Every country has its stereotypes. What are stereotypes? They are fixed (and simplified) images of a person, culture, or thing. Stereotypes can be negative or positive; either way, they can often lead to misconceptions. For students who are coming to live in the U.S., these misconceptions can lead to a view of the United States that they later learn is incorrect. How many of these misconceptions do you have about living in the United States?
Misconceptions about Living in the U.S.
Myth #1: Everyone eats fast food
In general, fast food isn’t healthy, and most people around the world eat too much of it. Do Americans eat it every day? No. A study says that 1 in 3 Americans eat fast food each day. That’s still very high, but it also means that 2 out of 3 are choosing to eat healthy foods and cook for themselves every day.
Another study proves that trends with diners are changing what Americans eat. Millenials account for 52% of the organic produce market; they also eat 52% more vegetables than the older generations (called baby boomers). In fact, 40% of millenials eat a plant-based diet (a diet made mainly of fruits and vegetables, with little meat or dairy products).
Why such a change? Americans recognize how unhealthy fast food is, and they are making choices that will lead to real change. In addition, local produce, farmers markets, and organic markets are found throughout the United States. On menus, more and more restaurants offer vegan, dairy-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free meal options.
Myth #2: You must have a car
Do you need a car in the United States? It depends on where you live and why you need transportation, but in general, no. Major cities all have trains and buses for public transportation, and the great weather in places like California make it possible to bike for many outings. Bike and scooter sharing services make this an easy and affordable option; ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, make it possible to get an affordable ride at any time of the day or night.
Read our Guide to Bay Area Transportation for information on the many ways you can get around while you are in the Bay Area.
Myth #3: Everyone in California is blonde and tan
Not true! California is of course known for its surfing culture, and people often associate this culture with tan, blonde men and women. The truth is that California is incredibly diverse. In fact, California is home to their highest populations of the four major ethnic groups in the United States (white, Latino, Asian American, and American Indian). The combined population of Latino, Asian American, and American Indian peoples creates 61.5% of California’s total population.
Myth #4: No one speaks another language
With so much diversity, it is not a surprise that many locals speak more than one language. While they probably speak English at school and work, more than 20% of American homes speak a language other than English at home.
Myth #5: America is unsafe
The U.S. is the second most visited country in the world (France is #1). Roughly 77 million people from around the world visit the United States each year: are they crazy for coming to the United States for vacation or study?
The United States is a safe place to visit: it is in the top third of safest countries in the world, it has average levels of crime and practically no pick-pocketing. Transit is ranked very safe, and it is a safe place for women to travel. While the movies and media make it seem as if everyone has a gun, the truth is that most Americans do not own a gun.