Toughest Things About U.S. Culture for International Students to Adapt to


ISO Customer Care | Nov 10, 2023 Student Life

Moving to the U.S. means immersing yourself in a new culture, which is likely to have different customs and practices than your own.

As international students ourselves, we at ISO have highlighted 3 things you may need to adapt to when coming to the U.S.

Using Imperial Measurements

Fahrenheit vs. Celsius

The U.S. uses Fahrenheit as its measure for temperature, rather than Celsius. Don’t be shocked if you hear someone say, “It’s going to freezing today – 32 degrees!” They mean 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 0 degrees Celsius.

A general rule of thumb to get used to Fahrenheit is to know that 0 degree Celsius = 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

The actual calculation is: (Fahrenheit – 32) * 5/9 = Celsius

Unlike many other countries worldwide who have adopted the metric system, the U.S. uses the imperial measurements.

Date Format

In many countries, the standard to write the date is: DD/MM/YYYY (day/month/year).

But, in the U.S., they use: MM/DD/YYYY (month/day/year). This is important to get used to as mixing up the month and the date can lead to some errors when inputting personal information such as birthday – or in the insurance example, dates of service, or more!

Miles vs. Km

Again, another measuring system that is different from a majority of countries in the world is the use of miles rather than kilometres. Although this is something relatively easier to get used to (just read the speedometer!).

Tipping Culture

Tipping, rather than being a courtesy like in other countries (where tipping is often voluntary) you have to tip in the U.S. The amount may vary depending on the city, but nowadays, the average tip amount ranges from 15% - 20%.

In other countries, tip may already be included in the bill as gratuity, or not practiced. Therefore, it can be a bit of a shock when you move to the U.S. and see that suggested tip amounts start at 20% in cities like New York.

Tipping has become part of the dining culture, and other service-based industries, because many of these service workers are paid the minimum wage. This includes places such as hair salons, massage parlours, among others. Tips are a way to earn additional income.

Just note that the tip amount will deduct from your bank statement in a few days’ time. However, different cities will vary in terms of tip amount, so please be aware of customs in different cities.

Healthcare Isn't Free!

In the U.S., there is no centralised medical system, which means healthcare can get extremely expensive, especially if you do not have health insurance.

Many universities recognise this, thus make it mandatory for international students to be enrolled in a health insurance plan while attending school.

As such, we at ISO have worked on affordable health insurance plans alternatives for international students where the school allows students to waive out. Be sure to always have coverage that protects you from unexpected injuries or sicknesses.

All ISO health insurance plans cover for injuries and sicknesses and meet your school’s requirements! For more information on waiving, check out this blog post here .

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About ISO Student Health Insurance

Founded in 1958, ISO prides itself on being the leader in providing international students with affordable insurance plans. Administered by former and current international students, we are able to assist our member with multilingual customer service in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and more. ISO serves over 3,200 schools/colleges and more than 150,000 insured students every year.

For more information, please visit and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.

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