Cultural Conveniences From Around The World That Americans Should Copy

Across the world, people have come up with ideas that folks from other countries would never have thought of. Although Americans pride themselves on being advanced, we have a ways to go. Many people have traveled to other countries, seen their culture and technology, and thought, “Why don’t we do that?”

These ideas can make life far more convenient and efficient. Some countries offer free wifi everywhere, and one city transformed a bus stop into a musical swing set. Here are cultural conveniences from around that world that Americans should adopt.

Japanese Heated Mirrors

A heated square clears the fog in the middle of a mirror.
reddit/u/mdengler10
reddit/u/mdengler10

In 2018, a Redditor revealed a part of their Japanese hotel room that all American hotels should adopt. A section of their mirror was heated. You would never notice until you showered; the heated part of the mirror remained clear while the rest of the room fogged up.

Heated mirrors would remove many streaks from people swiping the glass to comb their hair. If the room had a heat switch, people could turn it on to warm up during the shower and not waste electricity. Where are our heating mirrors, America?

Free Wifi Everywhere In Estonia

An Estonian hunter uses wifi in the forest.
RAIGO PAJULA/AFP via Getty Images
RAIGO PAJULA/AFP via Getty Images

Estonia has the second-best wifi in the world, according to a survey by Rotten Wifi. You can find free public wifi almost anywhere in the country, from parks to restaurants to airports and even forests. The reason is not just their technology; Estonians consider internet access to be a right.

In 2011, the UN declared internet access to be a universal human right. In Estonia, wifi is a symbol of the country’s democracy, not a luxury. E-stonia, as the government calls it, has received much attention and funding throughout the years.

Indestructible Money: Polymer Banknotes From Australia

A man dips an Australian polymer banknote into a food dish because the money will not be damamged.
STEFAN WERMUTH/AFP via Getty Images
STEFAN WERMUTH/AFP via Getty Images

Throughout the world, polymer banknotes are increasing in popularity. These water-resistant bills are cheaper to make, harder to destroy, and environmentally friendly. Australia first developed these notes in 1996 after several cases of counterfeit money had been reported.

Polymer money is harder to forge because it includes a see-through window that’s difficult to replicate. Since then, Canada, Romania, Nicaragua, New Zealand, and Vietnam have switched to polymer. Nigeria, Morocco, Mexico, Egypt, Chile, and Armenia plan to follow suit. When will America start printing cost-effective polymer bills?

China Replaced Police Dogs With Geese

Chinese military men release geese.
ImFromYautjaPrime/Imgur
ImFromYautjaPrime/Imgur

You read that right. The police force in Xinjiang, China, has decided to replace their dogs with geese. According to police chief Zhang Quansheng, geese are “more useful than dogs.” They are alert and aggressive, and since they normally travel in groups, they are difficult to avoid.

In June 2015, a thief drugged two police dogs to enter a restricted zone. A nearby group of geese honked and surrounded the thief before an officer caught him. Now, groups of geese are being trained to help the Chinese fight crime.

3D Crosswalks Will Make Any Car Slow Down

A man walks over a 3D optical illusion crosswalk.
CHRISTOPH SOEDER/DPA/AFP via Getty Images
CHRISTOPH SOEDER/DPA/AFP via Getty Images

In Ísafjörður, Iceland, pedestrian and traffic accidents have decreased by 41% since 2008. What’s their secret? It’s an optical illusion that creates 3D crosswalks. According to environmental commissioner Ralf Trylla, drivers are more likely to slow down when they see a 3D object in their way.

Trylla said that he pitched the project after seeing a similar art piece in New Delhi, India. The street painting company Vegmálun GÍH spent weeks perfecting the effect, but the results were unprecedented. Pedestrians also had fun with the crosswalk because it looks like they’re floating.

Musical Swings At Montreal Bus Stops

People swing at a Montreal bus stop.
Edward/Pinterest
Edward/Pinterest

A design studio called Daily Tous Les Jours aims to infuse magic into everyday experiences. Hence, they made a bus stop more fun in Montreal, Canada. The bus stop was converted into rows of adult-sized swings that play music.

The music harmonizes when passengers swing in unison rather than independently. Each swing controls an instrument, and when everyone moves simultaneously, they compose a 21-piece orchestral soundtrack. So far, designers Mouna Andraos and Melissa Mongiat have only installed these bus stops in downtown Montreal.

In Dubai, The Police Drive Audis

A row of police cars are parked on the street in Dubai.
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If you see a Porsche, Bentley, or Lamborghini driving through Dubai, it could be a cop. There, police officers drive luxury cars, and dealerships fight for the force to buy their vehicles. The city holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s fastest police car: a Bugatti Veyron that can travel 253 mph.

According to Major Sultan Al Marri, a representative General Department of Transport & Rescue, police aim to appear friendly and open. “We’re looking to show tourists how friendly the police are here in Dubai,” he told CNN. It’s also a way to achieve gender equality; female officers receive the fastest cards.

Browse A Museum In A Train Station

A man looks at ancient Greek pottery showcased at the Syntagma station.
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

While waiting for the subway, why not check out a free museum? Several train stations in Athens, Greece, display artworks and archaeological finds for visitors to browse. The most famous is the Syntagma Station, which displays a full skeleton of a fourth-century woman.

The exhibits promote public transportation, especially for tourists, as it spreads some of the country’s ancient history. In Monastiraki Station, you can see ancient Greek pottery fragments. The Acropoli Station contains replicas of Pheidias’s famous sculptures. How fun would it be to look at a free museum while waiting for the train?

Holland’s Unique Gift To The Bees

Flowers sit on the roof of a bus stop in Utrecht.
@AcresUSA/Twitter
@AcresUSA/Twitter

Honeybee populations are rapidly declining. Without bees, many of the world’s fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains won’t be pollinated. To combat this, Holland came up with an adorable idea. They covered the roof of their bus stops with greenery.

Many bus stops in Utrecht have flowers on them already. Not only do they feed the honeybees, but these plants also improve air quality. And because they’re on the roof of the bus stop, the bees won’t bother passengers. Plus, Utrecht’s buses are electric; the whole city is going eco-friendly.

The Finnish Have Business Meetings In Saunas

Guests splash water on hot coal in a sauna in Finland.
Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images
OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images

In America, saunas are a once-in-a-while treat for relaxation. In Finland, saunas are essential for business relations. Many organizations, from the Parliament House to Burger King, have saunas in their buildings, specifically for meetings. Public saunas are often rented out for company parties.

To clarify, the Finnish don’t flip through slideshows or presentations in saunas. These meetings are informal to allow networking. While coworkers relax together, the hierarchy dissolves, and everyone can talk to each other as equals. Employees often clean up and eat a meal together afterward.

Recycled Roads Made From Plastic

A 1978 Porsche 911 drives down a road in Wales.
Chris Wallbank/Total 911 Magazine/Future via Getty Images
Chris Wallbank/Total 911 Magazine/Future via Getty Images

From India to the United Kingdom, companies are recycling plastic waste by using it to pave roads. Manufacturers infuse asphalt with plastic, binding them with polymer glues made from garbage. The method reduces the amount of petroleum needed, and it is far cheaper to produce.

India began the project in the early 2010s, and British company MacRebur followed suit. Plastic roads now appear in Scotland, Australia, and the UK. Every year, 420 million tons of plastic are created, and 75% get thrown away. Plastic roads also require less money to make.

The Danes Focus On Comfort

A Danish furniture store owner exemplifies hygge, the concept of coziness in interior design.
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The citizens of Denmark focus on the concept called hygge. Pronounced hoo-gah, the theory emphasizes feeling cozy and enjoying the simple things in life. “In other words, what freedom is to Americans…hygge is to Danes,” says Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

Hygge regularly appears in Danish interior design. Many homes include fireplaces, window seats, and large windows to let in plenty of light. Sweatpants are more fashion-forward and socially acceptable throughout the country. Adopting hygge could make American lives much more satisfying.

Pedestrian-Only Shopping Streets In Germany

People walk along pedestrian-only streets in Germany.
Carsten Koall/Getty Images
Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Pedestrian-only shopping streets (shortened to POSS) are popular in Europe, especially in Germany. These streets do not allow cars beyond emergency vehicles. They usually exist around popular shopping areas to make it ten times easier to get around.

Unlike American malls, POSS has several interconnecting streets. They are often decorated with shopping squares, lights, and trees during Christmas time. One of the most successful POSS, Zeil, includes bicycle streets, walking routes, and public bus stops. It’s the most convenient, quiet, and enjoyable night on the town you can imagine.

Vienna’s Power Plants Are Beautiful And Cost-Friendly

The artistic power plant, Spittelau, is made from recycled materials.
Imagno/Getty Images
Imagno/Getty Images

Let’s admit it: Power plants are ugly. Many people don’t like them because they harm the environment and mar the skyline. Eco-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser has solved both of these problems in Vienna, Austria. He made the artistic Spittelau waste incineration plant from recycled materials in 1989.

Spittelau is so eye-catching that it has become a tourist destination. Plus, it destroys 270,000 tons of municipal waste every year. It also generates thermal heat and hot water in an eco-friendly way that powers 60,000 apartments. Pretty, environmentally friendly, and useful? Sign America up.

Restaurant Call Buttons In Japanese Restaurants

A Japanese waitress carries food to a table.
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images

American waiters frequently check in on their patrons. In Japan, interrupting your customer’s conversation is considered rude. Waiters and waitresses will not tend to customers unless they are called. To relieve the awkwardness, many Japanese restaurants have implemented call buttons.

When patrons want to order their meal, they press the button. It alerts the server to come only when the customers are ready. Some tables have computers that send customers’ orders directly to the kitchen. This way, you can still socialize with your waiter, but on your own terms.

Hanging Jackets For The Poor

Jackets with notes are zipped around trees in Bulgaria.
@hvgoenka/Twitter
@hvgoenka/Twitter

In Turkey and Bulgaria, the winters can get fierce. Kind-hearted people in these countries invented a way to shelter their homeless population. They wrapped zero-degree jackets around trees and zipped them for the poor to grab if needed.

According to an unspoken rule in these countries, you cannot grab these coats unless you absolutely need them. Many of the jackets have notes attached, offering sympathy or encouragement. Some businesses have contributed, too. In Turkey, some bakeries leave bread in outside containers to feed the poor.

China’s Sky Train Flies Through The Air

China's first sky train travels while hanging from a line.
Visual China Group via Getty Images
Visual China Group via Getty Images

In 2016, China launched its first sky train. Instead of riding on top of tracks, the train is suspended from a floating track above Chengdu city. The sky train provides a view, relieves street traffic, and saves room on the ground for more streets.

Similar suspension railways appear in Germany and Japan, but a lithium battery powers China’s sky train rather than electricity. It carries 230 people and travels up to 60 miles per hour, similar to most subway trains. How cool is that?

Showing Up On Time? Rude!

A man checks his watch.
JESHOOTS-com/Pixabay
JESHOOTS-com/Pixabay

Venezuelans are masters of being late. If your friend from Venezuela shows up late, it’s not because they are lazy. Showing up on-time or early is considered rude in the country. Many people arrive 10-15 minutes late, or even an hour late, depending on the event.

This custom could align with the time mistakes in Venezuela. In 1986, the International Time Bureau announced that clocks had been 0.9 seconds faster than the rest of the world for years. Guests would often arrive late to give hosts enough time to prepare, and the tradition stuck.

Brazilians Heal Burns With Fish Skin

Fish skin wraps around a leg burn wound.
redditu/u/beepboop232
redditu/u/beepboop232

This Brazilian hack may seem gross, but it’s saving hundreds of burn victims a year. Researchers at the Federal University of Ceara discovered that fish skin has high moisture and is anti-disease similar to human skin. Hence, they place fish skin on burn wounds to speed up healing.

The moisture of the skin promotes collagen growth, which helps the skin heal faster. It is also far less painful to apply and remove than rough bandages. Plus, this cure helps the fishing industry, which would otherwise throw away the skins.

An Outdoor Fridge For The Poor

An outdoor fridge offers food to the poor outside of a restaurant in India.
@RapidLeaksIndia/Twitter
@RapidLeaksIndia/Twitter

In 2016, a restaurant in Kochi, India, took steps to aid the 1.8 million homeless population. After owner Minu Pauline saw a woman eating from a trash can, she decided to help. She set up an outdoor fridge with food that low-income families can take.

Dozens of restaurants and patrons donate to that fridge, and Pauline herself provides around 80 meals every day. Guards stand nearby to ensure that nobody takes all of the food. It is a smart, generous way to make sure valuable food is distributed to those needing it most.

Romanian Adult Juice Boxes

A man holds a juice box of vodka with a straw attached.
FutureCrazyCatGent/Imgur
FutureCrazyCatGent/Imgur

A Romanian company, Scandic Pop, made it easier to drink juice with kids. But this isn’t ordinary juice. They designed adult juice boxes filled with 37.5% vodka. You’ll appear no different than if you were having juice, but you’ll be having a good time. And yes, it even comes with a little straw.

The “juice” content is high, even for Romanian standards. But creating tiny boxes could be a smart way to conceal and portion-size your drinks. Just make sure that your kids don’t mistake it for real juice! It’ll be far less sweet.

Ph.D. Graduates Receive A Top Hot And Sword

PhD Graduates stand with top hats and swords in Finland.
@AnnaGHughes/Twitter
@AnnaGHughes/Twitter

In Finland and Sweden, Ph.D. graduates don’t wear a graduation cap; they receive a “doctoral hat.” It is a silken top hot with a small bow and the crest of the school. Usually, the hats are black, but they may appear in blue, purple, grey, crimson, or dark green, depending on the student’s major.

Not only that, but at some schools, such as the University of Oulu in Finland, graduates also receive a sword. They cross swords to create an archway for professors and deans to walk under and initiate the ceremony. Is this convenient? Not necessarily, but it is cool.

Meter Maids Save You From A Ticket In Australia

A meter maid poses at Surfers Paradise on Gold Coast.
SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images
SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

Since the 1950s, women in bikinis have wandered through Australian streets to refill empty parking meters. These are Surfers Paradise Meter Maids, and they are a part of Australia’s history. When they see meters that are low on cash, Meter Maids refill them. Some of these models also sell merchandise.

Meter Maids have become a symbol of Australia’s hypersexuality, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Some companies have sent out Meter Maids to advertise their products. We’re not saying that American meter maids have to be sexy, but they could at least refill our meters.

Mexican Street Vendors Sell Fruit

A vendor sells fruit along a beach in Mexico.
DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images
DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

In America, many people associate street vendors with junk food. Most sell fried meats or desserts except for food buses. But in Mexico, fruit street vendors are common. Stands of mango, papaya, strawberries, and watermelon are common throughout the country. Many of the fruits are topped with flavors such as chili powder, salt, and lime.

These vendors allow people to enjoy a healthy sweet treat while hydrating at the same time. Many include juices made from fresh fruit. If kids want a sweet treat, they can quickly get fresh fruit or juice. It’s far healthier than cotton candy in America.

Harnessing Wave Energy In Brazil

A device in Brazil harnesses wave energy.
charlie charlie/Pinterest
charlie charlie/Pinterest

You may have heard about hydroelectric power, but Brazil has invented another type of energy sourcing: waves. In 2012, Brazil developed a prototype for a device that receives energy from waves. The device has a turbine-generator and a hyperbaric chamber that gain power from waves breaking.

Since then, several studies have analyzed how efficient wave power is. A review of 37 studies in PLoS One found that the device is good enough for “intermediate power.” If the technology adjusts to other areas of the world, America should adopt it.

The French Get A Two-Hour Lunch Break

Boys eat lunch in a French school.
NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images
NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images

In France, lunchtime is sacred. Many people sit down for a long time to eat a proper meal. In 2010, the average lunch break for French citizens was two hours and 22 minutes. Even students receive a break between 30 minutes and two hours for lunch.

According to sociologist David Lerner, “meals play a large part in organizing [French] social life.” In France, 80% of meals are eaten with others, report Crédoc consumer studies. The French emphasize enjoying their meal and eating it slowly, while Americans rush through their lunch breaks.

People Often Walk Together In Europe

Tourists walk together on a pier in Germany.
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

Some European countries, such as Germany and Spain, value walking as a social activity. In Germany, non-competitive walks called volksmarches allow communities to come together. Couples can taste wine while strolling through vineyards, and family-friendly booths entertain children along the route.

The elderly population in Spain frequently walk together after dinner. After-meal strolls are widespread because they help people digest food. These get-togethers keep people social while promoting exercise. If Americans want to become healthier, they should adopt volksmarches and evening strolls.

Singapore’s Overall Cleanliness

A person runs in the morning through Singapore.
Then Chih Wey/Xinhua via Getty
Then Chih Wey/Xinhua via Getty

In the 1960s, Singapore was considered one of the world’s filthiest countries. Today, it is one of the cleanest places in the world. The change came from Singapore’s strict cleanliness laws. Throughout the past 50 years, the country has launched anti-litter campaigns, clean toilet campaigns, water cleaning campaigns, and laws against chewing gum.

These methods might seem strict, but they work. Officials included cleanliness and environmental sustainability as lectures in school. Civil servants, teachers, and students are expected to clean up every day. As cleaning businesses grew, the economy flourished, and Singapore attracted more tourists than ever before.

International Mid-Day Naps

People nap in public in Madrid.
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

In many countries, businesses briefly close their doors after lunch. This culture is known by its Spanish name, siesta, which means “sixth hour.” The rest period allows people to unwind, nap, or escape the heat in countries like Iraq.

In Italy, shops, museums, and churches may be closed for two hours between noon and 4:00 p.m. Although not everyone will nap during this time, they can relax during their post-lunch drowsiness. China, India, Spain, Iraq, Italy, and the Philippines regularly practice siesta, and some countries do so longer than others.

Fly Urinals In Amsterdam

fly on the wall
Nitschmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Nitschmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

If you head into the men’s restrooms in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, you may see a fly on each urinal. These flies aren’t real; they are drawn onto the surface. The fly taps into men’s internal instinct to aim. Yes, men are supposed to aim at the fly to reduce spillage.

And it works. Manager Aad Kieboom said that spillage has decreased by 80% since the flies were installed. A company called Urinalfly creates peel-off stickers of flies for urinals and toilets and has sold to schools and other public facilities in Holland.