All the Things Only Americans Think Are Normal

Although every region in the United States has its own customs and identity, some norms are practiced throughout the country. These traditions may be normal to people in the US but certainly not to the rest of the world. Most people from outside the nation would consider these peculiarities bizarre.

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From leaving generous tips to the enormous portion sizes for meals, Americans do many things that freak everyone else out. We’ve compiled a list of some things that are considered normal in the US, but the rest of the world may think it’s weird. Get ready to be shocked!

Expecting Everyone to Speak English

We don’t deny that English is a universal language and is quite possibly the most widely spoken language globally. But that doesn’t mean everyone in every country must speak it just because American tourists are in the country. Most Americans think otherwise and just assume everyone speaks English.

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Many Americans don’t understand that English isn’t the official language of many countries and get frustrated when they visit other countries and can’t speak the language. Thankfully, Google Translate can come to the rescue. We hope some Americans understand this instead of being unnecessarily rude to strangers.

Hosting a “World” Series with Only the United States

If you watch superhero movies, you’ll often hear that a hero saved the “world,” but the scenes were only in the US. Apparently, it’s the same in real life and puzzles many foreigners. For example, why is it called the World Series if it only involves American baseball teams?

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We’re quite sure baseball is popular in other countries. It sounds like we’re so self-absorbed that we think the world revolves around our 50 states. A team from the American League and the National League (both in the US) decided to have a tournament and named it the World Series.

Wearing Socks with Sandals

Even as Americans, we have never understood the socks with sandals trend. Wouldn’t it be wiser to wear sneakers if the person wants to hide their feet? People usually wear sandals to get some air on their feet, so what is the point of adding socks?

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If your feet get cold, why not just wear shoes or boots with socks? And if your feet are warm, just wear sandals only. Which is worse, tan lines on your feet or a sock tan? It’s a strange look, but we don’t know what drove Americans to start it.

Being Too Fascinated with Ancient History

When compared to most countries globally, the United States is quite young. People around the world often forget that when they see Americans so impressed at ancient historical artifacts and sites. We understand that ancient history will forever be part of the present.

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But the awe with which Americans gaze upon these artifacts baffles many people from other countries. It’s not that these people don’t value their history; it just feels strange seeing Americans drooling over it. Americans can’t help that they don’t have thousands-of-years-old relics in their country.

Thinking Everyone Knows Each Town in the US

The average American will go into detail whenever you ask them where they’re from. You’ll probably hear something like, “I’m from Smalltown, Nebraska.” Most times, it’s a place you’ve never heard of, but Americans just assume everybody knows every town in every state, which can be weird to other people.

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There are so many states and locations to remember that they can all quickly blur together. When a tourist says, “I’m from Ramsey,” most people won’t know if Ramsey is in the north, south, east, west, or even outside the country. Being too specific isn’t always useful.

Wearing Shorts All Year Round

If you want to spot an American in a sea of people in a foreign country, just look for the person wearing shorts during the strangest times of the year. We can’t explain why Americans do that, but it seems to be common among American tourists.

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There’s really nothing wrong with wearing shorts whenever it’s seasonally appropriate. But you’ll agree that it’s not normal seeing someone’s kneecaps during winter or when it’s raining. Irrespective of the weather, Americans seem to lose any feeling of temperature the moment they leave the States.

The Money Is the Same Color

The American dollar may be powerful, but it doesn’t look very exciting. Most countries of the world have currency notes with different colors and sizes for every value. The metallic accents are also much more visually appealing than the green and black design of the American dollar.

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People who visit America for the first time find it hard to distinguish among the greenback bills since they’re used to the different colors of their country’s currency. It’s even more difficult when they have to whip their wallets out quickly and pay for a service.

Paying People to Greet You at the Store

When people visit the United States for the first time, one of the most bizarre things they see or hear is the people who are paid just to greet them at the store. It’s not like you’re visiting someone’s home; you just want to pick up some groceries.

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So why is it important to have someone welcome you? Even some Americans don’t understand the need for greeters. But they do add some humor to the routine activity of shopping. Perhaps retailers believe that welcoming customers makes them less prone to stealing. Or maybe it improves customer retention.

School Lunches Are Inedible

Many countries around the world have a variety of school lunches. When you visit each country, their version of the cafeteria lunch is unique to the nation, but America probably has the worst-looking options you could imagine. Having nachos and milk at 11:00 a.m. just doesn’t sit right with many people.

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The options on the menu are so inedible that people from other countries just don’t understand why anyone would choose to buy lunch from the school cafeteria. There are all kinds of mystery meats and things that look like sludge. Even some grown-up Americans think their school lunches were awful.

Each State Has Different Laws

When you really think about it, this is something even Americans should find odd. Why does each state have different laws, and how are we expected to remember them all when we travel? No wonder most countries think this is a bizarre practice.

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We’re called the United States, but having different laws in each state doesn’t sound so united, does it? Why can’t we just be united on the same laws across all states? Well, things aren’t always straightforward in the US, and it almost seems we like making our lives harder.

Sharing a Dorm Room with a Stranger

When people go to college in the United States, they’re expected to share a tiny, closet-sized room with a total stranger—sometimes even two. There’s no privacy, and who really wants to be around during another teenager’s sexual awakening? If you’re American, you’ve probably never thought this was weird.

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While people in other countries live in rented apartments with friends, they usually don’t get stuck with strangers in a dorm room. No wonder people from around the world see this as a strange way to live. We don’t blame them because it truly is quite odd.

When Tourists Wear Hawaiian Shirts outside of Hawaii

While Hawaii is part of the United States, some people who have never been to Hawaii like donning their brightly colored button-up shirts whenever they go abroad. And it has quickly become a tourist stereotype that most people from other countries consider strange.

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Hawaiian shirts are typically worn with cargo shorts, a baseball cap, and a large bag. Oh, how could we forget the socks with sandals trend too? You can easily pick an American tourist out of a crowd by looking for whoever is wearing this combo.

Taking Leftovers Home from Restaurants

Since the food portions in America are sizable, there’s usually food left to take home, meaning they get doggy bags. While it may sound like we’re defending ourselves, this should be a commendable behavior because it’s not good to waste food that is left on your plate.

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But apparently, people from some other countries don’t agree. You’ll probably get funny looks in most countries when you ask to take the leftovers home because it isn’t a request they often hear. In fact, most restaurants in Europe will consider it a rude request.

Eating Large Portions of Meals

It’s not a secret that Americans love food, maybe a little too much because one-third of US adults struggle with obesity. That’s why many Europeans won’t hesitate to use this to get at Americans. Traveling around the world and trying different cuisines from various cultures is exciting.

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It is an experience most people enjoy once in their lives and will never forget. That’s why most Americans are confused by the smaller portion sizes of meals. They ask for larger portions in countries with Mediterranean food or tapas because they’re not familiar with eating such small meals.

Using the Imperial Measurement System

There are only three countries in the world that use the imperial system of measurement—Myanmar, Liberia, and the United States. We have no idea why America has chosen to be stubborn about learning the metric system and has stuck to the imperial system for measuring things.

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You’ll even find some Americans reluctant to learn the metric system when they’re out of the country. Practically every other country has adopted a different measuring system, which has probably caused friction when people work with different countries. We’re sure some Americans have run into problems in other countries.

The Odd Obsession with Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing is as American as Fahrenheit, playing football, and going broke just to pay for college. Americans are so obsessed with ranch that it has started to creep out people from other countries. They add it to any dish, from chicken fingers to pizza, and there’s even ranch-flavored soda.

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As an American, there’s something just so satisfying about mixing ranch with their food. But you’ll likely never find our beloved dipping sauce being used in other countries because most people don’t like it or understand why we think it’s such a good addition to meals. That won’t stop us anyway.

When Americans Add More Ice Than Liquid in Drinks

Adding ice to almost any drink is something you’ll find only Americans doing. Yes, we’re guilty of this. Many countries outside the US don’t like doing this because the ice has questionable origins and waters down the drink. It also takes space from the actual drink.

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While some places offer a small quantity of ice in drinks, it usually doesn’t take most of the cup. What’s the point of paying for a pricey drink and having most of the cup filled with ice? So it makes sense that other places think it’s weird.

Giving Everyone a Thumbs Up

Walking around giving people a thumbs up is something that’s peculiar to Americans. But in case you didn’t know, thumbs up isn’t an international sign. People don’t use this hand gesture in other countries as often as Americans do. Keep this in mind the next time you leave the country.

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In fact, some countries around the world consider this hand gesture offensive. It could be synonymous with cursing or giving someone the middle finger. So maybe just leave your thumb by your side and commend people with your mouth if you don’t want to get in trouble.

Not Adding Sales Tax to Price Tags

The fact that sales tax is not included in price tags on every item is one of the commonest criticisms people have of the United States. Most foreigners just think excluding sales tax from the price until you’re at the register is sneaky behavior.

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When they visit, foreigners should be warned that the costs are not as they seem in retail stores. Although it is a complicated system, some Americans have managed to calculate the price just by looking at the item.

Smiling at Strangers Is Quite Strange

The average American is quite polite, but sometimes they might be taking their courtesy a little too far. Sometimes you wonder why Americans smile at strangers they don’t know, never will, and may never see again for the rest of their lives. It’s just courtesy, right?

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Yeah, to Americans. Beyond the US, it doesn’t make sense to most people. While most Americans would probably smile back, folks from other countries would likely be uncomfortable with a random person smiling at them. Some people might even distance themselves from the person giving them a creepy smile.

The Day-Month-Year Date Format

At this point, it feels like the United States just wants to be different from every other country, even going as far as writing the date differently. Most countries in the world write the date as day-month-year, but it’s written as month-day-year in the US.

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If you asked us, we can’t tell you the reason for this difference, but it does throw foreigners off when they visit or when Americans visit and write the date that way. We are sure many people have had to cross out incorrect dates because of this mysterious difference.

The Idea of Baby Showers

If you didn’t know it, yes, baby showers are an American thing. Although they’re becoming bigger and more extravagant each year with more people from other countries hosting them, baby showers are really only enjoyed by Americans. We just have baby fever immediately after the pregnancy is announced all the way up to the birth.

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But why don’t many countries celebrate with baby showers? There are many reasons. However, the most popular reason most people won’t join the US in our baby shower frenzy is that celebrating a baby before birth is considered bad luck. And they also just think it’s too extra.

Partying with Red Cups

If you’re American, red Solo cups are probably normal to you. But while red Solo cups are popular in college and outdoor parties in America, many countries in the world are baffled at why we use these—not that they have a problem with it, but it’s just fascinating.

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We associate college parties with red cups, and we also know that these are the type of cups that are ideal for beer pong. Americans want no part in the party if the cups aren’t red and don’t have lines for measuring each drink.

When Americans Join a Sorority

Since sororities are mostly a thing in America, it’s obvious that the rest of the world thinks they’re odd. Foreigners just can’t get their heads around why college students would pay a huge amount of money to make friends and wear Greek letters. But it’s still fascinating for them to hear about.

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While some countries outside the US have fraternities, they probably only make headlines when there is a hazing incident. But they do have advantages such as job connections after college, which sounds good. They must also participate in philanthropic causes so at least their presence benefits the community.

Leaving Tips Almost Everywhere

You’ll be seen as a rude person if you don’t leave a tip in the US. And we can understand why. Waiters and other servers in the United States don’t make enough money to live on, so they usually rely on tips to improve their income and pay the bills.

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Most places outside the US already include a service charge on the bill. So if you’re tipping on top of that, people just think you’re throwing money around. Another reason it’s considered strange is that servers in many other countries are paid better than in the US.

Taking a Road Trip across the Country for Vacation

The United States is a sizable country with practically every imaginable type of landscape. There are many diverse cultures to discover, regional cuisines to sample, and dialects to learn. Not to mention the several well-known tourist attractions that every American feels they owe it to themselves to see before they die.

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Given how much there is to see in the country, we understand why people drive their families around for weeks at a time while living out of a camper van. Why travel all the way to Paris when you can simply drive to Vegas and view the Eiffel Tower there?

Tailgating at Sports Competitions

You’re probably already surprised at the many traditions foreigners consider weird. Here’s another one. Tailgating is one thing in American culture that can get us excited! Most people attend college or professional sports games for the tailgating more than the actual game. We’re all guilty of that.

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People get excited about the barbecue, the brews, and the vibes, which is understandable considering how much we love food in this country. But foreigners can’t understand why people would come so early before the game begins. They also find such elaborate setups by Americans to be odd.

The Trick-or-Treating during Halloween

While Halloween didn’t originate in America, trick-or-treat is predominantly an American thing. The US way of celebrating Halloween has only recently begun gaining popularity outside our country. But others still find it bizarre. Many people even claim it is yet another way that Americans commercialize every holiday.

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That’s quite harsh, to be honest. We think they’re just jealous of what we have because no other country has a holiday where you can knock on strangers’ doors and get candy for free. But now that we’ve written it down, it actually kind of sounds weird.

Adverts on Everything and Anything

This will probably reinforce the belief that we commercialize anything. Whatever the product, we certainly have an advertisement for it in America. Every business has a billboard, bench sign, or commercial to showcase what they have to offer, from prescription medications to lawyers, yet some, especially foreigners, don’t understand it.

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Many of them can’t understand why there are so many drug commercials in the US. When they visit America, people from outside the country find it puzzling when they watch TV and see commercials of couples parading through fields with a list of side effects being shown at the end.

When Americans Use Coffee Creamer

Adding some kind of milk to coffee isn’t a strange behavior. Most people outside of the US do this often. But in America, we have something called coffee creamer. We really don’t know what it is, but we do know it’s high in sugar and isn’t good for your health.

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Do we still use it regardless? You bet we do. The US isn’t popular for having the tastiest coffee options, unlike some South American and European countries. So we’ve resulted in something strong to hide the taste of watered-down brew or burnt beans. It’s weird to most foreigners.

When We Eat Peanut Butter and Jelly

Eating peanut butter and jelly is probably one of the most classic food combinations in the US. We enjoy that delectable blend of salty and sweet. But if you didn’t already know it, this is only a thing in the US. Personally, we think this is an amazing combination.

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But many people from outside the US find it strange. Some people don’t know if jelly and jam are the same things and why this meal is eaten for lunch by people older than five. We don’t care. We love our all-American classic PB&J sandwich.

Having a Variety of Each Product

Americans need a variety of options; we can’t just have one kind of product. Every item in the grocery store has to be available in a gazillion different flavors and types, making it impossible for shoppers to decide what to buy while they browse the aisles.

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Perhaps we simply like the variety because we like to mix things up rather than eat the same breakfast cereal every morning. Whatever the case may be, you might find it hard to adjust to life outside the United States if you love having several options.

Turning Right Despite the Red Light

When it comes to road and traffic laws, every country has its own rules. One of the biggest and hugely contested road laws in the world is that Americans can turn right despite a red light. The whole concept of the red light is to stop traffic, right?

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As you already know, as long as there’s no sign saying there is no right on red and neither are there oncoming cars, nothing stops cars from going through a red light to turn right. Foreigners find this absurd because they’re used to waiting for the green arrow before moving.

Huge Gaps in Bathroom Stall Doors

Have you ever entered a public restroom and thought, “This experience would feel so much better if only I could make eye contact with the person on the other side of this door”? Of course, most people have never thought about that because the restroom is meant to be private.

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In every other country in the world, bathroom stalls don’t have huge gaps, and you can use the toilet in peace. In the United States, using a public restroom is like wondering who will be at the show because anyone can watch you do your business.

Having School Mascots Is Considered Strange

If you watch Hollywood high school movies and TV shows, you must have seen how overjoyed people get when their school mascot appears on the field or court. Our sports games are so hyped, and everyone goes nuts as the person in the costume steps out of the locker room.

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Well, this is normal in the United States but not everywhere in the world. While you’ll see mascots in many sports today, having them in high school and getting so excited is just strange to most foreigners. They wonder if it’s the animal that’s so exciting or the person.

Pointy Water Cups Are Strange

We’re not going to argue that staying hydrated is important for our bodies. In fact, we love how almost every place you go to in the United States has a water cooler available so people can refresh themselves. What some foreigners don’t understand is the ice-cream-cone-shaped water cups.

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These paper cups are strange even to us as Americas. They don’t hold much water, you can’t put them down anywhere, and they disintegrate in your hands. So what is the logic behind them? They may be fun for a while but not very practical.

Adding Sugar to Every Drink

Just like our eating habits, Americans’ drinking culture isn’t healthy either. No wonder our European friends always use this to get at us. We love a good ice cream cone or soda once in a while. The thing is, our options are almost always loaded with sugar.

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Non-Americans keep bringing up the fact that there’s sugar in virtually every drink that isn’t water. And this puzzles them. Even if it isn’t the actual sugar, you’ll still find artificial sweeteners. We’ll be honest and say we used to love vitamin water.

Always Sitting in the Back Seat

If you’re an American or live in the country, you’ll know it’s pretty normal to sit in the back seat of an Uber or taxi. Have you ever seen anyone hail a taxi and hop in the front seat beside the driver? It’s possible but very unlikely.

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That’s why American tourists behave this way abroad. However, taxi drivers often give them odd looks for doing that because they are used to passengers sitting in the front seat. It could even be considered rude, but Americans won’t sit in the front seat unless they want a conversation.

Expecting to Get Free Refills

If you’ve lived all your life in some parts of America, you’re in for a rude shock when you go overseas. One thing that is quite common in American eateries (even though not all of them) is free drink refills. It’s so common that you may think it’s normal everywhere.

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But they aren’t. As a result, when Americans travel abroad, they will experience the irksome surprise of having to pay for each cup they drink. Outside of America, free refills are essentially unheard of; if you know of any place that offers them, kindly let us know.

Having Strict Drinking Rules

We’ve all heard about alcohol regulations. Some regions of the US still follow laws from the Prohibition era, making the US one of the few nations that forbids citizens from drinking until they are 21. On particular days of the week, they limit the sale of alcohol, beer, and wine.

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It is one of the few places that will card a person even if they appear to be much older than 21. Due to the severe restrictions in such areas, a person well into their fifties may still be asked for identification. This is something some foreigners think is weird.

Showing Off the Flag at Every Opportunity

Besides wearing shorts unseasonally, donning Hawaiian shirts, and socks with sandals, you can identify an American when you see someone wearing the American flag. Look, we get it; you’re patriotic. But many people from outside the US consider it weird to wear your country’s national flag as clothes.

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Although American patriotism is cute, this isn’t something you’ll regularly find across the world. Most people will only wear their country’s colors at national events or sporting competitions in support. But seeing someone stepping off a plane and decked out in stripes and stars is just weird to many people.