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23 things that are considered ‘normal’ in the US but that the rest of the world finds weird

The US has a lot of seemingly normal and common customs and habits, like tipping and big serving sizes. But they’re not always as common as we think.

Sometimes people in the US forget that the way we do things isn’t necessarily the way it’s done everywhere else.

That doesn’t mean these American customs are bad — it just means that what we believe is common is actually not. Here are some regular things we do in the US that people from other cultures might think is a bit strange.

Using money that is all the same color.

Stacks of money.
It seems confusing. Photo:Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

In the US, dollar bills are all the same shade of green, and they all look very similar, aside from slightly different images.

If you travel to other countries, you’ll find that their bills are typically all different colors and sizes according to what they’re worth. Many foreigners find our currency to be a bit confusing since it all looks the same.

Putting a lot of ice in our drinks.

One small thing that stands out when you visit Europe is that restaurants there don’t use a lot of ice — at most restaurants, you won’t get it unless you ask for it.

Americans are among the few people who use an excess of ice in their drinks. Articles have even written about why we do it. The Smithsonian believes it may be related to our “more is more” vibe in the US.

Using “America” or “Americans” to describes ourselves, our customs, and our country.

If you grew up in the US, you may think of “America” and “United States” as interchangeable. As it turns out, much of the rest of the world does not.

The US is not the only “America” out there — there’s also the rest of North America and all of South America. Many can’t understand why we refer to the US as “America,” and people from other countries often refer to our country as simply “the States.”

Writing the date beginning with the month.

People in the US typically write the date out in the format of month-day-year. People in other parts of the world, like the United Kingdom and Europe, write it out in the format of day-month-year.

To us, that format is quite strange. But many people from other countries can’t understand why we write the month first, as to them it seems out of order.

Advertising prescription drugs all over the place.

In a Reddit thread asking the weirdest things Americans do, many users discussed how strange they thought it was that the US advertised prescription drugs. Many said they found it to be one of the weirdest things about being in the US.

The Reddit user NoDownvotesPlease said: “That was the weirdest one for me. ‘Ask your doctor for brand x antidepressants’ type commercials on TV. In the UK, your doctor tells you what drugs you should take, not the other way round.”

Hanging American flags everywhere.

An American flag.
An American flag in an empty lot in Waveland, Mississippi, on August 26, 2015. Photo:Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

In that same Reddit thread, users expressed how strange it was that that American flags were everywhere, from businesses to historical sites to homes.

The fact our pharmacies sell so many things.

As BBC America pointed out, there are many differences between pharmacies in the US and drugstores in Europe and elsewhere.

Many people from other places can’t believe that, in the US, our pharmacies sell drugs and junk food. They can’t believe that pharmacies basically double as convenience stores in the US.

Eating bread that almost always tastes sweet.

In the Reddit thread, many users discussed how they found it strange to constantly encounter sweet bread in the US.

Using the imperial system of measurement instead of the metric system.

The US is one of only three countries that still use the imperial system of measurement, and everyone out there thinks we’re strange for doing so.

The constant commercials on TV.

When it comes to advertisements, the rest of the world can’t believe how many we have.

The Reddit user WhatWouldTylerDo wrote: “I love America. But the one thing I hate is the placement of commercials on TV. It might be only for certain channels, but for a 30-minute show, there will be about four commercial breaks. And not even evenly spaced. Including one before the credits at the end of a show. Then it’ll jump straight from the credits to the next show.”

Expecting free refills everywhere we get a drink.

Many foreigners think it’s strange that free refills are offered and generally expected. It’s not the norm in many other places — France banned unlimited refills in 2017.

Using a lot of water in the toilet bowls.

Toilets are certainly different in the US than in other parts of the world, and one amusing difference to note is how much more water there is in American toilets than other countries’.

In the Reddit thread, one user wrote, “Seriously, why so much?!”

Putting giant gaps in between bathroom stalls.

Bathroom stalls.
It doesn’t offer too much privacy. Photo: Buckeye Sailboat/Shutterstock

Many people are surprised that the doors of bathroom stalls in the US are rarely flush with the side, leaving gaps people can see in that don’t exist in many other countries.

It was brought up in many comments in the Reddit thread, with users saying they found the “massive” gaps to be an invasion of privacy and just plain strange.

Drinking huge coffees while we walk around.

In many other countries, in places like Europe, coffee is consumed in smaller quantities. That means they drink it quickly and they don’t take it to go.

But in the US, large to-go coffee cups are common. People from other countries find it strange.

Taking leftover food home from a restaurant.

In the US, we don’t think twice about asking a server to box up our uneaten food so we can bring it home to finish another time.

In other countries, this is incredibly strange and even considered rude. In France, for example, it’s so frowned upon that a law had to be passed to allow “doggy bags” to happen to get rid of food waste.

Eating giant portions.

An individual cutting into food.
Some foreigners can’t believe the portion sizes. Photo: OhEngine/Shutterstock

Speaking of leftover food, people from other countries also can’t believe how big American portions are.

That’s true when it comes to the size of dishes in restaurants, sodas, and other drinks in fast-food chains, and even items that aren’t food.

Paying sales tax on pretty much everything we buy.

We might not like sales tax here in the US, but we expect it.

In other countries, the sales tax is often built into the price, so the price doesn’t change when you bring something to the register, and they find it strange that the US doesn’t do the same. It’s such a big difference that there are even advisories to people traveling to the US warning them of sales tax when shopping.

Tipping waiters and waitresses and other service professionals.

Not tipping in the US is frowned upon. In other parts of the world, a tip is not expected — it can even be considered rude.

Tipping is another thing travelers are often warned about when coming to the US.

Using red cups to drink alcohol out of.

Red solo cups at a Walmart store.
They’re common in US movies and in real life. Photo:Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

People around the world can’t believe how often Americans use red cups. In some countries, people throw “American parties,” where they all make sure to use red cups.

Wearing swimsuits to the beach.

In some other countries, in places like Europe, it’s considered normal to be topless on the beach.

In fact, people who travel to the US often have to be warned to wear swimsuits in public and keep them on.

Going into debt to go to college.

It’s no secret that going to college in the US can be expensive, and students can end up in debt to get a degree. A lot of other countries offer free college education, and they can’t believe how much we spend on ours.

Throwing baby showers.

Baby showers are a fun custom in the US, but it’s not something many other parts of the world partake in. Outside the US, some people find them strange, kind of rude, and aren’t interested in partaking in them.

Working constantly with relatively little vacation time.

According to research by the Center for American Progress, the US is officially the most overworked country in the developed world.

Some people in other countries can’t believe how much work we do, how long our hours are, how we eat lunch at our desks, and how we don’t take advantage of vacation time. Some other countries offer six weeks of paid vacation time as a standard.



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