I was born and raised in Asia and came to America at the age of 18 for college.
I have been living in the US for 12 years.
Although it’s almost half of my lifetime, it’s definitely not long enough for me to absorb and understand everything about the American culture.
Mr. FAF and I absolutely admire and even worship the freedom, the opportunity, and the power of this beautiful country
And that’s why we have decided to build our family here.
As much as I love America, there are 6 things Americans do that I have a hard time wrapping my head around.
(In writing this post, I really don’t mean to offend anyone.
I truly want to put it out there to get feedback and hopefully to put things into perspective.
I also realized that what I discuss below doesn’t apply to every American.
But as you might already know, you can observe a certain pattern from any samples you collect.)
And here they are:
1. Using the dishwasher when there’re only 1-2 people
I’ve seen or read about people who say they can’t live without a dishwasher although their family consists of 1-2 people.
I understand that if you have a big family or if you often make complicated meals, the number of dishes to wash can be overwhelming.
But if it’s just two people (aka 2 plates, 2 forks, 2 glasses), it’s hard for me to understand why they don’t spend 10 minutes washing the dishes instead of piling them up for the whole day and running the dishwasher for 2 hours at the end of the day.
I’ve lived with roommates who used one plate and one fork for each meal but would pile them up in the kitchen sink so that they could use the dishwasher at the end of the week.
Aside from the amount of water and electricity used to operate the dishwasher, I also think it’s a bit unsanitary to leave dirty dishes in the sink for more than one day.
This is particularly true for non-Asian Americans. Many of my Asian American friends told me their parents used the dishwasher as a drying rack for the dishes. And that’s exactly what I use my dishwasher for.
I don’t think my parents even know that dishwashers exist. I never grew up with one. I think it has more to do with habit and convenience. If you’re so used to something that makes your life easier, it’s harder to part with it.
2. Buying fruit cups and meals every day
Mr. FAF and I do eat out every once in a while. But we don’t do that every day and definitely not for breakfast.
In fact, Mr. FAF likes a very simple and cheap breakfast: rice porridge with radish and/or beans or bread and an apple every morning. I’ve encouraged him to eat oatmeal or cereal for more nutrition, and he has done that quite a bit.
However, when I go to work, I see some of my colleagues or other people in the same building buying a $7-10 breakfast. It smells great and definitely tastes good. But do we really need to spend that much on breakfast?
Sometimes I see my colleagues get a tiny bowl of oatmeal with some raisins for $2-3. I can get 5 bagels from the grocery store for $2-3. But you can easily spend that much on ONE bagel plus some cream cheese from the store.
I don’t think buying breakfast saves time either since you have to wait in line and pay for the food. Sometimes the line can be really long if the food is good or if the store is popular (i.e. Starbucks).
And it’s not just breakfast. It’s also snacks, lunch, and dinner. I can get a cantaloupe from the store for $3 and spend 5 minutes cutting it into smaller pieces. But a tiny cup of cantaloupe can cost $3-4 at the store.
Some argue that they don’t have time to prep lunch but spend 15-20 minutes a day going out and waiting in line to buy lunch.
I understand if you just had a baby, have a deadline, or are going through a super busy period in the year, you don’t want to spend time buying groceries or thinking about what dish to make.
But online grocery shopping and repetitive meals can definitely come to the rescue.
Related: How To Be Lazy, Frugal & Happy
3. Getting into debt to pay for vacations
This is what I find the most puzzling. Why would someone use credit cards and get a loan to go on vacation and have fun?
For me, vacation is at the bottom of the money spending pyramids. It’s certainly below the necessities of food, shelter, clothes, and utilities. If I can’t afford an expensive vacation, I won’t go.
If I want to go on vacation but don’t have money, I will choose something free or really inexpensive that I can afford (i.e. a road trip, going to the beach for the day, camping).
If I want to have fun with little or no money, I do something for free (i.e. going to the park, exploring nature).
If the purpose of going on vacation is to impress my friends, family, neighbors, or people I don’t even know, I’d definitely need to examine why I want to impress them.
Is it because I have nothing else that people find impressive? Is it because I feel insecure about what I already have and need to borrow money to show people what I seem to own?
I don’t want to go into debt. But if I do, it’d better be a big unexpected emergency (i.e. medical) or an investment that will yield me a good return in the future (i.e. education, mortgage).
Some people work extremely hard but still go into debt because of their income level or unexpected life events. I totally sympathize with them.
But I don’t see any reason why we need to borrow money to travel the world and then come back feeling miserable with the interest rate and the piled up loans.
Mr. FAF and I refuse to get into debt to have a nice vacation.
4. Putting artificial sugary flavor in water
I know water is tasteless and boring. That’s why it’s water, not soda. But I see a lot of people put artificial flavor in their water just to get some liquid into their system.
Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of drinking water? If you drink water alone, it’s 0 calorie and can be healthy for your body. If if you put sugary stuff in it, it’s calories put in your system and can be unhealthy.
Plus, the artificial flavor usually costs a couple of dollars. I’d rather save that money or spend it on fruit to stay healthy.
5. Dipping fruit in dressing
Salad is almost tasteless and needs dressing. I get that. But fruit is so flavorful just by itself. Yet, a lot of people still dip their fruit in sweet, creamy, and fattening dressing. The dressing is not so healthy, and it costs money.
I like my fruit the way it is. If it’s too sour, I won’t buy it.
Related: My Frugal Asian Dessert
6. Taking a shower in the morning instead of in the evening
This is what I’ve been pondering ever since I came to America 13 years ago.
I used to live in a dorm where we shared a big public bathroom on each floor. In the morning when I was in a rush to go to class, my American floormates would wait in line to take a shower.
I’m sure everyone is in a rush in the morning, and time is precious. They could have saved so much time showering the night before when they had more free time.
Also, after a day of walking around, cooking, eating, etc., I just can’t wait to wash off all of the dust and odor to smell nice when going to bed.
I was so puzzled I asked an American friend about it. She said it’s because she wants to smell nice in the morning. She tends to get sweaty at night and doesn’t want to smell bad during the day because of that. By washing her hair in the morning, she can also style it better.
This is a good explanation, but it’s still not convincing enough to make me change my habit of showering in the evening.
I realized all of the things I mentioned above have to do with habits, culture, upbringing, and the structure of the economy (i.e. credit cards are common in the US). I’m sure there are a lot of things Asians do that Americans don’t get.
Whatever the reason is, I see Americans doing the 6 things above almost every day, and I still ask myself why every time I see it.