Life Travel

Things Americans Do That People From Other Countries Think Are Totally Strange

Things Americans Do That People From Other Countries Think Are Totally Strange February 18, 2022Leave a comment

America is the land of "the bigger, the better," but some of the most common things throughout the United States seem strange coming from the eyes of tourists. From super-sized meals to the love of all things caffeinated, Americans may think that these customs are completely normal, but people from other parts of the world would beg to differ.

Putting Flags Everywhere


It's not just on the Fourth of July that Americans are patriotic. Some people from other countries think that constantly displaying the American flag isn't just patriotic, but a bit weird.

One Reddit user wrote, “The pledge of allegiance is creepy. I know most Americans just say it because they have to in school but if you listen to the words it sounds strange to have children just chanting it off.”

Not Going to the Doctor


The health care system in America has been up for a lot of debate, and people in other countries think the way Americans deal with health care is totally strange. One Reddit user wrote, “Actively avoiding health care visits/checkups [is strange] because if there's something wrong and you don't have the money to pay for treatment, then you'd rather just not know."

Bathroom Stall Designs

@sarahschauer / Twitter

“Your toilets are too low down and the stalls have massive gaps around the door so that people can see in. You can put a man on the moon but can't design a setup whereby I can take a dump in comfortable privacy. Sort it out America,” wrote orde216 on Reddit. And it's safe to say that even Americans feel weird about this one!

Bread As Sweet As Cake


“Why is bread in the USA so sweet? Sandwich bread, hamburger buns, taste like cake but Americans have no idea what you're talking about because they're used to it,” funfwf wrote on Reddit. Some Americans might have no idea that their bread is so sweet and also might not know that a typical Subway sandwich roll has between three and six grams of sugar per serving!

Medication Ads With a Long List of Side Effects

Twitter / @9cherub

Those ads for medications that pop up during every commercial break are surely a thing to behold for people who aren't used to American advertisements. There are strict rules in the U.S. against misleading drug marketing, which causes massive lists of side effects to be read during every ad placement!

Student Loan Debt


“I come from a place with free university education (which has its own drawbacks of course), and the fact that you can make such a huge, life-altering decision at 17 is considered normal over there, that seems downright bizarre to me,” wrote I_hate_traveling on Reddit. It's not unusual for former students to have between $20,000 and $40,000 worth of debt upon leaving school.

Kinder Egg Surprises

Twitter / @TheeHyde

“honestly the american ban on kinder eggs is so absurd, I can only think it's really rooted in jealous outrage that they didn't think of putting toys in chocolate first,” wrote @fozmeadows on Twitter.

Sadly, Americans can't enjoy the famous chocolate egg with a toy inside because the FDA doesn't allow confections that contain a “non-nutritive object” inside.

Paid Maternity Leave


Maternity leave is a basic right in other countries, but Americans still have to wonder if they'll be able to leave their job if they should have a child, let alone get paid for their time off.

“I make $26/h. Get 5 weeks paid vacation (I pay ca. 30% Gov. tax + ca. 2% Social tax) 30 min paid lunch break. If need be; call in sick 12 days/yr with pay. Go to doctor/dentist during work hrs. - still get paid. The US seems like a different planet to me,” wrote Norwegian @SagbakMarit on Twitter.

A Ton of Ice in Beverages

Twitter / @chloe_am_baker

If you order a soda at any restaurant in America, it'll probably come with a ton of ice. It may seem strange for Americans to imagine any other way to get a beverage, but in other countries, there's more drink in your cup than frozen water. The love of ice may date back to the 19th century, when ice was still considered a luxury item, but it's anyone's guess why the practice has preserved.

Tipping Waiters


“How much are you meant to tip? Why do you have to pay the worker on top of what you've already paid for? Coming from New Zealand, it just confuses me and doesn't make sense that workers get so underpaid they have to rely on the amount of money that someone decides to give them in order to have a decent income,” wrote jadermeister on Reddit.

Microwaving Water For Tea

@cristina_rodriguez2 / Twenty20

Other countries, like England, are serious about their tea. They would shriek if they ever saw an American put a mug of water in the microwave to ready it for a cup of tea! The proper way to prepare tea is with a kettle over the stovetop or an electric kettle, but some Americans just can't find the time for that in their fast-paced lives.

The Voting Age is Lower Than the Drinking Age

@g_dezigner / Twenty20

“Do Americans realize how it makes no sense that you drive at 16, vote at 18 and drink at 21?” wrote @chavseok on Twitter. And that fact isn't lost on American citizens either, who feel that being able to put your life in danger by enlisting in the military at 18 should also mean that you're of sound enough mind to enjoy a drink every once in a while, too!

Your Job Is Your Identity

@galinkazhi / Twenty20

Reddit user Ssffxx wrote, “I live outside the U.S. and realized there are some people I’ve known for years and I still don’t know their job. I think in the U.S. jobs are a bigger part of a person’s identity than in some other places.”

What's most baffling is that many steady jobs in America offer few benefits to their workers, while some other countries have guaranteed paid vacation time, health benefits and sick leave for virtually all career paths.

Moving Out of the House at 18

@cookienanster / Twenty20

“I live in Southeast Asia. There's no stigma about living with one's parents. Most of the time, there will be three generations living in one house,” wrote redditor HollowMist11. The practice of forcing your kids to move out of the house once they hit adulthood isn't as common in other countries as it is in the U.S. and it's expected that children can live at home until they're financially ready to move on.

Writing the Date

@TatianaMara / Twenty20

“My fiancé worked overseas for years and this drives him absolutely insane. He refuses to do it, and does the 09SEP2020 and it confuses the heck out of people and he refuses to stop. They had to redo our mortgage paperwork because the idiot lady didn’t understand how to enter the date right and put the month as 18 — THERE ISN’T AN 18TH MONTH!” wrote passivelyrepressed on Reddit.

Massive Sodas and Free Refills


“When I went over from the UK, I deliberately bought a large McDonalds cup, just to take back with me to show everyone the sheer size of their portions. Most people I showed were in awe, and I usually forgot to tell them about the refills, as well,” wrote jakukufumenase on Reddit.

Imperial System vs. Metric System


The United States is one of only three countries in the world that don't use the metric system, so it's obvious why many people in the world get a little annoyed when an American doesn't know how long a meter is. The decision to stick to the imperial system dates back to Thomas Jefferson's lifetime, when the former Secretary of State passed on implementing the new metric system.

Being Obsessed with Coffee


The average coffee drinker in America drinks about three cups per day on average, and even though other countries enjoy a cup of joe every so often, the culture surrounding coffee in America is what most foreigners find strange. Caffeine seems to be just another thing that Americans take to the extreme.

Not Including Tax on Price Tags


Many European countries include taxes in the final sale price, so you don't have to worry about what your total will be when you reach the cash register. The unnecessary stress that unforeseen taxes add to a typical run to the grocery store should be enough to do away with the practice once and for all.

An Obsession with Pickles


“Pickles. Your hidden love for pickles. I have been in the states for like 8 years and you guys give a pickle with everything,” gripes greenandgold52 on Reddit.

Americans love their pickles so much that many take-away meals are served with a pickle on the side. That might date back to the earliest Jewish delis in New York, who always served a sandwich with a pickle as a palate cleanser.

Calling Items By Their Brand Names

@melpaul199 / Twenty20

If you have a cold, do you reach for a tissue or a Kleenex? How about when you scrape your knee? Do you rummage around searching for a bandage or a Band-Aid?

“Everything is known as the brand. Like everything. In the U.K. we have jelly and there are many brands of it, but in America they call it Jell-O which is a specific brand. Plasters are all called Band-Aid and so on,” wrote coollikechris on Reddit.

Having Sweets For Breakfast

@JulieK / Twenty20

“Donuts, Belgian waffles, pancakes with syrup and icing, sugary cereal — it’s a uniquely American thing to start your day loaded with sugar,” wrote Parallelglow on Reddit. Some other countries see nothing wrong with starting your day with the same kind of meal that you would eat at dinner time, like in Korea, where soup, sandwiches and rice are common dishes to eat at breakfast.

Strange Financial Decisions

@TatianaMara / Twenty20

Americans tend to put a lot of purchases on credit, and buying things that you don't have the money for isn't the only strange financial decision people across the country make. “Having second mortgages on a house. Taking massive loans they can't possibly pay off and buying stuff with it that decreases in value over time such as cars,” wrote realultralord on Reddit.

College Fraternities and Sororities

@mattbannister / Twenty20

“Explaining Greek life in college whenever I’m abroad made me realize how bizarre it is,” wrote Sufficient-Shallot on Reddit. The American practice has been around as long as the country itself, but although fraternities and sororities began as ways for students to have academic debates outside class, they're mostly associated now with parties and excessive drinking.

Daycare Services

@mazankotanya / Twenty20

Man other cultures are used to having a work-life balance that allows new parents to spend more hours with their children than is typical in America.

“Pretty much all parents recognize this practice is worse for babies than having a dedicated family caregiver, most will admit that it is outright unethical, but American society requires cash flows to remain intact for a family to survive so it is commonplace for U.S. workers to reluctantly choose to go back to work ASAP following birth. They are basically choosing between food on the table or raising their own infant,” wrote Suolucidi on Reddit.

Referring to Your Heritage as Your Identity

@nlfr.yldz / Twenty20

“Americans will say that they’re Italian, German, Polish, etc. when they don’t speak the language and have no real connection to those countries anymore. In other parts of the world people just identify with the country they were born in or have lived in for a significant amount of time regardless of their ancestry,” wrote bluegreentree on Reddit.

Paying Money to File Your Taxes

@Pixella / Twenty20

"A lot of other countries including Australia file their taxes for free through a government website and it often takes less than 15 minutes. Because of American's lack of trust for the government we give our personal information to a third party company that then charges us to take our information to the government which already has most of it,” wrote MTGamer on Reddit.

Thinking That You Don't Have an Accent

@shanti / Twenty20

“It's a pretty common linguistic misconception in almost all languages that the people speaking the common/standard version of the language have "no accent" compared to people from particular regions, rural pockets, etc. Every speaker of every language has an accent. Something registers as an accent to you if it sounds weird or uncommon compared to what you're used to,” wrote nehala on Reddit.

Customer Service Culture

@ijeab / Twenty20

Americans' notion that "the customer is always right" just doesn't seem right in other parts of the world, where it's less normalized to feel entitled to things, no matter which side of the counter you're on. But anyone who has worked a customer service job in the U.S. knows that they are often on the receiving end of constant complaints, arguments and less than stellar tips.

Saying “How Are You?” Instead of “Hello”


If you ask someone “how are you?” you probably wouldn’t expect a lengthy answer, but people from other countries would probably see that as an open opportunity to chat. That’s why in most other places in the world, a simple greeting like “hello” is the best way to greet people. 

Smiling at Anyone and Everyone


"Come visit the Midwest. People who just met you feel perfectly comfortable acting like an old friend." wrote NoNeed2RGue on Reddit. But many other people from around the don’t agree that a smile is friendly. Some countries in Europe find smiling to be synonymous with low IQ and other countries think that smiling for no reason comes off as phony.

Never Going on Vacation


Americans get little to no vacation time to use during the year, and workers can even be looked down on for taking their time off. In France, it’s common for most workers to vacation during the entire month of August, so it can be difficult to find some services, like dry cleaners and dentists, during the month.

Red Solo Cups


"Met some Swiss guys at a house party after a mutual friends wedding. They couldn't believe that we were all actually drinking out of red solo cups, it blew their minds. They kept on taking pictures and saying, 'It's just like the movies!'" wrote DillSe on Reddit.

Boring Cash


World currency is sometimes colorful with bright colors and eye-catching pictures, and compared to most other currencies, American cash is pretty boring. Every bill is green and nearly indistinguishable from each other for seemingly no reason.

Worthless Coins


Americans typically don’t use a lot of pennies when they have them in their pockets, and that’s an unusual thing for some people around the world to understand. Pennies also cost more to produce than they are worth, so it’s anyone’s guess why the government still produces so many of the copper coin. 

24-Hour Restaurants 


It’s not just New York City that stays open all night. All across America are restaurants that stay open through the night and into the morning, even if they aren’t very popular during the night. Fast food chains like Taco Bell and McDonald’s, and even a lot of Walmart locations, stay open during all hours of the day throughout the country. 

Enforcing the Drinking Age for Adults


If you’re buying alcohol at the grocery store, you’ll probably be asked for your ID, even if you’re in your 80’s. Tourists from other countries learn quickly that they can’t order a drink wherever they want without some form of ID on them, even if it’s obvious that they’re of drinking age. 



Cheerleaders cheer along the sidelines of many American sports, but it’s not a phenomenon that exists worldwide. Cheering is even a sport in and of itself and cheer squads often compete against each other. But you won’t see cheerleaders at the World Cup or the Olympics. 

To-Go Coffee


It’s well established that Americans are obsessed with their coffee, but most Americans aren’t aware that people from other countries find it strange to drink out of a huge cup of coffee all day long. In many European countries, people typically have one cup of coffee after a meal and prefer to sip on water throughout the day. 



The United States is a pretty big country compared to most other countries in the world and driving is a popular pastime in every state. That’s why drive-through restaurants have seen a lot of popularity over the last century. That and the fact that these locations provide fast and easy meals for the rushed American lifestyle. 

Running the Air Conditioner All Day


"Americans tend to keep their thermostats at the same temperature all year around. In contrast, Europeans tend to set their thermostats higher in summer and lower in winter.  Consequently, while indoors, Europeans wear sweaters in winter, while American wear sweaters in summer," researcher Micahel Sivak told The Washington Post. 



Stores like Costco, Walmart and Target are massive compared to grocery stores in other parts of the world. And some people would be surprised to learn how often Americans buy in bulk. Stores like Costco make it possible to stock up on a year’s worth of toilet paper at once, but where will you put all of it when you get home? 

Pharmacies with Endless Aisles 


In England, pharmacists sell only medicine and medical supplies, not makeup, snacks and cleaning supplies. But chain stores like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid double as convenience stores and even grocery stores that sometimes supply everything from fresh fruit to books. 

Massive Portions at Restaurants 

Wikimedia Commons / vagueonthehow / CC 2.0

"My one piece of American culinary advice: order the medium," one New Zealander wrote on the blog Stuff. "Sometimes I enjoy ordering freakishly large things over here—it turns consumption into tourism and makes me feel as though I'm at a carnival. I also like a challenge. But seriously, don't do it. It's not good."

Incredibly Attentive Servers 


In Europe, it’s common for servers to give you your order and leave you alone for the rest of the meal while you eat in peace. So many tourists are surprised to find that American servers check in on diners several times during their meal, and even urge them to take care of their bill. 

Endless Choices on the Menu


Chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Cheesecake Factory have pages upon pages of menu options from drinks to desserts and everything in between. In many other places in the world, restaurants will stick to one type of food and you can’t make many substitutions on what you order. 

Handing Over Your Credit Card


After a good meal, you probably have no issue handing your credit card to your waiter, who will take it to the back and bring you a receipt when they return. But in some other countries, waiters charge your card at the table so your precious information is never out of your sight. 

Advertisements for Lawyers


It’s not uncommon to see personal injury lawyers representing their services on TV ads, but these would never air in other countries. People who serve the public, like lawyers or doctors, typically let their services do the talking in other parts of the world. 

Wearing Pajamas and Gym Clothes in Public


Yoga pants and Uggs may be all you can muster to slip on before you head out on a trip to the grocery store, but people from other countries would think that you were lazy for not changing into something meant for going out in instead. But Americans often put comfort first; who can forget that Snuggie craze?

Huge Bottles of Wine


If you’ve ever been to Costco or another superstore in America, you might have caught a glimpse of a super-sized wine bottle. Some stores even sell 3-liter bottles of wine, which isn’t the norm in America, but also isn’t off limits. People from France and Italy would certainly balk at those extra-large wine glasses, too. 

Deep-Fried Everything


Not only do Americans love French fries, fried chicken and chicken-fried steak, but deep-fried Oreos are also popular at festivals, fairs and even some restaurants. Tourists are often confused about why these extremely unhealthy, and sometimes bland, food items are so popular. 

Grape-Flavored Skittles


"To be fair, almost nothing in the US is grape-flavored. It's purple-flavored,” wrote Sanfode on Reddit. And that’s kind of true. In other countries, the purple flavor of Skittles tastes like blackcurrant, a fruit that is banned in America for causing the wood-destroying disease white pine blister rust. 

Refrigerated Eggs 


American eggs are typically washed in a very thorough process that removes the egg’s outer protective layer. In other countries, the eggs are unwashed and safe to eat without refrigeration due to the outer layer that keeps eggs safe from bacteria and other harmful substances. 

Endless Commercials


It’s not unusual to see a television program in Europe presented entirely without commercials, so they find commercial breaks to be very inconvenient. A half hour show can sometimes have as many as six minutes of ad time and Psychology Today reported that, "The U.S. has by far the highest number of TV ad minutes per hour in the industrialized world, two-to-three times the minutes allowed in European countries.

Speaking Loudly 


"I’m currently on a Europe trip and one thing that is really annoying me as an American, is how loud my fellow countrymen talk. Whether it be on a tour bus, mornings at the hotel breakfast wherever they always talk louder than anybody else. What about our culture is producing that and has anybody else noticed it?" an anonymous American complained on an online forum. 

Gender Reveal Parties


People from other countries don’t take part in gender reveal parties, and they see them as a kind of ridiculous tradition. “Yeah, it's only something that exists in American TV shows. And even in those it's super rare. It's one of those things that if you see it in a show, you assume they made it up for TV," a German person shared on Reddit. 

Clothes Dryers 


Even though a lot of Americans have homes with spacious yards, very few of them use that yard space for a clothesline to dry their clothes on. Most people in the world air dry their clothes, which saves a lot of money on electricity costs over time. 


Flickr / lordsutch / CC 2.0

Most American households have a microwave, but it’s pretty normal to not have one in other parts of the world. People from Europe might be surprised to hear that you use a microwave everyday, and would be even more surprised to hear what you microwave. TV dinners are uniquely American, especially ones with multiple food items on one tray. 

Massive Parking Lots 

Flickr / stopbits / CC 2.0

"You guys drive everywhere. The parking lots at NFL stadiums are ridiculous in size. Most UK soccer stadiums either don't have car parks, or they are absolutely tiny." wrote HoraceDerwent on Reddit.

A Love of the Outdoors

Flickr / trekkingrinjani / CC 2.0

"I guess one thing that's odd is that the average American seems a lot more attuned to the outdoors than we are. I've seen Americans sporadically ask their friends if they want to go on a night hike or go hunting. Generally if you hunt animals in the UK, you're part of the nobility,” wrote Comradmiral on Reddit.

Small Talk with Strangers


“Talking about and sharing your life with complete strangers,” wrote WuuutWuuut on Reddit. “I have met quite a few Americans, and it seems the norm that you share and engage with strangers in public. The bus, train, parks, etc. And then you go on your way. In Denmark you’d be a freak if you did that."