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10 Things About America That Confuse Foreigners

Home to several of the world’s most famous cities and landmarks, the United States is always on the receiving end of an influx of tourists. People come from all over the world to see sights like the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other iconic attractions. They also come wanting to experience the American culture that they’ve witnessed through film and television.

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The majority of travelers are impressed and fascinated by America, but there are also parts of it that are a little confusing at first. Keep reading to find out what 10 things about the United States tend to confuse foreigners.

10 The Gaps In Bathroom Stalls

Most foreigners traveling to the United States are a little confused by the significant gaps between stalls in the restroom. In many other countries around the world, the gaps are much smaller (if they’re even there at all), so when tourists visit America, they understandably feel very exposed when using public restrooms.

According to Business Insider, there are a few theories about why the gaps are larger in the U.S. than elsewhere. It could be because restrooms were designed to be revealing on purpose to stop people from getting up to no good in the stalls.

9 The Abundance Of Friendliness

The United States is one of the friendliest countries on the planet. Americans will often say hello to strangers on the street and servers tend to go over the top to make sure they’re smiling and being friendly. Of course, it also depends on where you are in the country—some states and cities are known for being more outgoing than others.

This can be a little overwhelming to those from other countries who aren’t used to strangers making conversation. Not that we’re complaining—it’s great that Americans are so friendly. It just takes some getting used to for some tourists!

8 A Currency Where All The Notes Look The Same

One of the biggest tips for anybody traveling to the United States for the first time is to get familiar with the local currency. When the bank notes are the same color and the same size, it’s very easy to accidentally give someone the wrong bill.

Getting used to the local currency is difficult when you come from a country where the money is all different colors and sizes. There’s also the array of coins to get used to! Luckily, we’re now in an age where paying with a card is the norm.

7 Referring To University As College

When Americans talk about going to college, foreigners can often get confused because they tend to refer to tertiary education institutions as universities instead. Interestingly, research shows that college and university are actually a little different. College just offers undergraduate programs, while a university offers graduate programs as well.

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The college experience itself can be quite different in other countries from the way it is in the United States too. In Australia, for example, many students attend universities in their home cities without ever residing on campus.

6 Free Drink Refills

This is one thing about the United States that many foreigners don’t experience at home. And while it may come as a surprise, it’s certainly a welcomed surprise in many cases! Throughout the country, many food outlets will offer free drink refills. This is vastly different from other countries, where you have to pay for every drink you buy.

While in America, many travelers take advantage of this system by filling up their drinks as many times as they can during their meal. It’s not every day at home that they get free drinks!

5 All The Supersized Food

The United States has a reputation for dishing up incredibly large portions of food. While this isn’t the case everywhere you go, most foreigners find that the serving sizes are generally enormous compared to what they are at home.

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You can get novelty supersize portions in America that hardly anybody would actually be able to finish, but many of the average servings are just bigger than what many tourists are used to. As a result, many foreigners feel overwhelmed by food by the end of their trips to the United States.

4 The Cheerleading Phenomenon

Cheerleading is a part of American culture, so most Americans probably don’t realize that it’s a completely foreign phenomenon to a lot of people from overseas. While there are cheerleading competitions in other countries, in many places it’s a niche sport rather than a mainstream one. Indeed, the only experience that many foreigners have with cheerleading is watching the Bring It On movies.

This means that when foreigners attend sports games in the United States, they’re equally impressed and intrigued by the cheerleaders as they are by the actual game.

3 Using Hands To Play Football

Speaking of sports games, many foreign visitors love taking the opportunity to attend a football game while in the United States. These games are huge events with a fantastic atmosphere and are another quintessential part of American culture. As enjoyable as they are, though, they still confuse foreigners.

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In Europe and Britain, football is a game played with your feet. Hence the “foot” ball. Americans call this soccer, which isn’t as popular a sport as the NFL. Foreigners tend to be confused by this because American football is mostly played with your hands.

2 Greeting People With “How Are You”

Though English is the official language in many countries, slight differences in use between different vernaculars can lead to a lot of confusion between those who theoretically speak the same language. In America, for example, people tend to use the phrase “how are you?” as a greeting.

When Americans say this, they’re not usually looking for an answer as to how you are. It’s just a way of saying hello. Many foreigners miss this memo, so they might think that the greeting is actually a question enquiring into their wellbeing.

1 The Tipping Culture

Tipping is a crucial part of the way things are done in the United States. A lot of people in the service industry rely on tips, so tipping is expected. This can throw off some foreign travelers who aren’t used to tipping at all.

While you’ll find tipping in many other countries throughout the world too, it doesn’t tend to be as commonplace as it is in the United States. When you come from a country where you’re used to paying the bill after a meal without adding any tip at all, this can be very confusing.

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