14 things I've learned living by myself in the USA - Bus 142

14 things I’ve learned living by myself in the USA

I was 19 years old when I left Brazil and decided to live 1 year in America.
This was my very first adventure. And it was amazing!

Before leaving home, I remember being anxious, excited and also scared.
Everyone would tell me that living abroad would teach me a lot of things. And I agreed, but had no clue what to expect. Specially because you end up learning some very unlikely things!


1. Taxes are not included in the shown prices

This may sound pretty standard, but it was a huge cultural chock for me! I had no clue about it, so I was constantly disappointed every time my change would come “wrong”.
Took me some time to learn that I had to add taxes in order to know how much I really had to pay.

2. People are interested in your food

It first happened with my host family at a food court. They were all really interested about my meal choice. And it kept happening every time we went out to eat.
Times that happened to me back home? Zero.
I didn’t quite know how to answer things like: You really don’t want croutons in your salad? Do you really like croissant with honey mustard? (I’ll confess some choices were made because they were the only ingredients I knew) and Is this a common dish in Brazil?

Which reminds me…

3. American are (really) curious about your home country

I remember being asked by almost every American I met these two questions:
What do you guys eat in Brazil? Rice and beans. Everyday..? Well, yeah. Pretty much. Didn’t sound weird until you asked…

And the winner: How big is the rain forest?

It’s around 2,1M m².
Of course I didn’t know that.
I had to live abroad to learn that Brazil is the 5th biggest country both in size and population. I had no clue.
So, my tip is: research about your home country before you live abroad and be a real success in family meetings! 🙂

Em Chicago

Cloud Gate, Chicago

4. Rule #1: wash your hands as soon as you get home

This is a habit I can’t live without anymore.
In the US I learned that people take germs very seriously! It doesn’t matter if you were just around the corner: get home and wash your hands.

5. No such thing as too much ice

I got used seeing Americans with a drink in their hands. If possible, loaded wit ice.
I was actually surprised to see there’s even an ice drink, like the famous 7-eleven’s Slurpee.

Já a neve, desnecessária!

For me there IS such a thing as too much ice. @ Washington DC


6. You can’t do something wrong and just walk away

Pretend you are leaving the parking lot and just scratches another car. You see nothing serious happened, so you decide to leave. Right?
Wrong! In this case, you should leave a note. If someone is passing by and witness it all, will probably be taking your plate. I’ve seen it happening and was surprised to see how serious that it. Needless to say this is quite a shock compared to brazilian “jeitinho”…

7. Libraries are the best!

Oh, public library, how I miss you!
It’s the best place ever, where you can find: free wi-fi, workshops, language classes, volunteer opportunities… and books, of course! Research online and make a reservation even for a pre sale. Need more time with your book? Renew it online as well. Don’t feel like going inside to return the books? Just pass them through the door. Now that’s love!

Essa maravilhosinha!

You pretty thing! Fairfax County Library


8. Leftovers? Take them home

This is one of the best things I’ve seen in the US. If you go out and don’t eat all your food, just ask it to go. It’s perfectly normal and everybody does that. And it’s not just when you have a whole stake, take home your rice leftovers too. It’s good food that you’ve already paid for.
Unfortunately, in Brazilians restaurants this is still not a normal thing and you’ll most likely be charged an extra fee for that. Besides, your friends might make fun of you and the waiter will probably get a little pissed if you ask. This makes me sad.

9. Americans are not “all fat”

You really shouldn’t generalize. Yes, there’s an alarming number of obese people in the US – but Brazil is also 5th in this ranking -, but I must confess that while living there I started some pretty healthy habits of my own.
My host family, for example, had salad in EVERY meal. I was such a picky eater that the only greens in my plate were the pizza’s seasoning. But after living there for a while, I really started enjoying vegetables.
Besides, during the Summer the streets were loaded with people practicing all kinds of sports. That’s nice!


But yeah, I also had some Starbucks too! @ Pike Place, Seattle


10. Drinking milk during dinner is just normal

Well, not for me! I could never adapt myself to it.
So, politely, I just told my family I didn’t drink anything while eating. Which was not true. But turned into a habit that only later I found out is actually good for me. Score!

11. You can’t machine wash all of your clothes

At least not the ones I brought from home. And also: your clothes won’t just clean themselves. Shocking, right?
Thanks a lot, mom!

12. It really sucks to get sick and have to look after yourself

Mom, thanks again!
One of the worst feelings for me was when I got sick and had to look after myself, by myself.
But, hey! You learn to look after yourself, and that was the role point about this “living abroad” thing, right? 😉

13. Ordinary things can be a big problem

Like when you have a flat tire and just can’t explain it to anyone. So you have to talk to three different people over the phone and try and make them understand. And when they finally do, you feel so silly.
But that’s just life.

Mas depois você ri disso tudo!

And after it all, you will just laugh about it too! @ U.S. Capitol, Washington DC


14. You must become a good companion to yourself

It was really tough in the beginning, but after a while I just started enjoying being by myself.
Because you start to realize you can’t wait other people just to go to the grocery store. Or the drugstore. Or to the movies. Or a concert next town. Or New York.
When you enjoy being by yourself you just plan ahead and go for it. And that’s awesome!

Besides all that stuff, I learned a lot about myself during this time away from my comfort zone. I loved living in the US and I have only good memories of my host family!
The cultural chock I had over and over not only made my experience so much better, it also made me appreciate all the good things I had back home and didn’t even realize.

When I returned, I was not the same. Lucky me! 🙂

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Wednesday March 23rd, 2016 at 07:39 PM

    Mto bomm mari….ficou otimo e passa mto bem sua experiência …curti..bjao

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Wednesday March 23rd, 2016 at 09:48 PM

      Obrigada, Yureco! Vai acompanhando que ainda vem muito mais 🙂

  • Reply
    gislene miranda
    Wednesday March 23rd, 2016 at 07:56 PM

    Adorei suas dicas de viagem aos EUA, captei tudo e fiquei feliz em saber que você se adaptou sozinha, sei que isso é bom e pra mim saber que alguém que conheço compartilhou sua experiência de viagem me tranquiliza pois estamos atras de intercambio pra Isabelle.
    Ta lindo seu Blog
    Sucesso e felicidade pra você de coração onde você estiver. beijos

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Wednesday March 23rd, 2016 at 09:50 PM

      Gi, fiquei feliz com sua mensagem <3
      A experiência foi maravilhosa, recomendo muito! Se a Isa tiver qualquer dúvida, me avisa que tento esclarecer! E vai acompanhando minhas dicas por aqui 😉

  • Reply
    Aline silveira
    Thursday March 24th, 2016 at 11:20 PM

    Oie!!!, tudo bem! Achei perfeito,queria saber se podes me ajudat,meu filho que hoje tem 14 quer ir quando tiver mais de 16,fazer intercambio,morar em casa de familia,ja procurei o pessoal que faz isso aqui na minha cidade,mas queria saber algumas coisas,tipo ele sabe o basico pra falar,e vai estudar de manha e a tarde casa,mas e como sao a familia,sao receptiveis,e pra sair nos!locais,,,enfim,,,tu foste sozinha?

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Friday March 25th, 2016 at 05:54 PM

      Oi, Aline! Tudo bem? Obrigada pelo carinho, querida!
      Eu fui sozinha para os EUA, sim, e acredite – estava morrendo de medo! Também nunca tinha saído de perto da minha família, mas essa experiência foi muito importante pra mim, e por isso recomendo muito! A gente aprende a se virar e, como eu disse, a valorizar a própria companhia 😉
      Esse programa que eu fiz – o au pair – pode ser feito dos 18 aos 26. Então para o seu filho acredito que o programa mais indicado é o High School. Quem eu conheço que já fez recomenda muito também!
      As famílias que recebem estudantes intercambistas costumam estar bem estruturadas para isso. Mas cada uma é diferente da outra, né? O importante é ter o diálogo bem aberto e combinar as regras do jogo, porque lá é comum que a família tenha regras. Por exemplo: horário para voltar para casa, se pode dormir na casa de amigos, quem é responsável por cada tarefa do lar…
      Normalmente as agências especializadas em intercâmbio para jovens mantém contato e podem ajudar com qualquer problema que ele possa ter lá. Espero ter ajudado! Qualquer coisa me escreve no: ola@bus142.com.br

  • Reply
    Aline silveira
    Thursday March 24th, 2016 at 11:22 PM

    Na verdade o que voce diria pra um adoledcente indo a primeira vez,sozinho,sem nunca ter saido de perto da familia,!
    Adorei ,como mae e ficarei curtindo tuas avemturas!bjo

  • Reply
    Monday March 28th, 2016 at 11:29 AM

    Puts Mari, que post legal!!! parabéns….lembro que trocavamos idéia pelo msn ness época…..

    legam mesmo!!!

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday March 29th, 2016 at 05:01 PM

      Obrigada, Léo! 🙂
      Hahahaha siiiim, essa época o ICQ já estava pra trás! Estamos velhos, né?

  • Reply
    Monday March 28th, 2016 at 02:48 PM

    Ta escrevendo lindamente, Mari! To gostando muito! 🙂

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday March 29th, 2016 at 05:02 PM

      Obrigada, querida <3
      Continua acompanhando 😉

  • Reply
    Mariana Lins
    Sunday August 28th, 2016 at 07:56 AM

    Belo post bem interessante adorei ler.
    parabéns pelo que você aprendeu e nós passa essas informações legais !

  • Reply
    Wednesday August 30th, 2017 at 10:55 AM

    Adorei o que acabei de ler, belo artigo é extremamente sensacional parabéns.

  • Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: