International Student Services

Living in Hawaiʻi and the U.S.

Culture Shock

Most students experience difficulties at one time or another while at UH Hilo. As an international student, you may experience some challenges that are unique or more intense because you have the added pressure of adjusting to a new culture, language, and different academic environment. Staff members at Counseling Services have worked with many international students and are knowledgeable about the issues facing international students, including homesickness and adjustment. Counseling is a free, confidential service provided to all students at UH Hilo. Counseling services are available for UH Hilo international students. Also check out this short video that introduces the concepts of mental health for international students in the US. The video covers mental health awareness and warning signs, dispelling myths, and showing ways to seek help.

Dating, Relationships and Sex

Cultural practices and norms about dating, relationships and sex differ from one culture to another. Similarly, laws about sexual assault and harassment vary around the world. So it's important that international students understand cultural practices and laws in the US when it comes to dating, relationships and sex. This short video provides international students with the facts about sexual assault and consent, how to prevent an assault from happening, and what to do if one does occur. Also check out this video of international students discussing different cultural views on sexual assault. Counseling Services has more information on sexual assault and relationship violence, including who to contact for more information.

Money and Banking

Check out this website for information about bank accounts for international students, credit cards, and how to transfer money from abroad.

You may want to open a checking and/or savings account at a local bank to provide an easy method of paying for purchases and to establish credit in the U.S. You should not carry large sums of money with you. Typically one or two forms of photo identification (ID) are required to open a bank account. A U.S. social security number is not required. Most banks and credit unions will be able to provide you with a bank card that you can use as a debit card and at an ATM (Automated Teller Machine) so that you do not have to carry a lot of cash.

The closest bank to the UH Hilo campus is the Bank of Hawaii at 1339 Kinoole Street. Also close to campus are the Big Island Federal Credit Union and First Hawaiian Bank. Each bank has different rules and fees. Some accounts earn interest, and some do not. Some banks assess monthly checking service charges, and some do not. Many banks have special student accounts that may have lower fees and lower minimum balances than normal, so be sure to ask about student accounts. Keep track of your expenses. Be aware that high fees are typically charged for an overdrawn account.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATM)

Most banks have 24-hour ATMs that enable you to withdraw cash from an account or make a deposit. There is a Bank of Hawaiʻi ATM on campus in the Library lobby. If you have an account with the Bank of Hawaiʻi or a bank that is part of the "Cirrus" network, there is no fee to use the ATM; however, if you have an account with a bank that is not part of the "Cirrus" network, there is a fee to use the ATM. Your bank will provide you with details about how to obtain a card to use an ATM.

To Cash or Deposit Checks

When first depositing money in a bank account, be aware that checks from foreign countries may need time to clear. This may cause a delay of several days or even weeks during which you will be unable to access any part of the deposited checks.

Your bank will cash a check for you with proper ID. Most other banks will not. To cash a check in person at a bank, follow these instructions:

  • Endorse a check by signing your name in ink on the left reverse side of the check. Do not endorse any check until you are at the teller’s window at the bank. An endorsed check is the same as cash.
  • Your name should be signed exactly as it appears on the face of the check, even if it is incorrectly spelled. Sign your name with the correct spelling directly below the first endorsement if it is misspelled.

To make a deposit to your bank account, complete a deposit slip listing any cash and checks to be deposited.

To Deposit Money To Your Account By Mail

If you are unable to get to the bank during normal business hours, you may make a deposit to your account by mail or by using the appropriate deposit box located near the main entrance of most banks. Depositing cash by mail is not safe. Deposit only checks by mail. To deposit a check by mail, complete a deposit slip but do not endorse the check. On the left reverse side of the check in the depositor’s endorsement area, write “FOR DEPOSIT ONLY.” Then write your account number on the next line.

Money Orders

Never send cash through the mail. If you need to send money, you should write a check or obtain a money order. Money orders can be purchased at banks, post offices, Western Union and stores such as 7-11, Sack N Save and Safeway.

To Write a Check From Your Checking Account

Appropriate photo identification is required to pay for something using a check. Some stores will accept a UH Hilo ID card, but others will not, so you may need to show your passport or a Hawaiʻi State ID card if you have one.


Traveler’s Checks

Several American companies sell traveler’s checks through banks or credit unions. Traveler’s checks are helpful if you do not have a checking account or if you do not wish to carry cash. There is usually at least a 1% service charge based on the amount purchased. Some banks provide traveler’s checks to their customers free of charge. Traveler’s checks come in several denominations. Most businesses prefer $20 denominations or smaller. If traveler’s checks are stolen or lost, you can report this loss to the company who issued the traveler’s checks and they will be replaced free of charge.

American Currency

For those who may not be familiar with American coins, the review how they look, what they are worth and what they are called.

All paper money is a dull green-color. The most commonly used denominations of the paper money are the $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills. Paper money is referred to as the “dollar bill”, “five dollar bill”, and so on. Paper money also comes in $50 and $100 as well as larger amounts. Many shops, restaurants and businesses usually do not accept larger bills.

U.S. coinsCommon U.S. coins include the penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. Half dollar and dollar coins are relatively rare.

Identification (ID) Cards

It is very important to have a picture ID in the U.S. You will find it very difficult to cash a check without proper ID. A passport can be used as a source of identification but it is not wise to carry it around with you on a daily basis. When you first come to UH Hilo, a student ID number will be assigned to you. The ID number will have eight digits. Use this number for school matters only.

UH Hilo ID Card

You can obtain a UH Hilo student ID card at the Campus Center. There is a $10 fee for this card which will have a photograph and will serve as an official UH Hilo student identification. You will use this card to enter the Student Life Center, borrow books from the Library, print documents, and enter the dining hall if you have a meal plan. The ID must be validated every semester that you are enrolled at UH Hilo. If you lose your ID there is a $10 replacement charge.

Hawaiʻi State ID Card

A Hawaiʻi State ID card is not required, but some students find that getting the card is convenient to have as a form of government-issued identification. To get a Hawaiʻi State ID card, you need the following documents:

  • State ID Card Application
  • Social security card. Only students who are employed are eligible to obtain a social security card. If you are not eligible for a social security card, you need to obtain a “letter of denial” from the Social Security Administration office. Go to the office located in the Prince Kuhio Plaza (open Monday-Friday 8:30 am – 2:30 pm, except Wednesdays when the office closes at 11:30 am) and explain that you need a “letter of denial.” You may be asked to complete an application for a social security card (PDF) so that you can be issued a letter of denial.
  • Proof of legal name and date of birth. Your passport should be sufficient.
  • I-20 Form (for F-1 visa students) or DS-2019 Form (for J-1 visa students)
  • UH Hilo ID card
  • 2 documents that show your mailing address in Hawaiʻi, e.g., bank checking or savings account statement not more than 2 months old; driver’s license; an apartment lease, contract or agreement; or a utility bill. The document must not be less than 30 days old. If you live on campus, bring a document that shows that you live in the residence halls on campus (such as a copy of your Billing Statement from the UH Hilo Housing Office), and this should be acceptable (although you may be asked to sign an affidavit at the office where you obtain the ID card). The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation has a list of documents that are acceptable as proof of your mailing address in Hawaiʻi. Bring the documents to the Department of Motor Vehicles office at 349 Kapiolani Street in Hilo (near St. Joseph School). The office is open Monday-Friday (except holidays) from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. The fee is $15 (cash or checks only). The ID card will be mailed to you about 2 weeks after you apply. The ID card may only be valid until the program end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 Form.

Social Security Numbers

You can get a U.S. social security number if you get offered a job. (You cannot be authorized to get a social security number to open a bank account, get a cell phone, etc.) If you get offered a job, the Director of International Student Services (ISS) can authorize you to apply for a U.S. social security number. Bring a document showing proof of a job offer to the Director of ISS, who will then give you a letter authorizing you to apply for a social security number. Then, bring the letter along with a completed application form (PDF), passport, and I-20 Form to the Social Security Administration office located at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo (open Monday-Friday 8:30 am-2:30 pm, except Wednesdays when the office closes at 11:30 am). Only students who work can be authorized to obtain a U.S. social security number. There is no fee to get a social security number. View the steps to follow (PDF) to obtain a social security number.

Renting an Apartment or House

If you are thinking about renting an apartment or house off-campus, be aware of the following:

  • Utilities: Some apartments and houses include the cost of utilities (such as electricity, water, internet, cable TV), but others do not. If utilities are not included in the rent, ask what the typical monthly cost is.
  • Lease: Most apartments and houses require you to sign a lease or contract, which requires you to live there for a certain period of time. Typical lease periods are 6 months to 1 year.
  • Furnished: Some apartments and houses are furnished, while others are not.

Find out about utilities, leases, and furnishings before you make a decision.

To rent an apartment or house, you may need to do the following:

  • Present several forms of identification
  • Provide a security deposit – the amount varies, but is typically equal to 1 month’s rent (ask if the deposit is refundable when you move out)
  • Provide a letter of financial support if you do not have a credit rating

To find an apartment or house off-campus, check these out:

Postal System

To send and receive mail in the U.S., the following format is used:

Write your mailing address in the upper left corner of the letter/package (the "Return Address"). The cost of mailing letters and packages outside of the U.S. varies and depends on the size, weight, and destination of the letter/package. The Mail Room on campus provides postal services to students. Bring your letter/package and they will tell you how much it costs to mail your item and will send it for you. The Mail Room also sells U.S. postage stamps. The Mail Room is located in the Auxiliary Services Building near the Business Office, the Parking Office and the English Language Institute.

LetterReturn address goes on the top left, stamp on the top right, and recipient address in the middle center of an envelope.

You can also visit a post office in Hilo. There is a post office located close to the airport, which is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 am-4:30 pm and Saturdays from 8:30 am-12:30 pm, and a post office in downtown Hilo (at 154 Waianuenue Avenue), which is open from Monday-Friday from 8:00 am-4:00 pm and Saturdays from 12:30-2:00 pm.

Change of Address

You must inform the UH Hilo International Student Services (ISS) office within 10 days if your address changes. Use this Change of Address form (PDF) and submit it to the ISS office. You should also update your address in MyUH Services. It is also recommended that you notify the U.S. Post Office of any address changes. Before moving from one residence to another in the U.S., you should complete an Official USPS change of address form online or get a form at any post office. This form will direct the post office to forward your mail to your new address and should prevent the loss of any mail.

Bus and Taxis

Bus Service

Bus service is limited in Hilo and on the Big Island. Buses (called the Hele-On Bus) stop at the UH Hilo campus. Visit the Hele-On website for bus schedules and maps and for information on how to ride the bus .

The Keaukaha bus runs hourly between the UH Hilo campus and the beach parks of Keaukaha (Monday-Saturday). The last buses back to the UH Hilo campus are as follows:

  • From Prince Kuhio Plaza: 9:35 pm (Monday-Friday) and 7:40 pm (Saturday).
  • From Downtown: 9:30 pm (Monday-Friday) and 8:00 pm (Saturday).
  • From Keaukaha: 4:40 pm (Monday-Saturday).

The bus is a good way to see other parts of the island besides Hilo, such as Kona on the other side of the island. There are two buses daily Monday-Saturday that go to Kona. The first bus leaves the UH Hilo campus at 9:08 am and arrives in Kona (at K-Mart) at 11:45 am. The second bus leaves campus at 1:15 pm and arrives in Kona (at K-Mart) at 4:25 pm. To return to Hilo from Kona, there are two buses daily, Monday-Saturday. The first bus leaves Kona (from K-Mart) at 6:45 am and arrives at the UH Hilo campus at 10:00 am. The second bus leaves Kona (from K-Mart) at 4:03 pm and arrives in Hilo at the Moʻoheau Bus Terminal in downtown Hilo at 7:00 pm (note that this bus does not stop at the UH Hilo campus).

Bus Fares

Bus fares are currently $1.00 for UH Hilo students with a valid UH Hilo ID card. There is a charge of $1.00 each for luggage, large backpacks, and bicycles. The fare for people without valid UH Hilo ID cards is $2.00.

Shared Ride Taxi Program

The County of Hawaiʻi offers a flexible shared ride taxi program. For as little as $2.00/coupon, obtain door-to-door transportation service within most areas of Hilo. This service is from “door-to-door” anywhere in the Hilo city area and is limited to a distance of 9 miles from your pick-up to destination. The taxi companies have the right to pick up additional riders and to set their hours of service. Travel from 1-4 miles costs 1 coupon per person; travel from 4.1-9 miles costs 2 coupons per person. Travel is limited to 9 miles. Shared ride taxi coupons are available at the Da Lava Tube in the Campus Center, the Moʻoheau Bus Terminal in downtown Hilo, and the Mass Transit Agency office. Not all taxi companies participate in the Shared Ride Taxi Program. View a list of taxi companies that participate in the shared ride program .


Regular taxi fares are set by law and should be the same for any taxi company. Approximate taxi rate is $3.00 for the first 1/8 mile (or minute of waiting) plus $0.30 for each additional 1/8 mile (or minute of waiting). Additional charges include $3.00 for a bicycle or surfboard and $1.00 for each piece of luggage. Waiting time is charged when passengers need to make stops prior to reaching their final destination. The rates are provided as a guide to help you make transportation choices and are not guaranteed. They are subject to change at anytime. Please consult your taxi dispatcher or taxi driver for current fares and information. View a list of taxi companies in Hilo.


Before you begin driving an automobile, it is important to be aware of the responsibilities involved in the State of Hawaiʻi and the United States.

Hawaiʻi State Driver’s License

To drive legally in the State of Hawaiʻi, you must have one of the following:

  • A valid State of Hawaiʻi driver’s license, or
  • Be at least 18 years of age and have a valid driver’s license issued by any U.S. state or U.S. territory, or
  • A valid foreign driver’s license along with an International Driving Permit.

Obtaining a Hawaiʻi Driver’s License

Before you can take a written test, you must obtain and present a passport and a U.S. social security number or letter of denial from the Social Security Office. (See Social Security Numbers section above.)

You should obtain and study the Hawaiʻi Driver's Manual which you can buy at most book stores and Long’s drugstore.

When you are ready to take a written test make sure you bring your Social Security Card or a letter of denial, your passport, Hawaiʻi State ID, or out-of-state driver’s license or International Driver’s license (if you have one) to the Hilo Police Station Driver’s License section, located at 349 Kapiolani Street. You must take and pass the written examination covering the information in the Hawaiʻi Driver's Manual. After you pass the exam, you will be charged and will be issued a Temporary Instruction Permit. With this permit, you may drive, but you must be accompanied by a licensed driver. If you fail the exam, you must wait one week before taking the driver performance test. Unless you are operating a moped, motor scooter or motorcycle, the licensed driver must sit beside you. A Permit is valid for 3 months. You can renew this Permit, but you must do so before it expires. Please see the table of fees below.

Driver License Fees

Fee Type Fee Amount
Application Free $1.00
Out of State Application Fee $4.00
Written Test (Pass or Fail) $1.00
Instruction Permit $10.00
Road Test $5.00
Out of State (2yrs.) $6.00
Our of State (6yrs.) $18.00
New License (2yrs.) $6.00
New License (4yrs.) $12.00
New License (6yrs. ) $18.00
Renewals (2yrs.) $6.00
Renewals (6yrs.) $18.00
Duplicate License $5.00

Before you practice driving or operating a car, scooter, or motorcycle (including rentals) be sure you are covered with current “No Fault Insurance” or you can be fined up to $1,000. You can also be imprisoned for 30 days or your driver’s license may be suspended and the vehicle registration may be taken away. When you are ready to take the Driver Performance Test, you must:

  • Make an appointment with the Driver Licensing Office.
  • Go to the Licensing Office with the type of vehicle for which you want a license (moped, motorcycle, or car). The vehicle (other than a moped) must have “No Fault Insurance”, current registration and safety sticker. You will be asked to show proof of these papers.
  • You must be accompanied by a licensed driver.
  • You must have your Temporary Driver License Permit with you.
  • You will be charged.If you fail the test, you must take the test over, and there is no time limit between test, but you will have to make another appointment and pay another fee for each test. If you pass the test, you will be issued a Temporary Driver’s License, and your permanent license will be mailed to you within three months, for a fee of $18.00.
Additional Notes on Driver’s License
A driver’s license from another state is valid for driving in Hawaiʻi until its expiration date. An international driver’s license in combination with another country’s driver’s license is valid for driving in Hawaiʻi for one year after issuance date of the international driver’s license. If you wish to obtain a Hawaiʻi driver’s license without taking the driving exam, you must complete all licensing procedures before your out-of-state license expires. Once your out-of-state license expires, you have to take the road test as well. You must pass a 30-question multiple choice examination with no more than six errors. If you fail the exam, you must wait one week before retaking it. If you wish to obtain a license for the first time or you possess an international driver’s license and another country’s license, you must successfully pass both the written and road tests. After payment of the required fee (see above) you will be issued a temporary license good for 90 days. You should receive your permanent license within four to six weeks.
When you drive a car, motorcycle or moped you may be required to show a proof of driving permit or license. (See Obtaining a Hawaiʻi Driver’s License)
Automobile Insurance
Each driver in the state of Hawaiʻi must carry proof of liability insurance. This is insurance to cover damage of other people and the property of others in case you are at fault in an accident. You will always need to carry a proof of automobile insurance in your car. This is sent to you by the insurance company. The fine for not having car insurance is $1,000. It is even greater if you are involved in a an accident without car insurance. For names and specific companies that will cover international students, contact the International Student Services Office. You will need to make an appointment with insurance companies to obtain a price quote in person. The cost will not be given over the phone.
State Inspection Sticker
On your car’s rear bumper, there is a colored sticker with a large printed number. This number indicates the month in which the car must be inspected. The lights, brakes, tires, horn and other basic features must operate to pass inspection. If you do not obtain a new inspection sticker before the old one expires, you may get a traffic ticket. Look for a gas station with signs indicating that they do inspections. The cost is approximately $16 and you may wish to call to see if an appointment is necessary.
Car Title and License Plates
If you buy an automobile, especially a used one, you must be careful. If you do buy a car, be sure to get a bill of sale (receipt) and the car title. You must then go to the (County Tax Assessor/Collector’s Office) in order to transfer and register the car in your name. At that time you may also obtain a license plates for your car. These must be renewed annually. Notice the month of expiration and purchase a new renewal sticker before it expires or you may be issued a ticket by the police. The central office of the Tax Assessor/Collector is located behind Kaaiko’o Mall. For more information, call (808) 961-8351.


If you have an automobile accident, you are required to stop at the scene. Be sure to obtain the other driver’s name, address and phone number. Also be sure to exchange information on insurance companies! Hawaiʻi police officers cannot come to the scene of all accidents, however, you should call the police to inform them of the accident even if there are no injuries. In case you receive a traffic ticket (or have an accident), come to the International Student Services Office to discuss the situation. At times there may be an alternative to paying an expensive fine immediately.


You do not need a license to ride a bicycle, but you do need a bicycle license when you buy a used or new bicycle. When you purchase a new bicycle, the dealer will assist you in filling out and submitting the forms for a license. When you purchase a bicycle, obtain a bill of sale and any registration forms, if available, and submit them with $8 to the Treasury Division, Hawaiʻi County. You must obey all traffic laws pertaining to bicycles and have a current license sticker attached to the bicycle.

Bicycle Safety

Because many students do not own cars in Hilo and public transportation is not easily accessible, bicycles can be a convenient means of transportation. However, there are not many bicycle lanes in and around Hilo, which can make bike riding dangerous. Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the following safety rules.

  • Wear a helmet. An unprotected head is highly susceptible to injury, even from the slightest contact. There are many helmets which are lightweight and comfortable.
  • Use proper hand signals when riding. It is very important that motorists around you can predict what you intend to do so they can adjust their driving.
  • Ride on the correct side of the road. Never ride against traffic; always ride with the traffic!
  • Ride single file when riding with others.
  • If riding at night remember that your bike must be equipped with headlights and taillights. It is recommended that you wear light colored clothing and that you use reflective tape on you bike, clothing, etc. so that you can be easily spotted.
  • Regular bicycle maintenance is very important. Servicing you bike regularly will help to prevent accidents due to equipment failure.
  • Ride defensively. Expect the unexpected!

Remember, you are hard to see and although cycling is becoming more popular, many drivers are not trained to recognize the rights of a bicycle rider.


An alternative to riding a bicycle is a moped. A moped is the least expensive motorized vehicle to operate because of its high fuel efficiency and no insurance requirement. However, you must have a driver’s license, registration, and safety check.

You may operate a moped legally in Hawaiʻi if:

  • You are 15 with a valid driver’s license or a valid moped license or permit; or
  • You are non-resident driver who is 18 years or older with a valid license from any U.S. state, territory or Canada; or
  • You are 18 years or older with valid license from a foreign country and have been in this country less than one year. A valid State of Hawaiʻi driver’s license must be obtained if you are in the country for more than one year.

When you purchase a new moped, the dealer will assist you in filling out and submitting registration and license form. The dealer will also perform a safety check. You will receive the license in the mail in one to two weeks. The sticker you receive must be checked annually. You also must have a current safety check before registering the moped. When purchasing a used moped, obtain a bill of sale, transfer of ownership and registration forms, and current safety check form. To register the moped and obtain a license, take the registration and safety check receipt along with $8 to the Treasury Division in your county.

When operating a moped, you must obey all the basic traffic laws and special laws for mopeds.

The special rules for Mopeds include:

  • Do not drive faster than 35 miles per hour
  • Do not carry any passengers


For operating a motorcycle, you must have a valid driver’s license in the proper category. See the Hawaiʻi Driver’s Manual for more details. Also, you must have “No Fault Insurance" to operate a motorcycle. You will also need to register the motorcycle every year; registering a motorcycle is similar to registering an automobile. An annual motorcycle inspection is required by certified motorcycle inspection station. It must have a current safety check before it can be registered each year. When operating a motorcycle, make sure that you have in you possession the following:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Motorcycle registration
  • “No Fault Insurance”
  • Current safety sticker

Religion & Spirituality

Hilo has numerous churches and places of worship for many different faiths and religions. and AreaConnect are two websites that list churches and places of worship in the Hilo area. There are also several student clubs on campus that have a spiritual focus.

American Culture

Below is an introduction to American and Hawaiian values and aspects of life and suggestions on how to help you successfully adjust to living in Hawaiʻi and in the United States. While the State of Hawaiʻi is part of the United States, it is important to keep in mind that the culture and values expressed in Hawaiʻi are often quite different than those in the continental United States.

Characteristics of U.S. American Culture

Goal and achievement oriented
Americans think they can accomplish just about anything given enough time, money and technology.
Highly organized and Institutionalistic
Americans prefer a society that is strong institutionally, secure, and tidy or well-kept.
Freedom-loving and self-reliant
Americans fought a revolution and subsequent wars to preserve their concept of democracy, so they resent too much control or interference, especially by government or external forces. They believe an ideal that all persons are created equal: though they sometimes fail to live that ideal fully, they strive through laws to promote equal opportunity and to confront their own racism or prejudice. They also idealize the self-made person who rises from poverty and adversity, and think they can influence and create their future. Control of one's destiny is popularly expressed as "doing your own thing." Americans think, for the most part, that with determination and initiative, one can achieve whatever he or she sets out to do, thus fulfilling that individual's human potential.
Work-oriented and efficient
Americans possess a strong work ethic, though they are learning in the present generation to enjoy leisure time constructively (although often competitively). They are very time conscious and efficient in doing things. They tinker with gadgets and technological systems, always searching for easier, better, more efficient ways of accomplishment.
Friendly and informal
Americans rejected the traditional privileges of royalty and class, but do defer to those with affluence and power. Although informal in greeting and dress, they are a non-contact culture (e.g., avoid embracing in public usually) and maintain certain physical/psychological distance with others (e.g. about two feet).
Competitive and aggressive
Americans in play or business are generally oriented towards winning due to their drive to achieve and succeed.
Although Americans seemingly emphasize material values, they are a sharing people as has been demonstrated in the Marshall Plan, foreign aid programs, refugee assistance, and their willingness at home or abroad to espouse a good cause and to help neighbors in need. They tend to be altruistic and some would say naive as a people.

Aspects of U.S. American Life

The dominant mode of activity in mainstream American society is "doing." U.S. Americans have a preoccupation with time, organization, and he use of resources so that everything has to have a purpose that is measurable. "Getting things done" is an American characteristic. In their social relationships they assume that everyone is equal and this removes the need for elaborate forms of social address. Social relationships are characterized by informality and social reciprocities are much less clearly defined. Mainstream U.S. Americans are motivated by achievement and accomplishment. Their identity and to a certain extent their self-worth is measured by what they achieve. They also assume that the work is material rather than spiritual and man's purpose is to overcome or conquer the forces of nature. Mainstream Americans also see themselves as individual and unique. International visitors have stated that the following aspects of American life are often the most confusing and difficult to understand:

Pace of life
Visitors from many countries outside the U.S. are amazed and often somewhat distressed at the rapid pace of American life and the accompanying emphasis on punctuality and efficiency.
Because Americans are generally gregarious when first meeting someone, visitors often mistake this strong "come-on" as the beginning of a deep reciprocal friendship. This is because in many societies there is much more initial reserve in interpersonal relations, particularly with strangers. For many visitors, the American comes on too strong too soon and then fails to follow up with the implicitly promised friendship.
Service and egalitarianism
The sense of egalitarianism on the part of American waiters, taxi drivers, bellboys, etc., causes them to perform their services in a brusque, business-like manner, without the cordial (and from an American point of view, fawning) manner that many visitors are accustomed to at home. The visitor often compounds this problem by giving what the American service person perceives as an order from on high, thereby causing the service to become even more surly.
Emotional expressiveness
Americans seem to stand near the center of an emotional spectrum that extends out to embrace the effervescent Latins at one extreme and the subdued Southeast Asians at the other. While they appear unemotional and cold to the Latins, they may appear hyperbolic and impulsive to Asians.
Individualism, freedom, and privacy
Some visitors are deeply impressed by the individual freedom, particularly in the political arena, that an American enjoys. Others are appalled, however, by what they sometimes call "too much freedom" in terms of excessive individualism, and cite lack of gun control laws as an example of what they mean.
Self-reliance and the nuclear family
Visitors have ambivalent feelings about the self-reliant American nuclear family. Some are impressed by the parents' handling of household chores and the children's independent assertiveness. Others see the American pattern as abrasive, somewhat chaotic, and lacking the strong extended family supports to which they are accustomed.
Informality and morality
Because many visitors come from societies that stress neat, formal and (by American standards) conservative clothing styles, they are sometimes shocked by what they views as Americans' sloppy way of dressing. Often they tend to equate this informality with immorality, and they are persuaded that America is on the way to moral ruin when they observe provocative clothing styles and public displays of affection.
Reports have reached the four corners of the globe about the high crime rate in American cities. Many new arrivals are thus highly concerned for their personal safety, although some are surprised and somewhat encouraged to find that the violence level is not as high as they had anticipated. As in urban areas anywhere in the world, the wise traveler avoids certain areas of a city at any time, travels if possible in groups, and checks with reliable locals on safe procedures, especially on airport security and the carrying of valuables.
Race relations
Comments from international visitors concerning current race relations in the U.S. mirror the confused, conflicting views expressed by U.S. Americans. Sharp attacks on lingering racial discrimination are mingled with expressions of surprise that race relations is not as a big a problem as some visitors had been led to believe.
Lack of knowledge about other countries
Particularly disheartening to many visitors is the U.S. American's lack of knowledge of and interest in their home countries and cultures. This attitude has developed because of long-standing geographical isolation coupled with the immigrant experience, in which to become a full-fledged member of the "New World" one had to cast aside the customs and culture of the homeland.