Cultural differences offer a glimpse into the diverse tapestry of human societies. Regarding the United States, a country known for its vibrant melting pot of cultures, certain aspects of American life can leave non-Americans bewildered.
1. Super-Sized Portions
One cultural aspect that often perplexes non-Americans is the enormous portion sizes found in American restaurants. From towering hamburgers to jumbo-sized sodas, “supersizing” seems excessive and wasteful to many outsiders. Non-Americans often wonder how anyone can finish such large quantities of food and express concerns about health implications. The American culture’s obsession with super-sized portions can be seen as an embodiment of the country’s “bigger is better” mentality.
2. Tipping Culture
The tipping culture in the United States is another peculiar aspect that often leaves non-Americans scratching their heads. While tipping is practiced in various parts of the world, it is not as prevalent or expected to the same extent as in the U.S. Non-Americans find it unusual that tips are not only given to waitstaff but also to a wide range of service providers, including bartenders, taxi drivers, and hotel staff. The complexity of determining appropriate tip amounts can be confusing for foreigners and lead to moments of anxiety when trying to navigate this social convention.
3. Overzealous Patriotism
Americans’ intense display of patriotism is something that non-Americans often find peculiar. From flags adorning homes and businesses to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, expressions of national pride seem more pronounced in the United States compared to many other countries. Non-Americans may perceive this level of patriotism as excessive or even jingoistic, especially during events like the 4th of July celebrations, where American flags, fireworks, and national symbols dominate the landscape.
4. Casual Attire in Formal Settings
In American culture, dressing formally can be pretty different from what non-Americans are accustomed to. While other countries often follow strict dress codes for formal events, Americans tend to adopt a more casual approach. Non-Americans may find it strange to see people attending weddings, operas, or even business meetings wearing jeans and t-shirts. This relaxed attitude toward attire can be seen as a reflection of American values emphasizing individualism and comfort over rigid societal norms.
5. Obsession with Personal Privacy
Americans’ emphasis on personal privacy and individual rights can sometimes perplex non-Americans. From gated communities to the reluctance to share personal information, Americans often prioritize protecting their privacy above communal interests. This cultural aspect can be seen in the stringent regulations regarding data protection and the debates surrounding surveillance programs. While non-Americans may view this emphasis on privacy as an essential safeguard, they may also find it curious how it influences various aspects of American life.
6. Drive-Through Everything
The convenience of drive-through services is deeply ingrained in American culture and often bewilders non-Americans. Drive-through restaurants, coffee shops, and even pharmacies offer the ease of conducting everyday tasks without leaving the comfort of one’s car. Ordering fast food or picking up prescriptions without stepping inside a building can seem peculiar and perpetuates the stereotype of America’s car-centric society. Non-Americans may wonder if this reliance on drive-through services promotes a more sedentary lifestyle.
7. Openness in Expressing Emotions
Non-Americans may find Americans’ tendency to express emotions, particularly positive ones, quite unusual openly. Americans wear their hearts on their sleeves, frequently expressing excitement, enthusiasm, and joy in public settings. Non-Americans, who may come from cultures that value restraint and emotional composure, may interpret this open display of emotions as overly exuberant or insincere. However, this cultural difference can also be seen as a reflection of the American belief in individual freedom and authenticity.
8. Free Water in Restaurants
In many countries, it is common for restaurants to charge for a glass of water. Non-Americans may find it odd that water is often served for free in American restaurants, with some establishments even offering unlimited refills. This practice, rooted in American hospitality and customer service, may appear unusual to foreigners accustomed to paying for every beverage consumed in a restaurant setting.
9. Public Obsession with Reality TV
The fascination with reality television in the United States is a cultural phenomenon that can be puzzling to non-Americans. From shows depicting everyday people in bizarre situations to talent competitions and dating programs, reality TV seems to have an overwhelming presence in American media. Non-Americans may question the appeal of these shows and find it strange that they attract such a large audience and significantly impact popular culture.
10. Constant Refills in Restaurants
The American practice of providing unlimited drink refills in restaurants is something that non-Americans often find strange. While in many countries, patrons pay for each beverage they consume, Americans enjoy having their drinks refilled without extra charge. Non-Americans may view this as excessive or unnecessary, raising concerns about waste and the health consequences of excessive soda consumption.
What’s Up With the Drug Commercials
Most countries, except the US and New Zealand, ban direct-to-consumer ads for prescription medicine. Foreigners think it is weird that Americans, accustomed to all kinds of consumer ads, think it is normal. The drug ads provide consumers with information about the drug, and then it speeds up when it details side effects. When Oprah Winfrey interviewed Harry and Meghan in 2021, there was much questioning about how the ads run. Some of the world’s healthcare systems dole out drugs via socialized medicine.
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This article was produced and syndicated by The Cents of Money.
With a passion for investing and personal finance, I began The Cents of Money to help and teach others. My experience as an equity analyst, professor, and mom provide me with unique insights about money and wealth creation and a desire to share with you.