As an American I'm always shocked to hear what's not considered "normal" in other countries that we Americans find to be either traditions or minor convinces. Things that we Americans normally take for granted like, free water at restaurants, will blow the minds of certain foreigners who visit the States. Even making small talk by asking a stranger "how they're doing" can throw some folks off.
Don't believe me? Take it from these non-Americans who visited the US, and turned to Reddit to share some of the things we Americans do on the regular that seemed pretty weird to them. Content has been edited for clarity.
Side-effects May Include…
“How medical ads in the US show an old guy living life well because of X-medication. He has the best time, the wife is having the best time and it’s all because of the medication making things better.
The end of the ad is full of warnings about how this happy pill, or whatever the medication is, can potentially kill you and your family, nuke your dog and make cats impotent.
Recap the cliff-hanger episode of life in Alaska before another ad break.
Good Ol’ Fashion American Patriots
“I went to seaworld with my mum when I was in my mid teens. Halfway through the show, the performer (Not the whale) asked everybody in the military to stand up and the whole crowd gave them a round of applause. They sat back down and the show continued as if nothing had happened. Couldn’t imagine anything similar happening back in Blighty.”
Life In The Big City
“Everything in America is huge. I don’t just mean the people or portion sizes, because we all know about that- but the roads, the buildings, the ceilings, the space between everything… America is gigantic. It just feels larger than it does here. I’m Australian but I’ve been to Asia and size-wise it’s similar to Australia, and I’ve seen Europeans say the same about America. Everything is bigger.”
“Free refills. Went to a restaurant with my dad (both German) and all of a sudden the waiter took away my drink with another perfectly good sip in it and I must have looked pretty shocked. It was only then when my dad explained to me that you guys have free refills.”
Sometime you Want To Go, Where Everybody Knows Your Name
“For a long time I lived in different places around the world, and something that I really missed when moving to a new town was the lack of a US-style bar where it was easy for a stranger to meet people. Outside of the US, it is rare to find a bar where everyone just sits and faces the same direction, whether or not a sporting event was playing on the television. Instead, they have a more ‘pub-like’ environment, where everyone is sitting in groups at their individual tables.
This makes meeting new people extremely difficult. Think about it, with the ‘table-style’ bar, in order to strike up a conversation with a stranger, you literally have to approach them while they are sitting at their own table with their own friends. It’s almost impossible to not look like a total freak! In a proper Cheers style bar, you can just say some random phrase to the bartender and if the person sitting next to you wants to talk, they’ll just join in on the conversation.
Basically, In non-US bars, if you aren’t invited ahead of time by someone, you are forced to sit alone in some corner of the bar.”
“Weird Lights In The Trees”
“I live in the south and one time I was hanging out with a friend smoking by a lake in late spring / early summer. He was Egyptian and had just moved here over the winter. All of a sudden he freaked out saying he was seeing weird lights in the trees. I thought he was too high or something before I realized he meant the lightning bugs. He’d never seen them and didn’t know what they were, so I started catching them and he was mind blown that they were just a normal seasonal thing.”
You Got A Point There…
“I’ll be forever surprised that the legal drinking age in the US is 21-years-old. It’s really weird especially since at age of 18, people consider you to be an adult.”
It’s Not What You Think
“In Germany, ‘How are you?’ is an actual question and you generally only ask it, if you know the other person. It was super hard to explain to my mum that the answer is always, ‘Fine, thank you,’ and that cashiers don’t really care about how you actually feel, when we visited the US back in 2008.”
The Best Lemonade On Earth
“Lemonade made with real lemons and its like super sour but some how sugary sweet at the same time.
In Australia lemonade is the same as sprite. So when I was there my mum and I ordered Jack Daniels and Lemonade and they made it with the real lemonade and it was awful. It was also weird because they sold pre mixed bottles of Jacks and lemonade with the real lemonade but in Australia you buy the same ones with sprite lemonade.
Free refills was the other big one. Everywhere has free refills as many times as you like? Never seen that before.”
“Americans Do Everything By Car”
“For context: I’m from The Netherlands. The weirdest thing for me was a drive through corner store. And a drive through ATM. In fact, it was the realization that Americans do everything by car.
My wife went to Philadelphia for work about ten years ago and wanted to walk from the hotel to the Target store across the street. People thought she was crazy.”
Compliments For Days
“Complimenting strangers. When I visited the US I went to an amusement park and a girl complimented my glasses and that was my first time getting complimented and at the same amusement park a senior lady complimented my dad for having a beautiful family and a handsome son (lol me). I was really happy that day.”
Tips & Up-Selling
“Every time I’ve visited the US I’ve absolutely hated the tipping culture, along with the constant ‘up-selling’ culture. Add into that the lack of sales tax in any prices and you just end up as a foreigner not having a clue what you’re actually going to have to pay for anything.
The tipping was everywhere: we took a helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon as a special occasion for our family, and the pilot wanted a tip at the end. Sooo… the trip was $800 so what do I tip? $10? $100? I just ended up giving the guy a $20 because that’s all I had in cash on me, but then ended up feeling like he thought I was a tight loser. How am I supposed to know whether the guy is underpaid and needs tips to make it up to a livable wage or whether he’s already perfectly well paid? Of course we knew from the start that he’d be wanting a tip since he spent most of the trip emphasizing how much he personally wanted to ensure our enjoyment and seeing if we wanted bottled water.
The up-selling is possibly even worse. The number of times where you’d see an ad for a $12 buffet breakfast and think Sounds OK… go through the door and suddenly you’re accosted by someone who wants you to have the ‘VIP experience’ breakfast for another $10 because then you don’t have to wait in line for the buffet, you get better seats and you get free refills of all drinks.
Right… so you’re saying the regular breakfast has no free refills and I’d have to queue for my food before sitting next to the toilets? And then add tips and sales tax on top?
It was pretty clear that the greeter trying to up-sell us was on commission because you could smell the desperation – she was practically telling us the regular breakfast was awful and we’d hate it. We just walked out again. Reached the point where I almost expected to see an option to pay an extra $5 to not get punched in the face while you’re eating.
Every time I go to the US I just end up reaching the point of going, ‘will someone please just tell me a reasonable price they expect me to pay for the thing I’m asking for?’ I hate this idea that I have to make constant judgement calls that tread a fine line between feeling guilty or feeling ripped-off.”
“You Did Good America, You Weird Place”
“The fact that nobody walks any significant distance ever for any reason. A while ago I was on holiday in New England and did a lot of wandering about for pleasure – coming from a country which is at least 70% rambling footpaths, I thought that it might be fairly similar in rural America. Nope. I was forced to walk on minor-to-fairly-large roads almost all the time. I had people call out to me from their gardens to ask where I was headed and reply with incredulity when I told them it was about 10 miles away. I had a lovely old woman almost hold me hostage and force me to let her give me a lift to my destination because she couldn’t understand that I genuinely preferred to walk and I wasn’t trying to get to help for my crashed car or something. I had a really nice policeman pull up in his car next to me and ask me where I was headed, if I was lost. He asked if he could give me a lift – he laughed at me in a these-foreigners-are-crazy sort of way when I said I was alright. I didn’t quite expect to attract that much attention just by wandering about by foot.
For all that, though, it was genuinely one of the nicest holidays I’ve ever taken by myself, and almost all of the attention was pleasant and helpful. You did good, America, you weird place.”
I know there’s homeless people everywhere, but the amount I saw in NYC was unbelievable. And quite a few of them clearly had mental health issues.
I was only there for a week, but I saw one woman on the side of the road, wrapped in a filthy blanket and very few teeth left, in midtown screaming at everybody walking past, and nobody reacted to her at all. One guy in Times Square was screaming into the air calling somebody a few bad things at 6am but there was nobody around.
I also saw the mayor giving a speech in front of cameras in Times Square about the heightened security around Election Day (November 2016) and a few feet away from him was a homeless guy sleeping in a doorway.
The way America shamelessly shrug off their homeless problem was really concerning.”
“The whole healthcare system. My mother is American, and I’m from Australia. We visit America frequently, and the whole system is trash. Like seriously you have to pay money??? The fact you have to pay thousands of dollars or die in some cases is ridiculous. My mother had a blood clot. She was in the ICU for 9 days, and she needed blood thinners afterwards. The bill was something like $30,000 just for the care, and the meds were something like $600 a fortnight. For the same care and meds here in Australia, it cost exactly $0 for the care. It’s because we pay a Medicare Levi in our tax we don’t notice, and $20 for the meds for a month. Thankfully, we had health insurance or the bill would have been a couple hundred thousand dollars and we would have lost our house but the whole system is trash over there.”
I’m Going To Need To See Some ID Please…
“I’m in the US right now, and one thing that always gets me is the extreme lack of trust.
People have checked my ID using a credit card, you usually hand it to the cashier instead of entering it yourself.
At fast food type places when they say like ‘Number 71’ you don’t just say that’s me and grab it… you show them your receipt number so they know you’re not stealing it.
Things that you pay for admittance to like movies or buffets or something might as well have armed guards, there’s like multiple people checking to make sure no one sneaks in, checking receipts etc…
Going to a sporting event requires bag checks and metal detectors, going to your seat requires an usher or two to check your ticket to let you into the section.
It just constantly feels like people think you’re going to steal things. You have to ‘prove’ everything.”