To continue where we left with my last article here are five more cultural shocks that I’ve experienced as an Italian living in Philly.
#5 Cost of living
This point might not exactly fall into the cultural shock category, but it surely was shocking for me. The cost of living in the USA, especially in big cities like Philadelphia and New York, is considerably higher than in Europe. Even though I remember reading the booklet I was given by my exchange coordinator about the cost of living in Philly, I still couldn’t stop myself from wondering how a bag of chips could be priced at $7, how phone plans started at $20 a month or how a cinema ticket could cost $15.
# 4 Crimes
Again, this was another point I was made aware of before coming here, but you never really realize how impactful it’s going to be until you experience it. Unfortunately, in the last few years the crime rates in Philly have risen due to the pandemic and it has become almost “normal” to receive daily news about robberies and other crimes. Maybe to me this feels especially alarming because in Italy I am used to living in a small quiet village in the countryside, but in any case it’s something that you should be aware of before coming here.
#3 Free things
On a more positive note, you’re probably going to like this next point. Coming here, you’ll be surrounded by free things. This can include the most diverse things, from food, to t-shirts, gadgets or events. During Welcome Week especially, I had the chance to collect swag from the university but also from other brands that will make some great souvenirs for my family and friends when I go back home. Many events are also free, like concerts, discussions, game nights, and they usually come with some giveaways or buffets.
#2 Less judgmental
Your alarm is at 8 am, you have to go to classes in an hour but you’re still so tired you can barely get out of bed to get dressed? No problem, just come to classes wearing your cosy and warm homewear, a pair of Crocs and a messy bun. No one will tell you anything. People here seem to be way less judgmental of your daily habits or what you wear to school and I couldn’t be happier.
#1 Small talk
Finally, my last big cultural shock is the small talk. As an introvert, my worst nightmare. If you’re coming here, be ready to say hi and talk about your day with the cashier, the waiter, the bus driver, the shop assistant and more. I guess this can be considered a double-edged sword because it also makes it easier to meet new people and find friends, something you’ll probably want to do as an exchange student.
This last point concludes my very personal list of cultural shocks I’ve experienced since coming here. If I find some others I’ll make sure to include them in my future posts (so stay tuned!). In the end, cultural shocks will differ from person to person, the important thing when you come here is to keep an open mind and you’ll never get bored.