The Weirdest Things About the US That Americans Don’t Realize Are Odd

There is one major subject that the Internet never gets bored of: America.

And it’s for good reason: America is so famous, controversial, and unapologetically different, that in its relatively short time as a nation, it managed to either delight or aggravate everybody on earth.

That’s why it never ceases to fascinate.

There are no lukewarm opinions about it. Everybody either loves it, hates it or wants to nuke it. Whatever it is, nobody is indifferent to it and everybody knows who ‘she’ is.

She’s the belle of the ball in an expensive and chaotic horror movie. Everybody wants to be her, with her, in her… take your pick.

One thing is for sure: whatever part of the border, ocean, or Earth you might be, the subject of America is bound to ruffle some feathers no matter what you say.

Well, this time I’m not going to say anything about it. I will however let others speak.

What is this all about?

One of these days, as I was mindlessly scrolling through Twitter, I came across a post that kept me hooked for hours. The author was asking non-Americans who have been to the US ‘What is the weirdest thing about America that Americans don’t realize it’s weird?’

I read through all (all!) of the comments, then took the time to select some of them (ok, most of them) and I put them in categories. I took out the ugliest ones, but I did keep the honest ones, whether I agree with them or not. Curious which ones resonate with you.

This is how non-Americans see the US (‘What is the weirdest thing about America that Americans don’t realize it’s weird?’)

1. The imperial system

‘The weird and impractical units of measurement. I mean… 1 fl. oz equals 0.81095 gallons of donkey piss equals 635 pounds of goat manure (but only at midnight) and that is equal to the length of 1.75 wooden teeth of George Washington. Yo, wtf? Use the metric system like adults!’

The American Shock: From Atrocity to Beauty and Back Again

2. Land of hidden costs and surprise taxes.

‘Sales tax aren’t included. You see something for $10… oops it’s actually $10.73. Wouldn’t it be easier to display the real price instead?’

‘It feels like a land of hidden costs. You pick up an item in the store and it’s more expensive at the till/checkout. Perhaps you order a round of drinks (no food) and you are expected to pay a 20% on top.’

‘The way tax isn’t included in the price of things at grocery stores lol. You think it’s going to cost 5 dollars and you get your money ready, then the cashier asks for $5.23 It’s confusing!’

‘Being the only country to use the non intuitive date structure or New Yorkers thinking it makes sense to have one price on a shop shelf then the item is another price entirely at the till. Add the tax to the price tag so people know how much things cost.’

3. Shoes inside the house

‘Outside shoes inside the house. I don’t understand it. Wear house slippers or wear socks. But why wear shoes that you walked outside with all over the inside of your house? And then you’re jumping on the bed with them and resting them on tables?!’

4. The cost of everything

‘The richest country ever pays billions to wage wars on the civilians of some of the most hunger-stricken places on earth, while its own citizens go bankrupt for a simple visit to the ER and their kids acquire unpayable debt just to earn a degree… A miserably rich country.’

‘Cost of Data or Mobile Internet: being more expensive than other countries, that many phones are sold for free based on a Postpaid Data plan.’

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

5. Lack of health care & insurance

‘Having to pay for health coverage that barely covers for necessities like preventive services. That’s if you get cancer, and you aren’t insured, good luck!’

‘The pharma — from the industries to the pharmacies.’

‘Anything related to healthcare. That there is no free access to doctors, hospitals might not treat you if you don’t have insurance, the price of giving birth, debt because of medial bills etc.’

‘No maternity leave. Massive use of Taxpayers money on War industry used to make or keep Wars Worldwide. No public University either.’

‘Medical insurance is high. For an average family, a whole chunk of the monthly paycheck goes to insurance. Surely a better compromise could be worked out.’

‘Healthcare is so damn expensive but also… you get treated first and then the bill comes to your address. I was so surprised that when I had a surgery, I could just walk out of the hospital after giving my insurance info. I got the (extremely expensive) bill 2 weeks later.’

‘More amazing is how people don’t really cause an uproar and complain about the cost of medical insurance. Got easier cheaper access to doctors and medical facilities in India than the US.‘

‘The American medical system.. as advanced and awesome it is.. I cannot believe how capitalized it is.. so if someone is in NEED of chemo, for example, she won’t get the treatment unless she pays an astronomical amount.’

‘I’ve never been to US BUT I worked with US soldiers in my country. What hit me the most was the fact that they organized trip to dentist, because it was affordable. Some of them went to dentist for the first time in their life.’

6. The good part

‘Inherent self confidence, ‘everything is possible’ mentality and excitement about the future — most countries lack that.’

‘I love that dogs can travel in-cabin on planes over there. Can we pls bring that one to Australia?’

‘This isn’t weird, more like outstanding compared to any other country…but the soda fountains in the gas stations are AWESOME!!!’

‘I love how entrepreneurial & independent & innovative they are!’

‘Supermarkets. You have the best selection of stuff I’ve ever seen. I want a sauce that only exists in my head. It’s there.’

‘We did a 3 month toad trip in the US and found the people absolutely delightful and the landscape all over magnificent.’

Photo by Cayetano Gil on Unsplash

7. Assorted oddities

‘Very little inspiring public infra — sidewalks (if any) look like dirty factory floors, high schools look like prisons.’

‘Baseball caps… what’s up with baseball caps?’

‘When using a credit card at a restaurant, you can’t swipe it yourself. They take your card away and bring you a physical receipt where you add the tip. I don’t remember when, but we did away with that practice quite a long time ago.’

‘The lack of using cutlery properly. The way they use the knife besides the fork (or the spoon for pasta) is… different.’

‘The lights. Why are the rooms so dark? Why are there a million lamps everywhere? Do you not know about ceiling lights?’

‘Why aren’t there any electric kettles?’

‘All the money is the same color. From $1 to $100. Pretty much every other country I’ve visited makes an effort to differentiate denominations by using different colors (among other things).’

‘That businesses there still use paper cheques to pay their suppliers, it’s the 21st century, you can transfer instantly but you choose to send a cheque by snail mail and have me go to a bank to deposit it and wait for clearance?’

‘They put your groceries in 100 thin plastic bags. We have to bring our own bags and pack it by ourselves!’

‘The date format. I often hand over my ID and explain that I’m born in January and not July and the response, from educated people, is so often “You do it backwards in your country?!” Nope, D-M-Y is normal in nearly every country but this one.’

‘Having to provide ID when buying alcohol even though you’re clearly older than 21. My father was in his 60s and still got asked to show his ID when buying beer.’

‘The boxy, minimal architecture.’

‘How English people can’t do an Americans accent, just like Americans can’t do an English one.’

‘Extremely happy to meet you whilst they are severely indifferent at the same time. Weirdest thing.’

‘Thinking that Africa is a country.’

‘Two things. 1. As a Brit being complimented on my grasp of English. 2 Visiting AZ with Italian colleague and him being asked if they have Pizza in Italy. Oh, and also in AZ someone wearing a holstered handgun in the workplace.’

‘Flags!! Giant US flags everywhere. And the daily pledge of allegiance to the flag in primary school.’

‘They believe what the media tells them.’

8. The guns

‘The idea that people need guns to be safe. That’s the oddest thing to me.’

‘The number of people that die from guns. And it doesn’t seem to even be news anymore. So weird to me.’

‘American here. I agree with just about everything, except we definitely need our guns. Stay out of that argument.’

‘The love of the 2nd amendment. Why does it have to be defended at all costs?’

‘How much the US loves guns is just crazy!! I’m from Australia. Guns are not in our culture, not in our thinking, we have no paranoia about our government. Most Aussies have no interest in guns. Hence we have a peaceful safe society.’

‘Their literal obsession with guns. Why do all take family photos with your rifles??’

‘That you can buy guns in Walmart or Target.’

‘I had been in the US for work and had to do courses… During those, everyone noticing I was not from the US instantly pulled out their mobile phones showing me pictures of their rifles/guns whatever. wtf, everywhere else I had been people showed me pictures of nice things!’

‘Civilians giving up assault weapons is controversial despite the constant shootings. Now that’s weird!’

Photo by Max Okhrimenko on Unsplash

9. Tipping

‘Tipping culture. Tipping is treated as an entitlement rather than a thank you for good service. It’s stupid and retrogressive. Just pay your workers a decent salary and make tipping optional, like in every country on earth.’

‘I got a beer in Hawaii in a layover once and the bar tender was visibly angry I didn’t understand tipping. Like I swiped my card, but then he gave me a receipt with a line saying to write in my tip. Like do they need to swipe my card again just for the tip?’

‘The way they can’t fathom that tips are voluntary gift cash which the service receiver chooses to give in case their expectations have been exceeded.’

10. The sheer size of it all

‘The sheer dimensions of the vehicles shocked me. Not necessarily negative, but was weird to me once I stepped outside the airport.’

‘The size of everything! Cars, malls, supermarkets, food portions, flags, national parks, free coffee refills. The greeting while hiking. Tips and hidden taxes. Love it is vacation destiny, would not live there.’

11. Human interaction

‘Saying ‘hi’ in the streets. It’s good weird.’

‘That “How are you?” is not a sincere question to inquire the wellbeing of a fellow human being but rather a greeting…’

‘Saying ‘a whole lotta nothin’.’

‘How friendly people are.’

‘No one thinks they have an accent. They think they invented everything. I was asked if we celebrated Thanksgiving or Christmas in England. I was also asked if I could speak English before I came here. I have an Aunt in Germany, do you know her? Her name is……’

‘I am from Michigan and when I went to Tennessee I was surprised how friendly they were. Like, I’m from Detroit we don’t just walk up on strangers and talk to them LOL! Every state feels like a different country, that’s how diverse we are.’

The 5 Things That Creep Me Out About America as A European

12. Politics and culture

‘All the military commercials. Weird propaganda at the highest level.’

‘They think they have racism issues when they are the least racist country in the world.’

‘They live in the best country of the world, but most Americans complain about their country without knowing that racism, slavery, and every single thing they complain about, is 10x worst almost everywhere else in the world.’

‘Singing the national anthem before every sporting event. most other places only do this if the contest is between national sides (England vs France for example) but not local matches. Also having a pledge of allegiance — always strikes me as something North Korea would be into.’

‘(Back in 90s/00s) the consumerism, ease of getting credit/ guns, competing to keep up with the Joneses, the individualism, the pursuit of one’s own happiness not the collective.‘

‘The amount of time your politicians spent on campaigning is absurd. The election is in November of next year and I felt like the candidates have been campaigning since at least the beginning of this year. That’s 2 years for a job that lasts for 4 years!’

‘Rampant tribalism. Your tribe might be your state, your college, your church, your political party, your race, but everybody’s got a tribe and loyalty to that tribe is very highly valued.’

‘Having to make an appointment to see people. In India we show up with sweets and a beaming smiling at your doorstep, Over use and misuse of the concept of boundaries. In India we lean into our social groups for emotional support and people respect it if you need space.’

‘When I went for a student exchange, the family I was staying with asked me if we had washing machines in France. But everything in my house was so much more modern than in their house. They basically thought we where Stone Age people…’

‘How religion runs the country while the legal system claims to be secular and the constitution says “liberty and justice for all”.’

‘People in the US don’t often think outside the box; many Americans either can’t see or don’t accept that there are other options besides the ‘American way.’ This is evident in the two-party system, attitudes toward guns and cars, fast food culture, politics, etc.’

‘When I first moved here the main thing I noticed was the huge amount of waste. Things you buy are triple wrapped in plastic/ cardboard/ styrofoam. It’s very hard to properly recycle. It’s very normalized, and slowly I started to normalize it too.’

‘How many people support Trump!’

‘They measure distance in units of time. I asked someone how far to the train station and they replied “about half an hour”. I notice it all the time on US TV shows.’

‘Only African American on public transport… as it was something only for poor people… very discriminating and weird. I love public transport, best way to move around. Hate ugly, polluting cars.’

‘The visa questions : “is the sole purpose of your journey to subvert the American constitution and bring about the downfall of the American government?” I mean, I wouldn’t say *sole* purpose.’

‘The non-stop propaganda on your TV news & media … quite disconcerting that news which already died a natural death outside the US gets rehashed for weeks if it suits certain power structures. Even worse, ordinary people are trapped by this utter lack of reliable information.’

‘The news was very US centric, very little global content and what was shown was discussed only in terms of how it affected the US directly.’

‘How suburbs are meant for isolation from our families and communities. That many parents demand their kids move out at 18, and that many adults stop seeing their parents as they get older.’

‘How little they know about/ understand about everywhere else in the world. It’s actually astonishing. I’ve never been to a place where the average person knows so little about everywhere else before.’

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

13. Car culture

‘Driving ALL the time.’

‘Driving everywhere even when it’s for 1 block, walking is considered unsafe. When I was walking from where I lived to a supermarket, multiple cars with families and elderly people could stop and offer me a ride, so that I didn’t have to walk. It was literally 4 blocks.’

‘They seem to value nice cars: driving everywhere as a way of life.’

14. The toilets

‘Toilets! The fact they call them bathrooms or restrooms (2) the fact that public cubicles have big gaps around the sides/bottom of the doors (3) how shallow the bowls/pan are, I feel like I’m going to get a very wet (and icky) butt.’

‘Why the seats so low but the water level so high? Why don’t public toilet stall doors reach the floor?’

‘Not washing after, just wiping!’

‘Not using a bidet.’

‘The difficulty in finding a toilet when out in public. Then when you find one, there’s one toilet stall with a gap so big under the door that it renders the door pointless. No other complaints — I loved visiting the US.’

‘The huge gaps between the doors in public toilets was the most shocking thing to me. Why do Americans want an audience when they take a piss?’

‘Why is the gap at the bottom so damn big??? Like if someone drops something, or just wants to peek, they can see everything. Can you not afford more door? What’s happening? We have a gap but they’re not ridiculous.’

Liked what you read? Join my email list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *