24 things that are considered ‘normal’ in the US but the rest of the world finds weird
Sometimes people in the US forget that the way we do things isn’t necessarily the way it’s done everywhere else.That doesn’t necessarily mean these American customs are bad, it just means that they aren’t the norm throughout the world. Here are some regular things we do in the US that people from other cultures might think is a bit abnormal.
Using money that is all the same color.
In the US, dollar bills are all the same shade of green, and they all look very similar, aside from slightly different images.
If you travel to other countries, you’ll find that their bills are typically all different colors and sizes according to what they’re worth. Many foreigners find our currency tobe a bit confusing, since it all looks the same.
Putting a lot of ice in our drinks.
One small thing that stands out when you visit Europe is that they don’t use a lot of ice — at most restaurants, you won’t get it unless you ask for it.
Americans are some of the only people who use an excess of ice in their drinks. Articles have even written about why we do it. The Smithsonian believes it may be related to our “more is more” vibe in the US.
Using “America” or “Americans” to describes ourselves, our customs, and our country.
If you grew up in the US, you may think of “America” and “United States” as interchangeable. As it turns out, much of the rest of the world does not.
The United States is not the only “America” out there — there’s also the rest of North America and all of South America. Many can’t understand why we refer to the US as “America,” and people from other countries often refer to our country as simply “the States.”
Writing the date beginning with the month.
People in the US typically write the date out in the format of month-day-year. People in other parts of the world, like the United Kingdom and Europe, write it out in the format of day-month-year. To us, that format is quite strange. But many people from other countries can’t understand why we write the month first, as to them it seems out of order.
Advertising prescription drugs all over the place.
In a Reddit thread asking the weirdest things Americans do, many users discuss how strange they think it is that the US advertises prescription drugs. Many said they found it to be one of the weirdest things about being in the US.
Reddit user NoDownvotesPlease said, “That was the weirdest one for me. ‘Ask your doctor for brand x antidepressants’ type commercials on TV. In the UK, your doctor tells you what drugs you should take, not the other way round.”
Hanging American flags everywhere.
In that same Reddit thread, users expressed how strange it was that that American flags are everywhere, from businesses to historical sites to homes.
The fact that our pharmacies sell so many things.
As BBC America pointed out, there are many differences between pharmacies in the US and drugstores in Europe and elsewhere. Many people from other places can’t believe that, in the US, our pharmacies sell drugs and junk food. They can’t believe that pharmacies basically double as convenience stores in the US.
Eating bread that almost always tastes sweet.
In the Reddit thread, many users discuss how they found it incredibly strange to constantly encounter sweet bread in the US.
Using the imperial system of measurement instead of the metric system.
The United States is one of only three countries who still use the imperial system of measurement, and everyone out there thinks we’re strange for doing so.
The constant commercials on TV.
When it comes to advertisements, the rest of the world can’t believe how many we have.
Reddit user WhatWouldTylerDo wrote, “I love America. But the one thing I hate is the placement of commercials on TV. It might be only for certain channels, but for a 30-minute show, there will be about four commercial breaks. And not even evenly spaced. Including one before the credits at the end of a show. Then it’ll jump straight from the credits to the next show.”
Expecting free refills everywhere we get a drink.
Many foreigners think it’s strange that free refills are offered and generally expected. It’s not the norm in many other places — France banned unlimited refills in 2017.
Using a lot of water in the toilet bowls.
Toilets are certainly different in the US than other parts of the world, and one amusing difference to note is how much more water there is in American toilets than other countries.
In the Reddit thread, one user wrote, “Seriously, why so much?!”
Putting giant gaps in between bathroom stalls.
Some people from other countries can’t believe how large the spaces are between bathroom stalls. It was brought up in many comments in the Reddit thread, with users saying they found the “massive” gaps to be an invasion of privacy and just plain strange.
Drinking huge coffees while we walk around.
In many other countries, like Europe, coffee is consumed in smaller quantities. That means they drink it quickly and they don’t take it to go.
But in the US, large to-go coffee cups are common. People from other countries find it very strange.
Taking leftover food home from a restaurant.
In the US, we don’t think twice about asking a server to box up our uneaten food so we can bring it home to finish another time. In other countries, this is incredibly strange and even considered to be rude. In France, for example, it’s so frowned upon that a law had to be passed to allow “doggy bags” to happen in order to get rid of food waste.
Eating giant portions.
Speaking of leftover food, people from other countries also can’t believe how big American portions are. That’s true when it comes to the size of dishes in restaurants, sodas and other drinks in fast-food chains, and even items that aren’t food.
Paying sales tax on pretty much everything we buy.
We might not like sales tax here in the US, but we expect it.
In other countries, the sales tax is often built into the price, so the price doesn’t change when you bring something to the register, and they find it strange that the US doesn’t do the same. It’s such a big difference that there are even advisories to people traveling to the US warning them of sales tax when shopping.
Tipping waiters and waitresses and other service professionals.
Not tipping in the United States is extremely frowned upon. In other parts of the world, a tip is not expected — it can even be considered rude. Tipping is another thing travelers are often warned about when coming to the States.
Chatting with strangers and making small talk.
One thing many Reddit users noted is that they found it strange that Americans chat with strangers so often. While some found it odd in a weird way, others found it nice.
Reddit user CompleteWoks said, “The hospitality, generosity and kindness to strangers, the friendliness and welcoming warmth is paralleled nowhere in the world.”
Using red cups to drink alcohol out of.
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.
Wearing swimsuits to the beach.
In some other countries, like Europe, it’s considered totally normal to be topless on the beach. In fact, individuals who travel to the US often have to be warned to wear swimsuits in public, and keep them on.
Going into debt in order to go to college.
It’s no secret that going to college in the US can be extremely expensive and students can end up in debt to get a degree. A lot of other countries offer free college educations, and they can’t believe how much we spend on ours.
Throwing baby showers.
Baby showers are a fun custom in the US, but it’s not something many other parts of the world partake in. Outside of the US, some people find them strange, kind of rude, and aren’t interested in partaking in them.
Working constantly with very little vacation time.
According to research by the Center for American Progress, the United States is officially the most overworked country in the “developed” world. Some people in other countries can’t believe how much work we do, how long our hours are, how we eat lunch at our desks, and how we don’t take advantage of vacation time. Some other countries offer six weeks of paid vacation time as a standard. That’s certainly not the case here.