While there are different quirks and identities in every region of the United States, there are still some things that are commonplace everywhere you might go. Everywhere you might go in America. While our traditions are extremely normal to us, for foreigners, they’re not.
In fact, they’re pretty insane. This is a discovery I made myself while I was traveling abroad, as I’ve noticed that some people don’t understand why I choose to do some things, or why do I like to eat food the way I do. It probably happened to you too. If you’re curious to know which things are seen as freaky by foreigners, I’ll tell you everything:
We say “how are you?” when we want to say “hello”
When a store employee or a far-known acquaintance is asking you “How are you?”, in America, they aren’t interested in actually hearing an answer. This question is used more like a greeting, but only a few people actually stop in the middle of the street and give a serious answer to this question.
“How are you” is meant to be more like a “Hi”, while I know it sounds insane. But if you’d do that to a European, be sure that they would launch into a long monologue about their recent experiences, health, and wellbeing, and expect an answer too.
We smile at strangers
Even if this example might vary depending on the region *ahem* especially New Yorkers *ahem*, Americans are pretty used to smiling at a stranger and offering a cute hello than foreigners are. In fact, it is much more likely to even start a conversation with a stranger.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just passing each other on the sidewalk, we, Americans, will be smiling and waving to you no matter what (unless we find you ugly. just kidding). Oftentimes, this kind of greeting might catch foreigners by surprise and it might seem insane, and it might take a few “hellos” before someone else gets used to this.
We’re flying flags EVERYWHERE
Ok, this might look insane, but we REALLY love our red, white, and blue flag, and not only on the Fourth of July or Veterans’ Day. As a matter of fact, we love it so much, you might even see we have bikinis and swimsuits with our flag.
A bit weird? Welcome to America! There’s a 2017 report from the National Retail Federation that shows how 65 percent of consumers have their own U.S. flag. If you’re a foreigner and you travel on any city block, suburban street, or even rural road, you’ll bump into many American flags that are flying up high.
We don’t take vacations
In many other countries outside the U.S., vacation time is extremely useful if you want to get away from work for a few weeks and let your traveling ego wander around. And I know it’s hard to believe, but in America, taking time off is oftentimes treated as a sin.
I don’t know exactly at what point did we lose control, but we do love to work. Or at least some people do, and now we have to act like them. There are many people who have vacation days that pile up as the months roll on. And our collective obsession with work is completely insane to outsiders.
We’re drinking from Red Solo Cups
Let’s be honest: red solo cups are the ultimate symbol of college parties and backyard barbecues altogether. But have you ever seen them outside the U.S.? Seth Stevenson has a very good explanation for why our plastic cups look the way they do.
According to him, its opaque appearance and color make it totally impossible for the authorities to tell what’s in the cup. Plus, it has an efficient design that makes it impossible to spill it over. I bet you never noticed it, am I right? But as you can see, we really thought of everything, even when it comes to drinking!
We’re used to getting free refills
We absolutely LOVE getting free stuff, including free refills. But did you know that foreigners aren’t so familiar with the concept? In many other countries, outside America, when you buy something to drink. the price you pay is for a single cup of the beverage you have chosen.
So if you want a second soda somewhere in Paris, for example, you’ll have to pay for another one. We should all admit that, from this point of view, we will forever be satisfied with what we have. Imagine paying for every cup of juice you drink! That’s insane!
We’re used to having a boring currency
Given the fact that America is currently at the center of the global economy, our currency is pretty dull. There are other countries that have more colorful bills with lots of cultural figures. However, it seems that America is absolutely determined to keep the barely-green dollars the whole world knows so well.
Probably because our American dollar has become a symbol throughout the world, so changing it at some point would mess up with what people know about us. But don’t worry, this isn’t the only insane thing about our country, as I am about to present you with another thing that’s money-related and you won’t see it anywhere else!
We carry A LOT of coins
Have you ever noticed how weird are our coins? In many cases, the name of a coin will automatically tell you what you need to know about it, such as how much it’s worth. In our country, except for the quarter, which value is the equivalent of one-fourth of a dollar, nothing else makes sense.
The quarter is the only coin that has a sense and you can follow its logic in terms of its worth. All the other ones are completely random, at least in my opinion. What’s your thought on this? Make sure you write it down in the comments section!
We have 24-hour restaurants
We will give as an example New York City because that’s supposedly the city that never sleeps (although it’s definitely not the only city with 24-hour businesses). Some foreign tourists are probably in love with this perk: we have restaurants that are open around the clock.
I mean, in comparison with Spain or Italy, where you’ll bump into the famous siesta that will close all the shops and restaurants for a solid 4 hours in the middle of the day, we are wide open, baby! You have to love America for this because I certainly do!
We are carding people who are not under 21
In America, even if you’re heading into a bar or just buying a six-pack at the grocery store, there’s a high chance to be asked for your ID. Oh, I forgot to mention: this will happen even if you look like a 50-years-old.
This is simply insane for so many foreigners, not to mention that you’d never see this in other countries. Even more, by the time they reach their 30s, most foreigners would be already drinking for more than two decades. When it comes to this, Americans play by the book, so it’s wise to keep your ID with you at all times if you plan on drinking.
We have cheerleaders at every sports game
Did you know that cheerleading happens exclusively in America? Or at least, we’re the ones who started it. I bet that thanks to American movies and TV Shows, there are now many people in other countries that know about cheerleading, but only a few people have actually seen it in real person.
This is definitely something that you’ll only see at sporting events in the U.S. The concept of having a dancing cheer squad to support the sports team is pretty insane for many foreigners. I mean, have you ever seen cheerleaders at the World Cup?
We invented coffee to go
While this is definitely less surprising thanks to Starbucks, Americans were the ones to initiate the practice of ordering coffee to go. In fact, up to this day, this behavior strikes many Europeans as insane behavior.
I don’t know, it probably all started while we were rushing to get to work, I guess? I mean, what do you expect from a nation that doesn’t take advantage of vacation days? So truth to be told, Americans aren’t exactly the type of people that stay and enjoy their coffee from a ceramic cup over a deep conversation. We’re always on the run, baby!
And the drive-thrus
In any other country, you’d visit, when you go eat at a restaurant, you take the time at least to park your cake and walk through the front doors. But not in America, no! We’re far too busy to waste any kind of time, so we’ll prefer ordering from a drive-through restaurant, coffee shop, grocery store, or liquor store.
I don’t know why we prefer it like this, but it’s definitely something that did us good, at least when the pandemic started. Less interaction, more food, right?
We also invented super-sized portions
Why settle for an 8-ounce steak when we can have a 20-ounce one? Why would you choose a Tall when you can have a Venti for just a dollar more? There’s this thing about us: we either go big, or we go home. So when foreigners come to visit us, this is one of the first things they notice.
And oftentimes, they see it as a paradise. But if it is to listen to a foreigner from New Zeeland, there’s one piece of advice you need to remember after arriving in America: “order the medium.” Even if you might be tempted to eat a large-sized portion you have never seen before, it would be an excess your body might not appreciate later.
We’re dining with overattentive waiters
Most of our European tourists will expect to tell the waiter what they want and then finish the interaction until their meal arrives. So it comes to many as a surprise when they see that they are being checked every 10 minutes. So for those who are used to eating in a restaurant with little interruption, all those check-ins and the waiter’s willingness to help might be a bit off-putting.
We tip a lot
And speaking of it, if you never visited America, you should know by now that one of the most expensive things about being a tourist here is definitely tipping. In many European countries, service fees will be included in the receipt, and the tips will never jump over 8 to 12 percent. But here, in America, you will be expected to add over 20 percent to your bill, at least if you want to avoid a dirty look from the server.
We have the spray cheese
Prepare yourself. So we have this thing that we actually love (for whatever reason), which is the canned cheese. While every country might have its own type of spray cheese and there are many options out there, we can safely agree that American canned cheese is definitely not cheese.
First, it has a deep yellow color, which can scare off foreigners who are used to a lighter-colored cheese, such as the Greek feta, Indian paneer, or the French camembert. The idea of such a yellow cheese in a can, with that specific consistency and the fact that it can be sprayed, must be a lot to many foreigners.
While we might convince some people to grow fond of other American dishes, I don’t think this one will ever become popular.
And the American Black Friday
There are many countries that adopted Black Friday, which is a holiday dedicated to SHOPPING (maybe that’s why we don’t take vacations?) that takes place right after Thanksgiving. In fact, Black Friday has become more and more popular, as many Americans are queuing up to catch their favorite deals.
In fact, the American Black Friday was the cause of some of the worst fights between shoppers, car accidents, and even downright scary mob scenes.
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