Three people standing in front of the skyline of Boston, one with a bike.

Facing the culture shock

Hi and welcome to the next blog!

All of you know that although moving to a new country is always exciting and a lot of fun, it is inevitable that there will be some things that function a little differently to what you’re used to.

That is why, in this blog, I would like to present to you my top 5 Boston culture shocks:

1) In Boston everyone greets you with a “Hello, how are you?” which felt particularly weird at the cash register. It took a while to get used to and I still struggle with adopting it.

A boy walking next to a big street.
Taking a walk with friends on a nice sunny day often leads you past the big streets of Boston. Photo: Muriel Heitsch

In contrast to the friendly greeting is the amount of honking and shouting that can be observed throughout the city but, as I have been told, should not be taken personally.

2) Streets in America are generally bigger and it is not uncommon to encounter a three- lane street in the middle of the city, which makes sense since most people prefer to go by car. There is public transportation in the city in the form of buses and trams, but the buses are notoriously late and sometimes do not come at all, which was a big shock since in Stockholm they are almost always on time. What was also strange at first is that one can get on at all doors and pay inside, even with cash. Tickets are for one ride only, unfortunately, so students tend to try to take only one ride and walk longer to reach the destination.

Bike attached to the front of a bus as viewed from the inside of the bus
My bike attached to the front of the bus! Photo: Muriel Heitsch

3) Following on from 2), as a pedestrian, what really surprised me at first was that at some crossings one can walk across diagonally! I was very confused when I saw this the first time but have really learned to appreciate it. On a side note: Biking is also quite popular and I was surprised to see that, contrary to my expectations, Boston has quite a few bike lanes! It definitely feels weird to bike across crossings of two- or three-lane streets, but I have not felt particularly unsafe and bought a bike after the first week. What really amazed me was that bikes can be taken on the bus!

Vietnamese food served in a paper bowl.
Food unfortunately often comes in paper or plastic containers. Photo: Muriel Heitsch

4) There is surprisingly little recycling and reusing. Even in the university cafeteria and in some cafés, drinks and meals are served in disposable plastic or paper containers.

5) What also really astonished me was the size of the tips. Here, it is rude to tip below 20%, whereas in most European countries 10% is the norm. Another aspect to consider when going out is that tax is added onto the prices displayed in the stores. This is contrary to in Europe, where you pay what you see. Together with the tip, this often substantially increases the price.

As you can tell, there are a couple of aspects I had to get used to, but nothing too major. I have so far had a wicked (Boston slang for great) time in Boston and can’t wait to tell you more about the city!

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