Non-Americans Share 74 Bizarre Things That Americans Think Are Normal But Totally Aren’t
The United States has plenty of pros and cons, just like any other country. However, you can’t deny America tends to have more of each and some of them are turned all the way up to 11 on the weirdness scale. Like having the police patrol your school, writing the date in a weird way (let’s not even talk about the Imperial measurement system), and having full-on smear ads against political opponents.
Welcome to the Wonderland that is the USA. And what better way to learn about the bizarre things that Americans think are completely normal than by asking non-Americans for their opinions? That’s exactly what one Reddit user (who told Funscrape that they wish to remain anonymous because of all the attention they’re getting) did in a viral thread that got more than 50.9k upvotes and over a whopping 38.9k comments. Scroll down, have a read, check out our in-depth interview with the original poster, and upvote the weird things that happen in the US that left an impact on you, dear Pandas.
Talking about their freedom as if they’re the only country in the world who has it…
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Gratuitous violence in entertainment is normal. But show one boob and people lose their s**t.
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Ambulance rides costing money seems pretty absurd to people from other countries
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The redditor who posted the thread in the first place told us that they usually don’t hang out in the crowded default subreddits. “Either the thread gets too big for a conversation or it goes unnoticed in a sea of similar topics. In hindsight, it’s not strange it got so much attention, Reddit is very diverse but a US-centric view is still dominant, and everyone wants to weigh in. Lots of people just wanted to vent, some had a strong political opinion, and some just wanted to ridicule the US.”
According to the Reddit user, they made the thread “on a whim” after they saw a comment by a redditor who was surprised to learn that not everyone has police officers at school.
“I did hope that starting this topic would end up in a couple of people sharing that kind of information among each other, because the US is going through some [crap], and it helps your morale to know that alternatives do exist.”
They continued: “Some people took it as a competition of which country is better, but it was intended without any kind of nationalist feelings, more with an idea of people defining things among themselves vs. how things are shown to be in schools and TV shows, in and outside the US.”
Date Order (MM/DD/YYYY)
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The plot of Breaking Bad being about a science teacher getting cancer and worrying about leaving his family with massive medical debt when he dies.
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Doing the pledge of allegiance in the morning at school
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One thing that the redditor did expect to see in the thread but was surprised to hear so many voices speaking against it was the “circumcision of infant males for non-medical, non-religious reasons but rather as a default procedure.” The redditor added: “Parents who decide against circumcising their newborn child but don’t know how it works and what to teach their kid: there’s a WikiHow!”
The thread shone a light on a lot of problems in the United States and suggested that these things need to change. “The things that got repeated most in the thread were division of ethnic groups, gun culture, military drafting and continuous warfare, cop culture, nutrition issues, corporate lobbying… and wearing shoes in the house,” the OP explained.
Not putting the final price on the tag. I’m not sure whether it’s still like this, but a few years ago one never knew whether the $1.00 item in McDonald’s or Burger King is actually $1.00 or maybe $1.08.
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Archaic, unhelpful standard units of measurement.
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“It’s not as if all those comments came from non-US redditors, a lot of the criticism was from US citizens with genuine concern and investment in their future and their surroundings. Combine that with getting active and finding each other, just as widespread protests are helping to create a framework of solidarity, I think change is already happening if you just keep at it,” they said.
“I saw a lot of people from outside the US who feel racism or racist police brutality are a typical US thing. It sure looks like there’s a structural issue, but please don’t use the US as a way to shift blame because ‘they’re worse,’ to get out of examining the same structural issues in your own locality,” the redditor added.
American flags everywhere. I traveled throughout Europe and the Caribbean and I usually only saw their flag on government builds and here and there. Where as here in the USA the flag is like Franks Red Hot. We put that s**t on everything. Magnets, churches, cars, condoms, every front porch, and street lamp. #murica
Turning scientific information into a political discussion.
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While the US thinks a lot of weird things are normal, the one that isn’t giving us any peace and quiet is that Americans write the date as mm/dd/yyyy. So, why exactly do Americans write the date by putting the month before the day?
Of course, it seems completely logical to somebody who’s grown up with this system and uses it every single day of their lives. Nothing could be more natural, in their opinion. But from an outsider’s perspective, it looks downright weird and illogical. And the US is the only country in the world that does things this way.
There are several theories about this. One of them is that in certain cases, it’s more convenient to know the month first rather than the day. For instance, when somebody asks you when your birthday is, it’s more useful to know the month first to get your bearings right before zoning in on the exact day.
Putting a ton of sugar in products like bread.
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My maternity leave was an unpaid 6 weeks, and I had to fight them on not shorting me because I went past my due date and didn’t keep working until the day I went into labor.
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This one is more on the positive side, because I think we could learn some from it.
Talking and sharing your life with complete strangers. I have met quite a few americans so it seems the norm that you share and engage with strangers in public. The bus, train, parks etc. And then you go on your way.
In Denmark you’d be a “freak” if you did that.
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Another theory is that American colonists inherited the monthly date format from the British Empire. In time, the British moved over to the European style where you put the day first, then the month, then the year. While Americans stuck with the old-school format.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the International Organization for Standardization claims that putting the year first, then the month, then the day is the internationally accepted way to represent the date. To make things even more confusing, the US military uses the dd/mm/yyyy format for correspondence but it switches to the mm/dd/yyyy format when corresponding with civilians. Does that sound like a lot of info to take in? You bet! And that’s just one of the weird things that Americans think are normal.
being able to vote before reaching the legal drinking age
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When I was there during the last election I was shocked at how phrases like ‘well they have the black vote’ or the ‘Latino vote’ came up all the time on the radio. Obviously it’s not racist but it’s just something that would never come up in my country. Like, why would latino people all vote for the same person?
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Bankruptcy because you went to the hospital
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When you are 18 years old, you can be shipped to a foreign country to kill humans, but you are not allowed to drink alcohol.
Side effects on medication adverts.
Friggin hilarious to us Brits.
With James’ Hayfever meds, I can get through the day with ease!
Side effects may include:
Loss of sight
Loss of hearing
Loss of sense of smell
Loss of consciousness
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Toilet cubicles, where people not only can peek, but an adult person could crawl into your cubicle, there is so much space under the “door”.
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Pledge to the flag in class
– Metal detectors in schools
(edit: many people have pointed out that metal detectors are not all that common in the U.S. my apologies!)
– No paid pregnancy leave
– employment at will states.
– People in public visibly armed with a weapon
– Insurance through your employer
– no payed vacations. meaning a 13th month of pay for a vacation. not talking about your standard payed time off.
– bankruptcies due to medical bills
– Tipping culture
– Free refills
– Yellow school buses
– Almost no bicycle paths- Separate tax added when you buy a product- over-sized food and competitive eating
Just a few tings I’ve noticed since moving here.
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Identifying as your heritage instead of your nationality. Americans will say that they’re Italian, German, polish, etc. when they don’t speak the language and have no real connection to those countries anymore.
In other parts of the world people just identify with the country they were born in or have lived in for a significant amount of time regardless of their ancestry.
Having only two parties: Republicans and Democrats. I know there are some smaller parties, but the system is stacked against them.
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Asking everyone “what do you do?” when you first meet them. I live outside the US and realized there are some people I’ve known for years and I still don’t know their job. I think in the US jobs are a bigger part of a person’s identity than in some other places.
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Actively avoiding healthcare visits/checkups because if there’s something wrong and you don’t have the money to pay for treatment, then you’d rather just not know
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A flag in every corner of a classroom, and Americans being very patriotic to the stars and stripes. Other countries barely give a poop about their flags
As an American I was shocked to learn that not every school internationally has a building cop
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Non-necessary, non-religious circumcision.
Say “I’ll just have water” at a restaurant and not be charged for it or be asked “What kind?”
Paying people less than minimum wage. How is it a minimum if it’s legal to pay less than that?
Willingly putting yourself massively in debt for a college degree.
I come from a place with free university education (which has its own drawbacks of course), and the fact that you can make such a huge, life-altering decision at 17 is considered normal over there, that seems downright bizarre to me.
The enabling customer service culture.
It’s created excessive portions in restaurants, created Karen, gives way to a disposable attitude towards products, and generally gives a sense of entitlement where most people start adding it to their list of rights.
not owning kettles and MICROWAVING their water for coffee/tea
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The one that always shocks me (I’ve an L1B so I spent quite a bit of time in the last couple of years living & working in the USA – although back home in U.K. right now) is the whole ‘thank you for your service’ military thing. The military is treated like some sort of god level being. It first struck me at Seaworld when they would make all service personnel stand up. In the U.K. the military guys (a) wouldn’t do it and (b) would be embarassed. In most cases they would be actively told not to do it so they don’t get identified – the fear the IRA stoked still runs deep in the processes in the military of the U.K.
Wondering if you’re sick enough to call that ambulance or if you should just risk ubering it.
Medical bankruptcy after you’re charged $200,000 for a week long hospital stay and now you’re homeless.
Being mentally ill and getting hospitalized by others for your own safety, but then getting a massive bill for it that you cant pay (which will totally help the suicidality right?)
Choosing between food and medicine.
Deciding that it’s less expensive to just go into palliative care and die instead of fighting a disease like cancer.
As you can see I really hate the american medical care system.
American Corporations have convinced us our work culture is totally normal.
casually driving a couple hours. cars are so ubiquitous and stuff is so spread out a lot of the time we don’t even think about travel in distance but instead in driving time. Driving 2 hours on a weekend for random day trip doesn’t seem like anything of note. driving 8 hours is a long trip but not really a huge deal.
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Attack ads against political opponents, ads for law firms or lawyers. These kinds of ads are illegal and considered unethical in our country. Also expecting a teenager to be out of the house by the time they’re 18. I live in Southeast Asia. There’s no stigma about living with one’s parents. Most of the time, there will be three generations living in one house.
Extra large bottomless cups for cola or soft drinks…. you could bathe in those….
I mean, everyone thinks their own accent is normal, but I’ve met Americans who think that they have no accent, like theirs is the baseline somehow.
That the entire traffic has to stop when a school bus stops. I’ve seen this a few times on r/idiotsincars and there is always a debate about how its not normal outside of the US.
Manditory drug tests from an employer. I’ve asked around, don’t know a single fellow Canadian who’s had to do one. Cops included.
Having second mortgages on a house. Taking massive loans they can’t possibly pay off and buying stuff with it that decreases in value over time such as cars.
Prescription drug ads encouraging people to ask their doctor about the drug being advertised. Edit: a lot of people have mentioned this is also common in several other countries like New Zealand. I thought it was exclusively the US. Also, some interesting points are that it has helped raise awareness to some issues people might otherwise not take seriously or be ashamed to bring up to their doctor.
With the discussions going on about changes to bail I’ve seen a few people saying things like “oh so you’re just going to drop cash bail, just gonna decide whether to release people, people are just going to show up to court without the money threat?????!?!?!”
Uh yeah…..as I understand it that’s how it works in places all over the world already….
I’ve been released on cash bail before. I didn’t show up to court because of the cash bail, I showed up because warrants are annoying
having police patrol the school
When I went to New York I was flabbergasted by the amount of people just loitering on the streets or having phone conversations that everyone can hear on the train like npcs from GTA.
People outside of the USA don’t hang out in public or let other people into their business on public transport.
I managed to hear a woman talk about how her baby daddy wasn’t going to her daughters birthday party and I started to pick side’s in her personal life, while walking through Central Park I heard two friends with a substantial age gap talk about everyone in their friend group having mistresses and they were trading information on the mistress facts each of them knew for their respective friends, I got invested in that one so I folliwed them for a while (pretending I wasn’t) because I wanted the tea.
Putting your country’s flag everywhere and on everything.
A flagpole on your porch or car bumper sticker may be somewhat understandable, but it gets really weird when it starts popping up on baseball caps, swimsuits or underwear.
I’m in Australia and Americans are the only ones do this (yes, with the American flag), even all the way out here.
I’m an American (born and raised), but I’ve heard that in other countries, strangers don’t say hi or strike up conversations with each other. I know non-Americans are confused but let me explain:
Sometimes if you are say at an amusement park for example and you’re waiting in line for a ride, strangers would strike conversations with you and such and this is actually pretty normal. Or say you are walking around in a park and you walk past by someone, you usually smile and say a quick “hi” as you are walking past that person.
I’ve had countless times where I’ve had people strike conversations with me that I didn’t know. White people do this, but especially Black people do this a lot as well. Like you would see an old Black lady at a store and she’ll just start talking to you.
I’ve had Europeans tell me that people would think you are mentally ill if you were to strike up conversations with strangers in Europe for example. Especially in Asian countries no one does this (I’ve heard). Strangers absolutely do not say a word to each other in Japan or China for example.
Side note: This may also be a regional thing in the US. I’ve lived in southern states mostly (like Texas) and people are really damn friendly down there. Now I live in Connecticut and people are way less friendly over here (no offense).
Sueing for any possible reason. It’s so common that there are commercials on tv and radio telling you to sue “x” company for “reason”. Lawyer ads are also very common because of this.
Had some American colleagues in Norway asking us how we celebrate 4th July
Being legally allowed to drink only when you reach 21
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While on my travels I’ve noticed that Americans have a totally different expectation on what service you get in restaurants and cafes and s**t in Europe. Like the waiter arrives at their table seconds after they’ve sat down and takes their order and when he’s out of ear shot they complain about the bad service. It’s like if they don’t get the OMG HOW ARE YOU GUYS MY NAME IS MIGUEL AND I’LL BE YOUR WAITER THIS EVENING and then have their water topped up every 20 seconds then it’s bad service There’s probably an enormous bit of selection bias going on here since I haven’t noticed the probably hundreds of normal Americans that didn’t complain but f**kit
I’m gonna say something positive, I live in southern Italy, but I go all around the state and the most fun and genuine tourists I’ve met were all American, didn’t meet a single entitled one
The relentless assault of advertising directed solely at children who don’t have the mental fitness or maturity to know otherwise.
Greek life in college – fraternities/sororities Explaining this concept whenever I’m abroad made me realize how bizarre it is
Lemonade. I’m America, but there was a post going around a while back about an American who ordered a lemonade at a restaurant in Australia and was confused to receive a Sprite. The op of the post was the server, and thought it was just the American being snooty for being confused. Then commenters from other nonUS countries chimed in on what a lemonade is to them. It blew my mind, because in the US lemonade is so iconic as a summer drink, and is often homemade. Eta: lemonade is not water with lemon in it. It requires sugar and preparation.
Calling a main course an entree.
Being concerned when anyone speaks a language you can’t understand.
I live in india and we have 28 language here, with multiple dialects of the each language.
Edit: 22 languages*
Having teens as your child’s babysitter
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I’ve heard someone say that we are the only ones who drink out of Solo Cups
The idea that giving birth to a child is prohibitively expensive to a lot of people. One way or another, most of the world does not have that problem.
TV ads for drugs against opioid-induced constipation. It’s apparently common for Americans to take so many opioids that they get constipated. Talk about dystopia
Big glasses of water WITH ICE at restaurants. I live in Texas usually and I drink ice water like 24/7. It’s a good habit here, especially in Summer. When I was in Europe I would get the smallest glasses of luke warm water that I had to ask for more every ten seconds. I felt annoying! Aren’t y’all thirsty?! Or am I missing something?
Daycare is more common in America than virtually anywhere else in the world, it starts at a younger age, and it is almost mandatory.
It is normal in the US to turn children as young as 3 months of age over to a daycare program for 4-8 hours per day until they are old enough to start the public education system at 4/5 years old.
Pretty much all parents recognize this practice is worse for babies than having a dedicated family caregiver, most will admit that it is outright unethical, but American society requires cash flows to remain in tact for a family to survive so it is commonplace for US workers to reluctantly choose to go back to work ASAP following birth.
They are basically choosing between food on the table or raising their own infant.
Circumcision and medical debt
Spending so much effort (and often money) on filling your taxes. Episode 144 of the podcast Reply All does a good job summarizing it but basically a lot of other countries including Australia file their taxes for free through a government website and it often takes less than 15 minutes. The line from the podcast that sticks out was something like “Because of American’s lack of trust for the government we give our personal information to a third party company that then charges us to take our information to the government which already has most of it.”
I know Free File is a thing but the episode address that too and how tax companies will try to get you to pay to have them filed anyway.
Having to pay outrageous amounts out of pocket for higher education (or get a student loan with a high interest rate).
Y’all talking mad s**t, but if you want something that’s actually funny, lawnmowers and lawncare. Try explaining to your international friends about having to mow the lawn for allowance money or you forgot to turn off your sprinklers. Mostly clear but clearly not something universal.