15 US Facts that Surprise Foreigners

Americans are weird. Well, maybe not to each other (though that’s up for debate), but to guests from other countries? Heck yeah. Big time. The everyday stuff we don’t think twice about can earn double-takes from non-Americans seeing and experiencing our country for the first time.

It’s kind of understandable. We live here, after all. We’re used to it. This is where outside perspectives can be real eye-openers. Listen to some travelers from other countries talk about us, and you’ll never see life as an American the same way again. So what is it we do that’s so weird? Here’s our list of the top 15 things Americans say and do that freak foreigner out.

  1. Work-a-holics. Our 40- and 50-hour work weeks are bizarre to foreigners. Sure, people in other countries work just as hard, but they also enjoy time off. We’re talking several weeks or even months of vacation time each year. In the U.S., we’re lucky to get two weeks.

  2. Put Flags on Stuff. Americans don’t just fly flags, they put it on everything. Shirts, cups, bumper stickers. We don’t think twice about it. We’re just proud of our flag, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But other countries don’t do that. They leave their flag on the flagpole, and nothing else.

  3. Cheerleaders. We love them, but the rest of the world doesn’t quite get why. Cheering on your favorite sports team seems like a no-brainer to most Americans, but other countries don’t have girls in short skirts waving pom-poms around. This is an All-American thing, but we’re kind of okay with that.

  4. Superstores. Big chain superstores are an everyday thing out here. Most towns have them, and we shop at them frequently. In other countries though, stores are smaller and specialize in the items they carry. Food stores carry food, electronics stores carry electronics. You get the idea. Here, we put everything in one place and go on a shopping spree.

  5. Red Solo Cups. Other countries don't use plastic Solo cups the way we do. In fact, they don’t use them at all. Here, you’ll find them at parties, barbeques, even holiday events. Around the rest of the world? Not so much. The opaque red is a no-no in some places because it hides what’s inside the cup.

  6. Water refills. You got to a restaurant and the first thing you get is a glass of water. Take one sip, and someone’s already refilling it for you. It’s just one of those things Americans do that confuse visitors from other lands. Why so much water? Why so often? But hey, we just like staying hydrated.

  7. Drive-Thru Coffee. Whether it’s a latte, cappuccino, or plain black cup of java, there’s a coffeeshop willing to sell it to you through the drive-thru. This baffles a lot of foreigners, who think coffee is meant to be enjoyed over long stretches of time while sitting back and relaxing.

  8. Tipping. In the United States, tipping people is so common we do it without thinking much about it. Waitstaff, housekeepers, cab drivers, the list goes on and on. Other countries tip too, just not as much and not to everyone. Here, you’re expected to put up 15-20% of your bill, which really throws some foreigners off. That money can add up fast if you’re not ready for it.

  9. Prescription drug advertisements. This one weirds people out when coming to the United States for the first time. All those ads we see on TV trying to sell us prescription drugs? Other countries don’t do that. They leave their prescriptions to the doctors, who probably know better. Maybe they’re right.

  10. Free Refills. Get a soda with your lunch or a coffee with your breakfast, and you’ll get as many refills as you want. Doesn’t matter if it’s a sit-down restaurant or fast food, the same rule applies. Other countries fill your glass once and that’s it. Ask for a refill, and you’ll get charged for it.

  11. Deep Fry Food. We’re not just talking about French fries and onion rings. Candy bars, cookies, ice cream, even soda. If you can eat it, chances are someone will find a way to fry it. Most Americans don’t eat fried candy bars every day, it’s more of a treat. But foreigners still find it odd.

  12. I.D. Everyone for Alcohol. Doesn’t matter if you’re 21 years old or 40. Buy liquor from a store and chances are you’ll get carded. Some places even card senior citizens. It’s just their policy—I.D. everyone no matters their age. It’s for the company’s own protection. Sell to a minor and they’ll get hit with all kinds of fines.

  13. Air Conditioning. It’s not that other countries don’t have A/C, it’s that they don’t crank it up as we do. Step into any store in the middle of summer, and you’ll feel a cold draft prick your skin. Feels good at first, but spend too much time in there and you’ll need a sweater. Maybe it is a little weird, but Americans wouldn’t dream of turning the A/C down.

  14. 24-Hour Restaurants. Just because it’s midnight doesn’t mean we’re not hungry. Some of us stay up late, others get up early. We want our food when it’s convenient for us, and if that means dining out at two in the morning, so be it. But this is strictly an American thing. Other countries close up and go to bed.

  15. More than a Pharmacy. In other countries, pharmacies only sell prescription drugs and other medications. Here in America, you can pick up everything from pantyhose to candy bars to wine. To us, it’s normal. To people coming here for the first time, it’s bizarre.

Seeing things differently now? We thought you might. Next time you travel to a foreign country, make a list of all the things that weird you out and see how it compares. Chances are pretty good your list will be just as long, if not longer. Wherever you travel, you’re gonna find new cultures and new ideas. Have fun exploring them and cherish the memories you brink back with you. Newverest Trek Scratcher is an awesome way to keep your old memories alive and plan future trips to new destinations. Setting your goals takes you one step closer to actually fulfilling them. Whatever you do, have fun. Great adventures are out there, now go and find them!