15 Aspects of American Culture That Baffle Foreigners

Living in America might seem normal to locals, but for people from other countries, some of their everyday habits can be pretty confusing. It’s funny how stuff we never question can seem so strange to others.

For this article, I have compiled 15 things about American life that often baffle people from other countries.

Tipping culture

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Americans tip for many services, which confuses visitors from countries where tipping isn’t common. The amount to tip can be puzzling, especially in restaurants. Some foreigners find it odd that workers rely on tips for their income. They wonder why employers don’t just pay higher wages instead.

Portion sizes

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The huge portions served in American restaurants often shock foreigners. They’re surprised by how much food comes on one plate. Visitors often can’t finish their meals and are amazed by doggy bags. Some find it wasteful, while others love the value for money.

Advertisements for prescription drugs

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TV ads telling people to “ask your doctor” about medicines are strange to many foreigners. In most countries, advertising prescription drugs is not allowed. Visitors find it odd that patients might suggest medicines to their doctors. They worry this could lead to overuse of medications.

The drinking age of 21

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Many foreigners think America’s legal drinking age of 21 is too high. They’re surprised that people can vote and join the military before they can drink. In many countries, the drinking age is 18 or even lower. Some find it odd that 20-year-olds are considered too young to drink responsibly.

Obsession with ice in drinks

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The amount of ice Americans put in drinks baffles many visitors. They’re surprised to get glasses filled mostly with ice. Some foreigners think this waters down the drink too much.

Widespread air conditioning

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Foreigners are often shocked by how cold American buildings are in summer. They find it strange to need a sweater indoors when it’s hot outside. The contrast between outdoor and indoor temperatures can be jarring. Some worry about the environmental impact of all this cooling.

Gaps in public bathroom stalls

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Many visitors are surprised by the large gaps around bathroom stall doors. They find it uncomfortable and worry about privacy. In many countries, bathroom stalls offer more coverage. Foreigners often wonder why American stalls aren’t more enclosed.

Cheerleaders at sporting events

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The concept of cheerleaders, especially at professional games, puzzles some foreigners. They’re not sure why sports need this kind of entertainment. Some find it distracting from the game itself. In many countries, fans create their own cheers and entertainment.

Pledge of Allegiance in schools

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Daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance seems strange to many foreigners. They find it unusual for children to pledge loyalty to a flag every day. In some countries, this might be seen as too nationalistic. Visitors wonder about the purpose and effect of this daily ritual.

Sales tax not included in displayed prices

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Foreigners are often confused when the price at checkout is higher than labeled. They’re used to seeing the final price, including all taxes, on items. Having to calculate the real cost can be frustrating for visitors. They wonder why America doesn’t include tax in the displayed price.

The importance of credit scores

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The significance of credit scores in American life surprises many foreigners. They’re amazed that credit can affect renting a home or getting a job. In some countries, credit scores aren’t used as widely. Visitors find it odd that past financial behavior has such a big impact.

Customary system of measurement

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The use of feet, pounds, and Fahrenheit confuses visitors from countries using metric systems. They find it hard to visualize distances or temperatures in these units. Foreigners often need to use conversion apps to understand measurements. They wonder why America hasn’t switched to the metric system like most countries.

Free refills at restaurants

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The concept of free drink refills is exciting but strange to many foreigners. In most countries, each drink costs extra. Visitors are often hesitant to ask for refills, thinking they’ll be charged. They’re amazed by the unlimited soda at some restaurants.

Popularity of drive-thru services

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The prevalence of drive-thru services for everything from food to banking baffles some visitors. They find it odd to do so many tasks from a car. In many countries, drive-thrus are less common or only for fast food.

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Mary Apurong

Mary Apurong is an experienced editor and ghostwriter who enjoys writing and reading. She loves researching topics related to life and creating content on quotes, gardening, food, travel, crafts, and DIY. Mary spends her free time doing digital art and watching documentaries.

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