You can’t really understand how strange or special an American custom or life standard can seem to a foreigner until you walk a mile in their shoes…or until you ask them.
From overpriced medical bills to ordering lemonade, what we take for granted might just seem strange to a non-American.
Walter White’s Medical Bill
“The plot of Breaking Bad being about a science teacher getting cancer and worrying about leaving his family with massive medical debt when he dies.” —NoxicGasDeployed/Reddit
Breaking Bad would have been way less interesting in any other country, like Canada, where health care is free.
Listing Side Effects In TV Ads
“With (insert ad), I can get through the day with ease! Side effects may include loss of sight, loss of hearing, loss of sense of smell, coma, headaches, fever, vomiting….” —typicalcitrus/Reddit
…and possible death. Up to you whether it’s worth the trade-off or if you’d rather just be sick.
Asking Everyone What They Do For Work
“Asking everyone ‘what do you do?’ when you first meet them. I live outside the US and realized there are some people I’ve known for years and I still don’t know their job. I think in the US, jobs are a bigger part of a person’s identity than in some other places.” —Ssffxx//Reddit
Being Able To Vote Before The Legal Drinking Age
According to Reddit user dingdongimprblywrong, it’s odd the age is different both adulthood-defining acts. However, there was a time when drinking, voting, and the draft all used to require being 21. Then, during WW2, they lowered the draft age to meet the demand for more troops.
Only Asking For Water At A Restaurant
“Saying ‘I’ll just have water’ at a restaurant and not be charged for it or be asked, ‘what kind?'”
In fact, many countries only serve bottled water for which they must charge you. Also, many European places assume you mean sparkling water unless you specify.
Drinking Out Of Solo Cups
“We use them for beer pong here in Europe (mostly knock-offs, though) but that’s just because the standard here is like 0,2L plastic cups, which are way harder to throw ping pong balls into.
“Generally, you can’t buy them as disposable cups in the supermarket though, and you have to buy some sort of beer pong set.” —Bolts_and_Nuts/Reddit
It’s not unheard of to see them advertised as “American party cups” in some countries.
Debating Taking A Lyft To A Hospital To Save The Ambulance Fee
Americans chimed in to give their experience, too, with this as an example: “I’m still paying off debt from an ambulance ride that cost me $3,500. I went like two miles. And I have amazing health insurance by US standards.” —Big-Operation/Reddit
An Uber or Lyft ride seems more cost-effective. The sum you pay for the stay at the hospital is another story.
The Portion Sizes
“Extra large bottomless cups for cola or soft drinks…you could bathe in those…” —SlyDigits/Reddit
If you’ve been to the Cheesecake Factory lately, you know that your cheesecake will be the size of your head. It’s great in the sense that if you go out to eat once, you don’t need to worry about cooking the rest of that week.
Striking Up Friendly Conversations With Strangers
“I’m British and the most you’re getting out of any of us in a line is ‘are you in the queue?’ I must say when I’ve visited the States, people are extremely friendly.” —Sarah3006/Reddit
In the US, it’s very common to smile at passersby and even ask “how are you” to a stranger sitting beside you on the bus without feeling creeped out.
The Debt That Comes From Going To College
“Willingly putting yourself massively in debt for a college degree…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 seems downright strange to me.”
This might be why careers end up holding such big value to Americans’ identity…
“Putting A Ton Of Sugar In Products Like Bread”
As Reddit user TheThingsWeMake points out, although it’s transparent in the ingredients, American food tends to have a lot of sugar to preserve it longer. Most people also find that it makes it taste better.
Driving Hours For A Day Trip
“In Australia, we have only 3 million square kilometers less than the United States, but a good 300 million fewer people. The people we do have are concentrated for the most part in several coastal cities. The middle of our country is so empty if your break down you may not see another car for several days.” —a- ferret_80/Reddit
In America, it’s quite common to take a four-hour drive to a beach town just to spend the day, and you’ll pass multiple little towns along the way.
Leaving Home At 18
“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.” —HollowMist11/Reddit
Although it’s not required, as movies often show, children often move out at 18 to start their lives or go to college, and it’s considered quite normal.
A Lemonade Drink
“Here in New Zealand, lemonade generally equals Sprite or similar. But you can still get ‘American’ lemonade—it’s usually called ‘old-fashioned lemonade’. You wouldn’t get it at your standard restaurant, but you can find it at most supermarkets.” —dobiewan_nz/Reddit
I can’t believe that places like New Zealand call Sprite “lemonade.”
Calling A Main Course An “Entree”
“Entree is French for entrance—literally the starting point of a meal. It’s usually an appetizer. What you guys call the entree is called the main dish in English (plat principal in French) because that’s what it is. Italians are even more straightforward, with the first plate, second plate, etc.”
This is quite interesting considering that the word is French but the French don’t use it the same way.
Displaying The American Flag Everywhere
“I traveled throughout Europe and the Caribbean and I usually only saw their flag on government buildings and here and there. Whereas here in the USA the flag is like Franks Red Hot. We put that on everything. Magnets, churches, cars, and every front porch and street lamp.” —doughydonuts/Reddit
Some countries don’t even see their flag expect for on national holidays.
Taking Shoes Off Indoors
“Here in South Africa, it is also considered normal to wear shoes inside. Especially during the winter. It is kinda weird if people (e.g., friends coming over for a visit) come into your house and take their shoes off. Like no dude, no one wants to smell your stinky feet.” —Koalatjie/Reddit
In some parts America, we take our shoes off out of respect and cleanliness, especially in the winter months where we drag in snow. In other parts of the U.S., we keep our shoes on. We’re complicated.
“In Germany, we kinda sorta have a thing like a prom, where you also wear a suit/dress and pay for tickets, but there is no such thing as limos and stuff or basically needing a date.” —Xen0bius/Reddit
Movies have glamorized the concept of prom to the point where teen girls worldwide dream of attending their own.
“Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, etc. The US had a baby boom in the ’50s so these terms make no sense outside the US.” —kevexgirl/Reddit
Although there are similarities in generations worldwide, a lot of these labels depend on historical events such as the post–World War II baby boom, so they don’t apply to all countries.
No Metric System
“In Ireland. We use metric almost always, but for height, we’d use feet and inches. For bodyweight, we’d use stone. At least everyone I know does anyway.” —What_IS_Ned_Flanders/Reddit
Most of the world uses the metric system, but a lot of countries use a mix depending on what they’re measuring.