America is full of charming characteristics and witty quirks that can often take some time for tourists to get used to. People from around the world will begin to notice differences between their culture and the culture in America as soon as they step foot in The United States and sometimes, their eyebrows will be raising from surprise. Usually, this will begin in the form of huge smiles and friendly conversations from complete strangers, something most of the world isn't used to. In cultures where talking to people that we don't know is something that never happens, people are often taken aback by the openness and chatty nature of the people America. Although friendliness might be the first, it isn't the only thing people find weird about the US and after some consideration, maybe we find them a little strange too.
A visitor's first dining experience will always bring added confusion when seeing how many options there are on every local menu. Many are then completely gobsmacked at the size of the meal they receive, thinking that their own plate was meant for two. When it comes to paying, foreigners are confused with bills that are all the same colour and coins that all have nicknames. Seeing added taxes on the bill and trying to work out how much money must be left as a tip has travellers scratching their heads every time. Just to name a few of the customs from America that have people from abroad struck with astonishment.
Today we are counting down our top 25 US traits that the rest of the world find completely bizarre!
25 we have massive portion sizes
Any person visiting America for the first time will be shocked at the size of their meals. It really isn't anywhere else in the world that serves food sizes quite like America. Whether it is ordering a small meal at Mcdonalds and it being the size of their size 'large' back home or ordering a burger that is bigger than one's own head, America does everything larger than the rest of the world. Where most locals can finish off their meals without a problem, tourists are struggling to finish half their plate.
24 intense food combinations
Food combinations are almost famously a US thing. Being able to have a sweet and savoury dish or a dish that is half breakfast and half lunch on the same plate is very common in America but not in many other places in the world. Some of the strangest US combinations are pancakes with bacon, apple pie with melted cheese and sandwiches with fruit and mayonnaise. Any of these combinations may be a local sensation but will surely have any foreigners eyes exploding with confusion!
23 The Tv commercials
Television commercials in the US, especially the Superbowl commercials have become quite the sight to see for many people around the world. Seeing commercials as a high-quality performance, more like a mini TV show that not only sells a product but an emotion too is very strange for tourists in the US. Also, seeing commercial ads for prescription drugs is very weird for those who don't have such commercials for this on their own TV's back home. Commercials in the US seem to be larger, longer and more intense than many Tv's around the world.
22 free refills
The world is baffled by the free refill system in the US. In the US it's possible to order one drink and consume 3 or 4 times the original amount. How can one order and pay for only one coffee, yet be allowed to drink 3 throughout breakfast? Or when out for dinner have the unlimited ability to order a soda and get free refills until your meal is finished? The novelty for visitors soon wears off when their head shortly begins to ache from not having the habit of the free-flowing high fructose corn syrup.
21 air conditioning is everywhere
A luxury that so many are yet to experience is air conditioning. For Europeans especially, air conditioning is something a little too modern for their antique architecture. Many Europeans are freezing inside buses or hotels in the US, whereas many people visiting Europe in the summer find the heat unbearable. It is safe to say the air conditioning is something that people from all over the world who don't have it, find very strange and unnecessary.
20 so many fast food options
America has fast food options that seem endless for US visitors. Burgers, tacos, pizza, buffalo wings, doughnuts, you name it, it's done faster in America! According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) nearly 40% of people from the US eat fast food within a 24 hour time gap. Although fast food is readily available throughout the world no other country has the variety or consumption numbers like the US and the fast food options are overwhelming for most US visitors.
19 free public toilets
It wouldn't be too rare to find someone visiting the US and offering money to use a restaurant lavatory or looking for someone to pay as they leave the restroom. In many places throughout the world, you have to pay a coin to use the restroom even if you are a paying customer, but not in the US. Most restaurants and coffee shops tend to not care that much about anyone using the toilet without buying something from their shop in the US and this can feel very strange for people visiting for the first time.
18 everyone wearing gym clothes
Thanks to the Kardashians, or thanks to the utter convenience, gym clothes are a totally acceptable attire for nearly anywhere in the USA. Off to pick the kids up from school, out for coffee with friends, or doing a daily grocery run- sweatpants and trainers are sported everywhere. Where in other places of the world wearing gym clothes symbolises a lack of effort or even giving up on life, tourists seeing so many people confidently wearing gym gear in the US is so very strange!
17 strict ID laws
A lot of the world may seem very relaxed in terms of alcohol regulation compared to the United States. Not only is the drinking age 21 in the States, which is already higher than average, but most establishments also ban anyone from entering a bar under the age of 21 even if they aren't drinking. On top of this, it is custom to ask anyone for ID even if they look well over the age of 21 and a passport is the only form of ID a bar will accept as identification from a tourist. Some people visiting America will be ID'd for the first time in their life when visiting the States and this will be extremely weird for them!
16 expensive education
Post high school education in the United States is quite frankly extremely expensive, there is no denying it! For those in the world who have post-secondary education free of charge, their jaws hit the floor when they first hear the price of US colleges. On top of the price of education, a lot of US students also relocate for college, meaning that they must also pay for rent and living expenses on top of their education fees. This news is just unfathomable and almost impossible to believe for those whose degree comes with no pressure and are still living at home.
15 stores stay open for 24 hours
The ability to go outside and get a midnight feast 7 days a week is something the rest of the world is slow to follow along with. Convenience and accessibility seem to be the centre of the US way of life and although some foreigners might be shocked at being able to get a meal at midnight, they are quick to get used to being able to get whatever they want whenever they want whilst in the US. The freedom to purchase anything you need at a time you need is something the rest of the world might be waiting for.
14 tipping requirements
Most people entering the US for the first time have heard about the tipping requirements and are shocked before they've even arrived. For most people whose country don't require compulsory tipping, getting their heads around contributing to someone else's wage is mind boggling. If one does tip overseas, it is likely only a few dollars and usually only if the services or food was outstandingly amazing! Tipping after every service and up to 20% of the bill is something most foreigners find surprising.
13 extreme friendliness
Culture in America is frequently very friendly, even between complete strangers. It will be completely normal to be complimented on your lovely outfit or pretty eyes by someone you don't even know when visiting the States. In many other countries, being so friendly and welcoming happens only between close family and friends. This openness and enthusiasm can be a tad overwhelming, and a little strange for visitors who are just not used to engaging with strangers in such a friendly way.
12 names of the coins
Why do the coins' names say nothing about their value? How strange! The rest of the world has no idea what they're paying when the waiter asks for a dime or a nickel, and how should they? Adding to the world's' confusion is how the size of the coins gives no help to determine their value either. Why is a nickel bigger than a dime, but worth less? Most coins around the world are named in accordance to their value and it can be unfamiliar for foreigners when coins don't share this similarity in the USA.
11 the measurement system (imperial)
The imperial measurement system just makes no sense to those who don't use it, and we understand why. When most of the world has turned in favour of using the metric system, why America hasn't jumped on the bandwagon puzzles the rest of the world. When people visit the US and see the weather is going to be 80 degrees, it means nothing to them. Every time they want to work out millimetres to inches, math is required and people's heads start to hurt. It is all too hard and to extraneous for those who aren't familiar with inches, feet, yards, and miles.
10 not needing cash
It is very common, actually, to need cash on you in other parts of the world. Buying a bus ticket, paying for anything under $10, even some smaller restaurants around the world only accept cash. Yet, many people in America walk around with cashless wallets! In a country where you can tap anything you need, a price as small as $1 can be paid with a card, America is close to being a cashless society! This surprises many visitors from around the world who are used to paying with cash more than card and can find these plastic advances very unusual.
9 huge range of food options at grocery stores
Many foreigners will walk out of a supermarket in America feeling bewildered for choice. "How many flavours of chips did I just see and was there really an aisle entirely dedicated to sodas? Why so many frozen pizza options and so many brands for milk?" The rest of the world may have a smaller variety of choice in their supermarkets, but they seem to live quite contently with it. Even we have to question if our enormous supermarket variety is entirely necessary.
8 the legal drinking age
Throughout the majority of the world, the legal drinking age is 18, if there is one. According to drinkingage.org, 61% of countries have a drinking age of 18 or 19 years old. So when a 20-year-old arrives in the US and can't buy a beer, yet they've been legally drinking for 2 years, we guarantee they are not enjoying their newfound restrictions! In many European countries, for example, there is a much more relaxed stance on the legal drinking age and public consumption. Regularly, you can freely drink on the streets in many countries and even see children running around bars.
7 the legal driving age
So you can't drink until you are 21 but you can drive a car at 16! How is it possible? The States is causing the world's heads to turn on this one. Seeing such young unaccompanied drivers strolling through the US city streets can be very strange for outsiders whose homes would usually only see drivers over the age of 18. It may come as a shock to some to know that adolescents as young as the age of 14 or 15 can be driving a car alongside an adult supervisor whilst in America and it is a sight no one is getting used to!
6 lack of vacation days
Vacation is, or should be, the most important time of the year for families! This is why it is so surprising for the world to learn how little vacation days America has to offer. According to businessinsider.com "Americans work a bewildering 1,836 hours a year— far more than most of the rest of the world. But they take far less vacation than anyone else." Taking days off work and vacation is so important to the rest of the world that they couldn't fathom only getting 2 weeks paid vacation!
5 no pickpockets?
Throughout many big cities in the world, you will be constantly fed warnings about pickpockets. Whether it’s an announcement on the tube in London or written on a sign by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, pickpockets are still widely affluent throughout many parts of the world. Yet, in America, it seems the art of stealing from the pockets of people is being eliminated. Author of Triumph of the City, Edward Glaeser says “pickpocketing is more or less [gone] in [America]”. Not having to keep guard of your valuables like a watchdog can feel pretty strange for those who are used to doing it at all times when travelling.
4 everything is open on a Sunday and no ‘siesta’
Throughout many places in the world Sundays are still a day of rest, yet throughout America, Sundays run like any other day of the week. No need to do all your shopping before Saturday ends or being stuck without pharmacy access for 24 hours. The US is open for business 7 days a week. Also in many places through Europe businesses are closed between 2-5 for 'siesta' which means nap time in Spanish! European tourists strolling through the street in the US at this time of the day will be surprised to see everything still open for business.
3 Saying ‘how are you’ as a greeting
When walking up to place an order in the US you will often be greeted with, 'hello, how are you?' Although the waiter doesn't really need or want to know a detailed story of how you are feeling, they are just being polite and saying hello. The question 'how are you?' in the US is merely an exchange of 'good thanks and you?' rather than a question with much depth. Most people when asked how they are, are quite used to talking in detail about what is going on in their life and seeing no one in the US really asking for a complete answer is very strange for them, causing responses like, 'well, why did you ask!?'.
2 pharmacies acting as convenience stores
In America pharmacies and supermarkets are interchangeable. This means it is quite possible to get a prescription and get some wine and gum at the same time. It is very rare to see cigarettes and alcohol right next to the prescription counter in many parts of the world. Many who see this for the first time find it odd to see a pharmacy that sells products other than pharmaceutical goods. Seeing a pharmacy that is also acting as a convenience store at the same time is very strange for those who aren't used to it.
1 prices displayed before tax
Many tourists who go shopping in America find themselves a little confused with the pricing system. When the price tag says one cost yet they arrive at the counter seeing a higher number than they originally planned on paying, most tourists feel a little ripped off at first. What happens here is that US stores display prices before tax and once you get your item to the counter the price is not what you first agreed on paying. For many countries whose law includes displaying prices with taxes included, it's a bit strange to get their head around all these 'added' costs.
Sources: bustle.com; businessinsider.com; drinkingage.procon.org; slate.com; time.com; washingtonpost.com; bustle.com