down here, we have so many great coffee shops and an awesome coffee machine at work that can brew pretty much anything.
Agree that you can buy the worst processed foods here, but when you buy fresh produce and cook from scratch, nothing is processed, such as last night slow cooker we made with  taters, carrots, leak, celery, red and green onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, garlic and pork tenderloin roast in red wine, olive oil and Corsican herbs. Noting processed in that (I think I just drooled... :) )
Living here for the past 18 years, I guess I got lucky then. :)

When you don't know how to get adapt to the culture :D

A common cliché about the USA is that of materialism, being seen as caring about money only.
Judging all things by their value and teasing those of lower class status.

I think Americans have moved away from class status and treat everyone equally. Yes, you have a few here and there but I believe that is everywhere.

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