Every country around the world has its weird and wonderful features. That’s what makes individual countries stand out! Cultural differences, traditions, family values, quirks, and strange customs. These are the things which make countries so special. However, when you visit a new country, and you spot these quirks first hand, for the first time, it can be rather odd to begin with.
What do you think Europeans think when they visit the United States of America for the first time? Maybe the words ‘big’ and ‘brash’ are often mentioned, but what about the small quirks which made them do a double-take? It’s certainly interesting to read of visitors’ experiences to the USA, some of them highly funny, some interesting, some cute, and some a little shocking! What did you think when you visited the USA for the first time? Or, if you’re American, what did you think when you visited Europe for the first time? It’s interesting to think about, so let’s check out some real-life experiences.
When you’re having breakfast in IHOP, probably trying to drink your first or maybe second coffee of the day, you don’t expect to see a local adding sugar to their Cola! Even for a sugar-addicted person, that’s pretty extreme!
The good news is that this certainly isn’t a regular American habit. Even most locals would look twice if they saw someone adding even more sugar to an already extremely sugary, carbonated drink.
This Irish visitor was quite shocked to find out that America is quite a religious country. Coming from Ireland, the visitor drew comparisons between America and their homeland, finding that the USA came up as the winner.
Perhaps it’s simply that commerciality is pretty big in America, whether you’re talking about shopping or religion. For that reason, billboards are going to show you messages of all different types. It seems they’re also talking to Jesus from billboards too.
As a European, your first reaction to seeing someone hurt or in pain is to call for an ambulance. You have faith in the idea that the ambulance will come, look at the person and either treat them on the spot or take them to hospital.
This visitor was shocked to find out that most Americans refuse to call an ambulance, even if they need one. The cost is far too high, and healthcare insurance isn’t anywhere near as prevalent as it should be.
If you’ve ever been to Walmart, you’ll know that it is very little you can’t buy from this huge, multipurpose store. This can be quite shocking to visitors who are used to having to go to different stores for specific niches.
This visitor was quite shocked to find fish and car parts in the same store. Do you think Americans even wonder why Walmart sells everything under one roof, or does it just seem very normal?
Many visitors to the USA are instantly shocked by the sheer size of the country. It’s easy to come up with a list of places you want to go to, but you see that it’s probably nearly impossible to achieve when you check the map.
This visitor was shocked to realize that what they thought would be a quick drive between cities took longer than it would cross their entire home country. For the USA, this is nothing unusual at all!
In many countries worldwide, certainly in Europe, when you see a price in a store, you expect to pay that price and nothing more. However, in America, that’s not the case. Tax is not included in the price you see on the tag.
Instead, you have to wait for the surprise when you reach the till. If you think you can work it out, that might become difficult when you factor in the different tax laws between states and even cities.
Most Americans know that their country is very large and that other countries are very small in comparison. However, this particular local assumed that everyone in London, UK, must know each other because of its small size.
Upon asking one British visitor whether they knew their friend who lived in London, the visitor was confused and politely explained that out of the millions of people who live in London, the chances of knowing this person were very slim!
If you’ve ever heard about the famous gap between bathroom doors and the wall, you’ll probably wonder whether it’s true or not. This visitor thought it was all a myth until they arrived and saw the proof for themselves.
Trying to do your business when someone can look in and make eye contact is distracting, for sure. Maybe Americans simply get used to this design flaw, or perhaps they’re equally as embarrassed by the gap!
American TV is packed with advertisements, and most of them are sickly sweet in their delivery. The advert’s person is always smiling and super-happy, which is quite strange when the voice-over mentions something dark and depressing.
One visitor was a little surprised to see a medication advert featuring a happy-go-lucky person, but in the background, ‘possible death’ was being listed as a side effect. Surely death isn’t something to be cheerful about?
One European visitor was a little surprised and amused to be asked several very strange questions by locals during their visit to America. We’re sure all Italians are now rolling their eyes at the mere thought that pizza isn’t from their homeland!
It’s not surprising that many Americans don’t know much about Europe, considering most Americans don’t have passports, let alone get to travel. That’s quite a shocking fact for a country so large and powerful.
We all know that America has an obesity problem, but it’s really quite shocking to see the extent of it when you see the problem firsthand. This visitor was surprised to see many people using electric scooters for mobility purposes because their obesity wouldn’t allow them to walk.
While there are many health drives to bring awareness to obesity in the USA, it’s not enough. For Europeans, such a sight is quite shocking, and while Europe has an obesity problem of its own, it’s certainly not to this degree.
While soldiers are certainly valued and thanked in Europe. This German soldier was shocked at the number of well wishes and thanks he received when he visited the USA. Like not even an American soldier, he was humbled by the number of people who approached him to say thank you.
This is something we could all learn from the USA. Troops around the world risk their lives for the greater good, and that’s something that’s certainly worth a ‘thank you at the very least.
We already know that the USA has an obesity problem, but this particular diner in Las Vegas gives free meals to those who weigh over 350lbs! Surely that should mean something completely different, not a free meal!
The fact that the diner is called ‘Heart Attack Grill” really should warn you off going there – it’s not something you want to invite into your life needlessly. The fact that they’re celebrating obesity isn’t something to be proud of either.
We all know that sugary drinks and snacks contain all manner of food colorings and preservatives, but this visit to a theme park didn’t expect to have quite the experience they did! After drinking a blue-colored beverage, they found their trip to the toilet, later on, was just as blue!
You have to wonder what was in the drink to cause such a reaction. You also have to wonder whether the poor person was concerned enough to get things checked out with their doctor! What exactly would they say?
A visit to LA will always be mind-blowing, but this video-gaming visitor felt that they’d been there before. They couldn’t get past the fact that Grand Theft Auto, the famous video game, was so closely modeled on LA that it was practically the same.
From the streets to the radios and palm trees, this visitor was shocked at the familiarity they felt upon visiting the city and what they’d experienced before when playing the famous video game at home.
When you visit a new country, you don’t expect to experience kindness to the point where someone pays for your meal, just because they wanted to! However, this road-tripping group of visitors found that Americans can be extremely well-wishing when they want to be.
Having stopped for a quick meal en route to their next destination, they went to the cashier to pay, only to be told that someone had paid for it and asked for their wishes to be passed on. How wonderful!
It seems that in America, ‘hello’ has been replaced with a straight-up ‘how are you?’ Whether they want to know how you are or it’s just a pleasantry, many Europeans note that it’s a habit that’s pretty prevalent.
Throughout Europe, ‘how are you tend to follow ‘hello’ and recognizing the person, so it’s quite refreshing to have someone ask how you are routine, whether they’re interested or not!
Many Europeans are a little taken aback when they see TV adverts for prescription medications. It’s odd to see because it’s certainly not commonplace in Europe. Many people don’t even know about prescription medication names unless they’re taking them!
What do you think? Are ads for prescription medications a good thing or a bad thing? They probably raise trust in the drug if a person has seen the name on TV before, but should we be pushing medications unnecessarily? Only in America!
Many Europeans note that Americans run their air conditioning at an extremely cold temperature, yet they’re the first to complete the cold weather during the winter months! Double standards or just a nationwide love of air conditioning?
Some even note that they’ve seen locals wearing sweaters indoors when the air conditioning is colder than a refrigerator! Do they know how expensive air conditioning is to run? It might be wise to turn it down a little!
Upon visiting the USA for the first time, most people notice one thing – the size of everything. Everything is big, super-sized, massive even! Food portions are insane, roads are huge, and even cars are bigger than average!
The US obsession with size seems to be one of the things that people notice most. If you’re asked if you want to go super-size in a restaurant, it’s probably wise to refuse and stick to the regular portion – even that will be larger than you’re used to!
Most Europeans retire around their mid-60s and enjoy their pensions and retirement years. However, it’s not unusual to see someone in their 70s or even 80s working in the USA. That’s one of the most shocking things that Europeans notice.
Do they work because they want to, and they miss the enjoyment of the workplace? Or, do they work because their pensions just aren’t enough to live on to a good enough standard? Who knows; perhaps it’s a little bit of both, depending upon the person.
European countries have focused over the last few years on reducing sugar content, especially in light of rising childhood obesity. However, this visitor noticed that the cereal aisle in the supermarket contained nothing but sugar-laden choices.
Most cereals contain at least 20% sugar, and you’ll struggle to find a sugar-free option. Because cereal is the quickest go-to in the morning, you have to wonder how many children are consuming a huge amount of sugar for breakfast.
Every experience of a country shows a little bit of the good and a little bad. This hiker noticed both sides of the coin upon visiting several of America’s national parks. They were especially impressed with the organization and food portions!
However, they did have a slight gripe about the toilets, but they seemed to get used to it in the end. However, it’s not something you expect to hear in modern-day America in terms of poverty gaps, but it’s a truth.
We all know that Americans are proud to be called Americans, but most visitors notice that flags are everywhere. It’s even more pronounced when you come from a country that doesn’t focus too much on the flag.
Even in front of supermarkets, you’ll see the American flag hung proudly. What do you think? Is it a good thing, or a little too much? Either way, it’s a quirk that belongs to the USA alone.
We’ve given an image of America that is wealthy, sparkling, and loud. Most people don’t realize that there is a huge homelessness issue, and when you come face to face with it on the streets, it can be pretty shocking to experience.
One particular visitor was shocked to see veterans sitting alone on the street with nowhere to go, in LA of all places. This is a renowned city, but we’re never told about the poverty side of it, only the Hollywood glitz and glamour.
It’s normal during the summer months to have the air conditioning set too high to give you some respite from the heat outside. However, many Europeans are shocked at just how cold Americans like to set their indoor spaces!
Can you imagine the blast of heat when you have to go outside? It’s a little too cold indoors for many visitors to put up with, but it’s something you’ll notice quite extensively when visiting America for the first time.
You would imagine that visiting Mcdonald’s in the USA would be the same as visiting McDonald’s anywhere else in the world, right? Not! This visitor noted that their meal tasted completely different from how it normally does in their home country.
A commenter noted that the fries’ ingredients differ widely between countries and that the American fries have far more ingredients. Even the Fanta tastes completely different. Who’d have thought it? It turns out that McDonald’s’ is not the universal deal we thought of after all!
It’s true that most Americans don’t have a passport and rarely travel outside of their own country. However, this visitor who spent a lot of time living in the States may have shed some light on why that is.
They noted that crossing from state to state feels like going to an entirely different country every time. Maybe that’s why international travel isn’t so high up on most Americans’ priority lists – they don’t need it!
Upon visiting America, you’ll probably be told to “have a great day” by almost everyone, including Walmart’s cashier. It’s quite surprising to hear it so often since in Europe the pleasantry is only really used for people that you know well.
However, the over-use of being wished a good day can become a little annoying after a while, right? In that case, is it a pleasant thing, or is it a little condescending after you’ve heard it six times in two hours?
We know that Americans love their soda drinks, but this visitor was pretty shocked when their half-full glass of Pepsi was taken away and refilled by the eager waiter. It seems that if you leave your Pepsi for more than a few minutes, it needs to be freshened up!
It’s certainly a confusing habit for most Europeans to see, but it’s also high-quality customer service too. When you only want one glass, you end up effectively drinking two or three by accident!
America is often thought to be big and bold, but most Europeans notice something altogether softer about the people who live there – manners and politeness. From being wished a good day to ‘how are you,’ it seems that most Americans focus on good manners.
This is certainly a very positive thing because we all know that manners cost nothing at all. That doesn’t mean that every person you encounter will be a bundle of pleasantries, but it’s something that most Europeans notice.
While Europe has plenty of its skyscrapers and generally tall buildings. American cities indeed have many! It can be pretty overwhelming when you’re at street level, and you look up at the sheer size of some of these architectural wonders.
In New York, in particular, skyscrapers are everywhere, and they seem to soar up as high as the clouds when you’re gazing at them. You have to wonder how these amazing buildings are constructed! One thing’s for sure, America loves skyscrapers.
What is wrong with walking or cycling? What about saving the planet? While Europeans certainly have plenty of cars as a whole. It seems that Americans adore gas-guzzlers. It’s a pretty stark difference that visitors tend to notice quickly.
You have to wonder why they don’t just walk or cycle. After all, gas is expensive, parking is expensive, and tolls are expensive too. Surely just using your feet would save a hell of a lot of dollars and look after the planet at the same time?
Europeans are quite baffled by when visiting America is just how slow it is to pay for something. Almost every cashier desk involves a chip and pin or even a signature, and there is hardly any opportunity to scan your card and pay.
You would think that a country as huge and developed as America would have embraced a faster payment method? Surely this would make checkouts far more effective and allow businesses to serve more people?
America is known for its love of lawsuits. Suppose you don’t like something, sue. Suppose you experience something unnecessary, sue. Of course, businesses need to protect themselves and their profits, but to this level? These visitors were shocked to see warning signs on buildings stating that the materials could cause cancer!
It’s not something you ever see in Europe, and it’s no surprise that these visitors were quite shocked. At first, they probably wondered whether they should go inside, but then they realized that it’s quite a commonplace sign.
Candy is delicious, and of course, when you see it, you want to buy it and enjoy it. That seems to be the USA’s main marketing line, as this particular European visitor found to their amusement.
They weren’t at all concerned or even upset about the fact that candy was found everywhere, even in stores that had nothing to do with candy! After all, who doesn’t love to grab a bag of candy to enjoy while they’re going about their day?
America has a huge population, and TV adverts are the single best way to get the word out about new products and services. However, those adverts can be extremely overwhelming to Europeans who aren’t quite so used to constant interruptions to their viewing pleasure.
Sure, there are adverts in Europe, but certainly not as often as you see an advert popping up on your TV in America! It’s downright annoying, and it makes you forget what was going on in the program you were watching.
Most grocery stores in Europe close around 6 pm or possibly 10 pm at the latest. However, in America, it’s not unusual to find 24-hour grocery stores open, should you decide to cook a meal at 2 am!
This particular visitor was pretty taken-aback when a friend suggested they go and get ingredients to cook something past midnight. However, they were pretty impressed by the service and the fact that if you’re hungry, the time doesn’t matter!
This particular visitor was heartened to find that their visit to America showed them a huge amount of diversity. People from all different races and backgrounds live in America, and it’s something to be celebrated, for sure.
This Polish visitor noted that their home country’s population wasn’t quite as diverse, so seeing diversity in action was a very positive aspect of their visit to the United States.
European houses are typically made of heavy bricks. However, this particular visitor was shocked to find that many American houses are made of plywood or sometimes wood in general. It certainly doesn’t sound as sturdy, and that’s one aspect of American housing that often baffles Europeans.
The reason behind it is pretty sensible, however. These houses are often found in parts of the country prone to flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other types of natural disasters. Should the house collapse, there will be less damage and less risk than a house made of bricks.
A little earlier, we talked about a shocked visitor that their Pepsi glass was continually filled up, even when it wasn’t even empty. It seems that the same rule applies to water too!
We all know that it’s essential to stay hydrated for good health and wellbeing, and it seems that American waiters are taught this in their training. This visitor was impressed that their glass of water was kept fresh and topped up throughout their meal.
Most of the world has a fascination with America, but it seems that America doesn’t have the same fascination back. Many Europeans note that they’re asked very random and sometimes odd questions about what goes on in other countries.
It’s almost as if the news doesn’t report on other countries, and TV shows don’t give much of an accurate impression of life outside of the country. Considering the modern feel in America, it’s all very surprising to experience!
It seems that some parts of America do not cater to those who want to walk. We’ve already talked about the national obsession with cars, so if you want to walk to the store to pick up some essentials, you’ll probably find it difficult.
This visitor was also stopped by the police, who were concerned that they had broken down somewhere and had to leave their car. Upon explaining that they were simply walking to the store, albeit a long way, the officers gave them a lift. How helpful!
America is obsessed with sugar. There seems to be sugar in absolutely everything, even bread! Most European visitors assume that the bread they’re given is some kind of cake because of the sweet twang.
If you served American bread in Europe, it would probably be branded as cake and maybe taxed due to the sugar content. This all leads you to think that perhaps Americans are sugar-addicted!
You don’t tend to see flags too often in European countries. Of course, you see them on public buildings and embassies but not on residential buildings and supermarkets. That’s why it’s so surprising when visitors see the sheer number of flags around.
This visitor even gave up trying before they even got too far away from the airport! Most Americans are very patriotic, and it’s something to look out for when visiting the USA for the first time.