March 15, 2024 | Allison Robertson

Strange American Norms


Strange American Norms

There are many things about America that seem normal to us, but people from other parts of the world consider strange.

Here are 40 of the weirdest things about America—according to foreigners.

flags and shocked woman split image

Non-Color-Coded Paper Money

In the US, paper money is all the same shade of green, and aside from slightly different images, they all look very similar too.

Many other counties have paper money that are different colors, and sometimes different sizes, according to what they’re worth.

US dollar billsrafastockbr, Shutterstock

Extra Ice

You may notice when traveling to Europe that most restaurants don’t use a lot of ice, and sometimes you won’t get any unless you ask for it.

In the US, most people use an excess amount of ice in their drinks.

iced drinkZak Chapman, Pexels

Self-Description

If you grew up in the US, you may consider “America” and “United States” as interchangeable. Many US citizens use “America” to describe ourselves, our customs, and our country.

The rest of the world doesn’t see it this way. The US is not the only “America” out there—there’s also North America and South America.

young beautiful woman holding USA flagRomanets, Shutterstock

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Date Format

Most people in the US write the date using the month-day-year format. But many other places like the UK and Europe use the day-month-year format.

Calendar dateZolak, Shutterstock

Advertising

In a Reddit thread asking the weirdest things Americans do, many users mentioned how strange it was that the US advertised prescription medication.

In many European countries they do not advertise prescription medication anywhere.

pills advertisementMotortion Films, Shutterstock

Flags

Many foreigners find it strange to find American flags hanging everywhere, from businesses to historical sites and even many homes.

We like to fly our flag from our cars, planes and even draw them on things. Other countries don’t do this quite so much.

American flag on a houseBublikHaus, Shutterstock

Pharmacies

In the US, our pharmacies basically double as pharmacies and convenience stores—selling both medications and junk food.

This is not common practice in many other parts of the world.

Target Store PharmacyMike Mozart, Flickr

Sweet Bread

Foreigners have also reported that bread in the US often tastes sweet. Both store bought breads and fresh baked bread.

Slice of breadMagda Ehlers, Pexels

The Imperial System

The US is one of only three countries that still use the imperial system of measurement rather than the metric system, and everyone out there thinks we're strange for doing so.

imperial system of measurementjoelpc, Shutterstock

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TV Commercials

Apparently, when it comes to advertisements, the US has so many more TV commercials than most other countries.

woman looking at ad while watching TVKaspars Grinvalds, Shutterstock

Free Refills

Refilling your drink everywhere you go is actually not the norm in many parts of the world. Foreigners find it strange that in the US free refills are not only offered, but often expected.

France actually banned unlimited refills in 2017.

man pours a fizzy drink into a paper glassGansstock, Shutterstock

Toilet Water

Apparently in the US, we use a lot of water in our toilet bowls. Toilets are certainly different in the US than in other parts of the world—and our water level is one of the main differences.

woman hand flush toiletfeeling lucky, Shutterstock

Bathroom Stalls

While we’re talking about toilets, the US also has much larger gaps in their public bathroom stalls than in other countries.

Foreigners have expressed how they often find “massive” gaps that people can see through an invasion of privacy.

Public bathroomUnknown author, Wallpaper Flare

Large Coffees

In many other countries, in places like Europe, coffee is consumed in smaller quantities. They typically drink it quickly and don’t often take it to go.

But in the US, large to-go coffee cups are quite common.

Woman holding a coffeeOno Kosuki, Pexels

Leftovers

In the US, taking leftovers home from a restaurant is often done without thinking. But in many other countries it is not only considered strange, but also rude.

In France, it's so frowned upon that a law had to be passed to allow "doggy bags" to happen in order to reduce food waste.

container for leftover foodRosamar, Shutterstock

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Giant Portions

Speaking of food, people in other countries also can’t believe how big American portions are. This is the case for drinks too—in the US our fast-food drink cups are huge compared to even Canada.

Perhaps this is why we like to take home our leftovers.

Fast Food Burger and FriesJasonCamera1, Shutterstock

Sales Tax

Sales Tax in the US is on basically everything we buy—and it is added at the end.

But in other countries, the sales tax is often included in the price already, so the price you see is the price you pay.

tax on productsMaha Heang 245789, Shutterstock

Tipping

In the US, not tipping is frowned upon. But in other parts of the world, a tip is not expected—it can even be considered rude.

tip for the waiterAjax9, Shutterstock

Red Solo Cups

People around the world can't believe how often Americans use red cups. In some countries, people throw "American parties," where they all make sure to use red cups.

group of girls holding red plastic cupscottonbro studio, Pexels

Covering Up

Particularly when we go to the beach, Americans wear full swim suits. But in many places around Europe, going topless at the beach is normal.

Female swimming suitPixel-Shot, Shutterstock

College Debt

Going to college in the US can be a serious expense, and often leaves most students in debt just to get a degree.

A lot of other countries offer free college education, and they simply cannot fathom how much we spend on ours.

Student loan debt conceptpathdoc, Shutterstock

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Baby Showers

Baby showers are a fun custom in the US, but it's not something many other parts of the world partake in.

Its another one of those things that can be considered rude or strange to foreigners.

Women at baby shower taking a photo happy behind party decorationKampus Production, Pexels

Working

According to the Center for American Progress, the US is officially the most overworked country in the developed world.

Other countries cannot believe how much work we do, how long the hours are, how we don’t take much vacation time, and even how we eat lunch at our desks.

tired business womanCrizzyStudio, Shutterstock

Overly-Friendly Strangers

Many foreigners find it strange that Americans can easily and openly start up a conversation about almost anything with a complete stranger.

Group of people speaking to each otherLisa Fotios, Pexels

Pickles

Apparently, Americans have a love for pickles that not many foreigners share in. In the same Reddit thread from earlier, one user said that Americans, “give a pickle with everything.”

PicklesKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

Political Correctness

According to many foreigners, Americans have a fear of insulting people or being racist. What they would consider funny is considered extremely rude here.

stopping rude commentsKhosro, Shutterstock

Customer Service

Americans are known for their excellent customer services, especially in restaurants and bars (probably because of the tips we’re allowed to collect).

Foreigners admit we have better customer service than most of their establishments.

Man in denim shirt buying a phone and Customer service employee explainingAdam Gregor, Shutterstock

Loud

Americans like to talk, and we like to party. Many foreigners consider us to be generally “very loud”.

two friends talk to each otherViDI Studio, Shutterstock

Government Suspicion

In America, the citizens are often more in tuned to what’s going on in our country from a government standpoint.

And because of this, we are also known to be more suspicious of our government than many European citizens are of theirs.

American flagrarrarorro, Shutterstock

Tap & Go

While this practice is slowly creeping into many other countries these days, it has been said that Americans have a very relaxed approach to credit card security because we don’t often have to use a PIN or sign the receipt anymore.

Customer Paying by  Credit CardSouthworks, Shutterstock

Arms

Many foreigners find it absolutely bizarre that in most states you can easily find and purchase arms of all kinds, as well as machetes and various military equipment.

Not only that, many Americans own at least one piece. This is certainly not the norm in other countries.

shocked woman standing over blue backgroundKrakenimages.com, Shutterstock

Ice Cream Flavors

Apparently, in America we have very strange ice cream flavors. One Reddit user specifically mentioned an ice cream flavor called, “dinosaur eggs” that was blue with chocolate eggs in it.

This is considered very strange to many Europeans.

ice cream flavorsJM Travel Photography, Shutterstock

Colors

Everything in America is colorful—specifically our food. Cereals, candy, any and all junk food, comes in various bright colors.

In Europe, artificial food colors are banned due to its detrimental affects on human health. So their food is a lot less vibrant than ours.

Colorful CerealsChones, Shutterstock

Self-depreciating Humor

According to many Europeans, Americans don’t receive sarcasm and self-depreciating humor very well.

One English reddit user said, “Americans were always trying to comfort me after I made a joke about myself”, but in England, people respond with laughter.

People laughingfizkes, Shutterstock

Upsized Everything

From drinks and food to streets and houses, everything in America is large sized. Our houses and our streets are much wider than in most European countries—and foreigners seem to really notice.

Large HousePixabay, Pexels

Commercialized Special Occasions

In America, it is said that we have a special occasion that can be commercialized almost every month. And there’s more than enough candy, trinkets, clothing and accessories for each one.

Halloween candiesasife, Shutterstock

Entrées

In America, entrée refers to the main course during a meal. But in many other countries, the entrée is a small portion you would eat before the main course—which is what we would call a starter or an appetizer.

Meet and Veggies MealSebastian Coman Photography, Pexels

Shoes in the House

Wearing shoes inside the house is an American thing. Most other countries take their shoes off at the door, and may switch to slippers if preferred, but most just wear their socks.

Young man in yellow shirt and sneakers at homeRoman Samborskyi, Shutterstock

Jaywalking

In America, it is unlawful to jaywalk—crossing the road anywhere other than a designated cross walk. In most of Europe, people are free to cross the road anywhere they’d like.

crosswalkSora Shimazaki, Pexels

Banned Ingredients—or lack thereof.

There is a long list of ingredients that are completely banned in Europe due to health concerns. However, most of those ingredients are allowed in the US.

This is not only strange for foreigners, but also concerning.

Titanium dioxide in the European Uniondarksoul72, Shutterstock

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