Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Most Pleasant Surprise Immigrants Found in America

 

shutterstock_359673578Immigration has dominated the GOP primary campaign. So a member of Reddit asked a simple question. Immigrants to America: What was the most pleasant surprise? Nearly 13,000 comments later, here are a few of the favorites:

The road directions to go from a city to another 2,000 miles away is extremely simple. (E.g., get on I-80 exit to I-90, then exit 40.)


I’ve driven the extent of I-90 a couple times during the time I lived in Seattle. There was an indescribable, special feeling when I would use I-90 for a short trip out of Seattle in my day-to-day life and look down the road ahead and envision the 3,000 miles over mountains, plains, and cities. It was nice to have the daily reminder that it was there and all I had to do was start driving — the opposite of feeling trapped.


Not having to haggle prices when buying things, not having to know who to talk to (or bribe) to get any little bit of paperwork filed in a reasonable amount of time, not having to worry about being cheated on every little transaction you have. Just having standard reliable procedures for daily tasks was wonderful. You guys might hate going to the DMV, but let me tell you, it could be much worse.

Then it got even better with automation and e-commerce, and not even really having to interact with people for many tasks.


Very seriously, free refills.


Free public restrooms and how every establishment has air conditioning.


The seemingly endless rows of food in the grocery stores. And all the apples. Who needs 50 different kinds of apples?


Showers and running hot water. I was born in the Philippines. Showers and hot water aren’t really common in older homes over there. Not having to fill buckets with water and boiling some over a stove top was such a big surprise for me. Experiencing that as a twelve year old was an unforgettable experience. Yet, most people who live here (me included) take it for granted sometimes.


I came here four months ago and everything has been a shock in one way or another. I’m from a third world country, and we know a thing or two about America, but you have to experience it.

  • Choosing your own shower temperature!
  • Everyone is so polite and good manners are everywhere. Any religion or race you are, everyone seems to say “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” or ask me how I am or how my day is!
  • How easy you can buy stuff online and they arrive so fast!
  • Buildings and bridges are so … amazing. Like, the infrastructure is good, it makes you think, “wow, mankind did this.
  • Big-ass celebrations!
  • How people can go out look gay, wasted, weird, etc., and no one bats an eye.
  • And the biggest of them all, fast internet!

Air. You don’t really notice how real fresh air feels like when you’ve been breathing in polluted air all your life.


I moved to the US when I was 21; it’s nearly been 2 years. Two things surprised me:

  • I apparently have a mid-Atlantic English accent. The Japanese-descent population here in Northern California is a lot less that I thought it would be. Most are in the Bay or are farmers up in the Central Valley.
  • My most pleasant experience is the constant assumption that I am American, primarily because of my English. It feels beyond amazing. My nationality has always been a major issue. I strongly and culturally identify with my mother’s country, a place where I grew up and speak two of its languages fluently … yet everyone there saw me as a foreigner because of my father’s origin.

Ex-African here. I’m pleasantly surprised by the US Postal Service. You can stick a cheap stamp on a letter, throw it in a blue mailbox in NY and it will get to LA 99 percent of the time. It doesn’t get “lost” or stolen, it just gets there. And every day a nice person in light blue overalls driving a weird little blue-and-white truck pulls up and fills my mailbox (at home) with junk deals from the local market and even my paycheck sometimes. Hooray! And don’t even get me started on trash collection!!


OMG! The cops thing! It was smart to have a healthy, yet irrational fear of police where I grew up. You had no idea what you were in for when you were stopped (especially if you were well off/in a relatively nice car).

I remember that when I was getting my driver’s license in Trinidad, everyone (friends my age and adults alike) told me to go with a few hundred dollars in my pocket, at the ready. They said that it’s very common that even if you pass the driving test, you’ll be asked to pay a bribe in order for them to sign off on it. I didn’t need to pay, but I had several people in my life who admitted to paying when they were asked.


I came to the US literally with nothing but my clothes, driving a car that that wasn’t even mine in June 2006 with my girlfriend from Mexico, legally, in case you are wondering.

In January ’09 we bought our house in Austin, TX.

Fast forward to 2016, we’ve already paid like 60 percent of our mortgage; we even installed solar panels.

What do we do for living you may ask? We are teachers…

It amazes me that this country is so rich, that there’s enough for everybody, even for a normal guy like me. I feel as if I’m the luckiest guy in the world since I always dreamed about living in the US.

You guys have no idea how lucky you are to be born in the US.

Since most of our politics is based on complaining about what’s wrong with America, it’s nice to be reminded of what’s right — even little things like hot showers and junk mail. How about you, Ricochetti: what are some everyday things you appreciate about the US?

There are 74 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Dick from Brooklyn Thatcher
    Dick from Brooklyn Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Inspiring. Thanks.

    • #1
    • January 17, 2016, at 3:59 PM PST
    • Like
  2. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    The ability to do this, without having the censors block the site, or delete banned words.

    Jon, I am going to do this on my own blog, and see what I get.

    • #2
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:00 PM PST
    • Like
  3. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator

    Honestly, this is why Americans should have immigrant friends, just to remind themselves of what we take for granted. A recent one was helping an English woman look for an apartment, and one of her requirements was for a shower, not just a bathtub.

    I may have been a bit more flabbergasted than was polite.

    • #3
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:00 PM PST
    • Like
  4. Judge Mental Member

    I’ve worked with many people on H1-B visas. One guy (who was trying to convert to a green card – ultimately unsuccessfully), and his wife gave me a ride home from a mutual colleague’s barbecue. On the way I was talking with his wife about the general level of bounty available to all comers.

    She summed up their feelings when she said in a voice tinged with awe and disbelief, “You have stores for your dogs“.

    • #4
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:19 PM PST
    • Like
  5. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    I traveled shortly after 9/11 to Russia…Moscow. We were there 72 hours, tops; it felt like 72 years. The pilot on Lufthansa announced when we had left Russian air space and the entire plane applauded. When we arrived back in the US, I kissed the flag at customs…I wanted to kiss the ground like John Paul II.

    These vignettes are fantastic. God bless America.

    • #5
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:20 PM PST
    • Like
  6. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Since most of our politics is based on complaining about what’s wrong with America, it’s nice to be reminded of what’s right — even little things like hot showers and junk mail. How about you, Ricochetti: what are some everyday things you appreciate about the US?

    Yes, and we’d like to keep it that way.

    I appreciate reliable: electricity, central heat, and indoor plumbing. Everything else is just candy sprinkles on the sundae.

    • #6
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:24 PM PST
    • Like
  7. Emerson Member

    Awesome post. Having lived in Mexico and having family in Ghana, I definitely identify with these, especially hot running water and working post. My first “shower” in Mexico was a bucket in the space under a staircase. It was an upgrade when we moved to an apartment with a tiled bathroom and well water – I could stand up straight! When I wanted to send my sister a CD for her birthday the Ghanaian post was so unreliable and expensive that I ended up waiting a year and sending it with my parents when they went to visit. There is is a lot to take for granted.

    To answer Jon’s question, how about the ability to flip on a switch and have the light come on, everyday, all day. There are plenty of countries where uninterrupted electricity is unknown, even in big cities.

    -E

    • #7
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:38 PM PST
    • Like
  8. Emerson Member

    Ooo… here’s a good one: public sanitation. I can’t count the number of times I would walk down the steets in Mexico and see dog carcases along the side of the road with just lime thrown over them.

    • #8
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:42 PM PST
    • Like
  9. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Humbling. Thanks.

    • #9
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:04 PM PST
    • Like
  10. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Member
    Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:Illegal Immigration has dominated the GOP primary campaign. So a member of Reddit asked a simple question.

    FTFY.

    • #10
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:11 PM PST
    • Like
  11. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:
    It amazes me that this country is so rich, that there’s enough for everybody, even for a normal guy like me. I feel as if I’m the luckiest guy in the world since I always dreamed about living in the US. You guys have no idea how lucky you are to be born in the US.

    Very few native-born Americans appreciate their good fortune. The things we take for granted are rare in the world: the rule of law and the ubiquitous wealth. Visiting third-world countries as a tourist does not fully capture the experience of living there. Thus, even well-traveled Americans don’t have the appreciation for their exceptional circumstances that immigrants do.

    The best thing my parents ever did for me was emigrate to the US. They often remark how the rest of the extended family, who remained in the old country, likes to complain about their circumstances but never asks about coming here. Not everyone has the guts to leave everything behind.

    • #11
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:14 PM PST
    • Like
  12. Kevin Creighton Contributor

    As a Canadian citizen who’s lived there for 30+ years, my impressions…

    1. I was amazed at how good actual Southern-style biscuits and gravy really are. I love Eggs Benedict, but your breakfast food technology is *amazing*.
    2. Regional differences. Canada has four, maybe five regions, but the U.S.? Dozens, sometimes with two or three inside the same state (Pennsylvania and California spring to mind).
    3. The boundless energy that freedom gives you. You all try to do so much, it’s astounding. Sometimes you fail, but more often than not, you succeed.
    • #12
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:15 PM PST
    • Like
  13. Casey Inactive

    I’m gonna tell the dudes and chicks playing board games at the local toy store about the showers. Thanks, Jon!

    • #13
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:21 PM PST
    • Like
  14. Liz Member
    Liz

    Dryers. Nobody in Italy has a dryer. Nobody here even understands the beauty of the dryer. And no American gets what it is like to deal, during the constant winter rain, with the sheets and the towels and apparently infinite pairs of socks of a dryer-less family of five.

    Oh, and gas. However expensive gas may be in the States, it is still cheap. Regular unleaded here is currently about 1.42 Euro. Per liter. That’s down from a few months ago.

    Also, believe it or not, the bureaucracy. I do not want to start on the bane that is Italian bureaucracy. (If you are curious, try Umberto Eco’s account of trying to replace a lost driver’s license in his collection of essays, “How to Travel With a Salmon.”) All bureaucracy is loathsome, but American bureaucracy is less loathsome than the rest..

    • #14
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:26 PM PST
    • Like
  15. Leigh Member

    I’m not an immigrant to the U.S., but I’ve spent enough time abroad to identify with a surprising number of these, to one level or another.

    There was an indescribable, special feeling when I would use I-90 for a short trip out of Seattle in my day-to-day life and look down the road ahead and envision the 3,000 miles over mountains, plains, and cities. It was nice to have the daily reminder that it was there and all I had to do was start driving — the opposite of feeling trapped.

    This. I do this, too. I wrote about it a few months back — the West still pulls me a little… I think about just getting in my car and driving and driving…

    And I really could. The only things stopping me are financial responsibilities and other commitments — all things I’ve freely chosen, and all things I can break away from if I so choose.

    • #15
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:27 PM PST
    • Like
  16. Kevin Creighton Contributor

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Choosing your own shower temperature!

    Ah, yes, the joys of the widowmaker

    • #16
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:28 PM PST
    • Like
  17. Umbra Fractus Coolidge
    Umbra Fractus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Casey:I’m gonna tell the dudes and chicks playing board games at the local toy store about the showers. Thanks, Jon!

    Sometimes when you take something for granted…

    • #17
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:31 PM PST
    • Like
  18. Eric Hines Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Showers and running hot water. I was born in the Philippines. Showers and hot water aren’t really common in older homes over there. Not having to fill buckets with water and boiling some over a stove top was such a big surprise for me. Experiencing that as a twelve year old was an unforgettable experience. Yet, most people who live here (me included) take it for granted sometimes.

    Amen to this. I was stationed in the RP for 16 months. My running hot shower water was room temperature because the landlord couldn’t keep the heater repaired, and he tried. Fortunately, this was the RP–even in the winter, room temperature wasn’t uncomfortable; it just wasn’t hot.

    My house girl had to add a capful of Clorox to the tap water she used to wash the dishes–and she appreciated the hint, even though she was more or less adapted to the local water…flora. She’d grown up in one of the northern islands. Manila’s piping, at least in my neck of town, had the potable water pipes and the sewage pipes laid in the same trench, the piping was old and cracked, and they leaked into each other.

    We drank only bottled water that I got from the Embassy, and when the power went out for an extended period (that’s three days, not the hour or two we might get in north Texas from a tornado), she had to get buckets of water from a half mile away at a city outlet–to which she then had to add the Clorox.

    Eric Hines

    • #18
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:31 PM PST
    • Like
  19. Profile Photo Member

    I love that reddit.

    • #19
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:34 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Eric Hines Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: How about you, Ricochetti: what are some everyday things you appreciate about the US?

    I should have read all the way to the end of JG’s post.

    One of my friends emigrated from north of Beijing. Her parents, both medical doctors, are still there. She spent a couple of years with her parents in one of Mao’s reeducation camps.

    Her experiences remind me of the value of places like Ricochet, or the street corner, or the backyard fence, where we can p*s and moan about this or that, or b*ch at each other over that or this, without the government or snitching neighbors eavesdropping to our detriment.

    Eric Hines

    • #20
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:39 PM PST
    • Like
  21. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OK, I know this is a small thing, but I’ve been to foreign countries where there don’t know that windows should have screens! They keep bugs on the outside while I’m trying to sleep on the inside. How is it that screen technology has not made it around the world??

    • #21
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:46 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Umbra Fractus Coolidge
    Umbra Fractus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Let’s be honest here; the reason immigration (legal or illegal) is an issue in the first place is because we have more people who want to come here than we can handle. That’s a pretty nice problem to have, all things considered.

    • #22
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:48 PM PST
    • Like
  23. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    And hey – anyone who works in the government – what we want most from you is DON’T SCREW THIS UP because you think you know better than the Founders and everyone who’s lived here since.

    • #23
    • January 17, 2016, at 5:48 PM PST
    • Like
  24. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor: When we arrived back in the US, I kissed the flag at customs…I wanted to kiss the ground like John Paul II.

    This reminds me of the experience of traveling behind the Iron Curtain, back when there still was an Iron Curtain. I was backpacking through Europe with a friend. We were leaving Czechoslovakia for Austria near České Budějovice on foot. We were detained at the border crossing for what seemed like an eternity as the guards reviewed our paperwork. After we were released, we had to walk a long distance along a road that warned the adjacent no-man’s land was covered with land mines. When we finally saw the Austrian flag in the distance we ran the remaining distance. I sure felt like kissing the ground!

    Still have the old passport. Note the U.S. Great Seal watermark behind the visa stamp:

    visa

    • #24
    • January 17, 2016, at 6:02 PM PST
    • Like
  25. I Walton Member

    It’s great but the Democrats are working overtime to make us an administrative state like every person came from who was quoted above. The best, perhaps only thing, that JFK did right was to create the peace corps. Kids went to third world countries and got a sense of what they left behind. Most did. Some didn’t. Senator Dodd for instance.

    • #25
    • January 17, 2016, at 6:02 PM PST
    • Like
  26. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    CandE:Ooo… here’s a good one: public sanitation. I can’t count the number of times I would walk down the steets in Mexico and see dog carcases along the side of the road with just lime thrown over them.

    I am not well-traveled overseas, but even my brief experience in Great Britain and France persuaded me there’s nothing like the air quality and public sanitation in the US.

    That scene where cousin Eddie empties his RV’s sssh..septic tank into the storm drain is funny because it’s so absurd. Here.

    • #26
    • January 17, 2016, at 6:05 PM PST
    • Like
  27. Profile Photo Member

    Homeschooling.

    • #27
    • January 17, 2016, at 6:11 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Tenacious D Inactive

    I’m not an immigrant, but travel to the US frequently and here are some of the things I appreciate:
    1. The highways definitely
    2. 24-hr grocery stores, restaurants, etc.
    3. Even small towns have hardware stores with enough tools and supplies to pretty much build a small town

    (Yes, we have these things in Canada, but not to the same scope or saturation).

    • #28
    • January 17, 2016, at 6:21 PM PST
    • Like
  29. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Quit complaining about climate change and get some water that people can drink. Looking at a map, you would think NATO controlled the world’s fresh water supplies.

    xHRKVhA

    • #29
    • January 17, 2016, at 6:26 PM PST
    • Like
  30. LC Member
    LC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    As an immigrant from Cambodia I so appreciate the fact that there are no lizards crawling all over my wall and ceiling, on in any building, really.

    • #30
    • January 17, 2016, at 7:38 PM PST
    • Like

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.