17 Ways Americans Have Redefined “Normal”

Ever wonder what makes America tick? Some of the quirky things that Americans do might seem a bit odd to the rest of the world. From how we eat to how we shop, Americans have a knack for doing things their own way.

In this list, I discuss 17 ways Americans have changed what “normal” means.

Drive-Thru Everything

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Americans love their cars, and they love convenience. That’s why you can find drive-thru services for almost anything. Banks, pharmacies, and even wedding chapels offer drive-thru options. You can get your coffee, pick up your dry cleaning, or even vote without leaving your car. It’s all about saving time and staying comfortable.

Supersized Portions

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In America, bigger is often seen as better, especially regarding food. Restaurants serve huge portions, and sodas come in gigantic cups. Many fast food places offer to “supersize” your meal for a little extra money. While this might seem excessive to some, many Americans love getting more for their money.

Tipping Culture

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Tipping isn’t just nice in America – it’s expected. In restaurants, bars, and many service industries, workers rely on tips as a big part of their income. It’s normal to tip 15-20% at restaurants, and there are even apps to help calculate the right amount. This can be confusing for visitors, but for Americans, it’s just part of going out.

Black Friday Shopping

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The day after Thanksgiving, stores offer huge sales, and people go wild. Some folks camp outside stores all night to get the best deals. There are often news stories about crowds and even fights over popular items. While it might seem crazy, many Americans see it as a fun tradition and a way to kick off holiday shopping.

Endless Ice

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Americans love ice in their drinks, and lots of it. Restaurants automatically bring water with ice, and soft drinks are usually filled to the brim with ice cubes. Many people even have ice makers in their home fridges. This might seem strange to visitors who are used to less ice or none at all in their drinks.

Chatting with Strangers

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In many parts of America, it’s normal to strike up conversations with strangers. Whether you’re waiting in line, riding the elevator, or sitting at a bar, don’t be surprised if someone starts chatting with you. This friendliness can be surprising to people from cultures where talking to strangers isn’t as common.

Prescription Drug Ads

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Turn on the TV in America, and you’ll likely see ads for prescription medications. These ads tell you to “ask your doctor” about specific drugs. This is unusual in most countries, where advertising prescription drugs directly to consumers is often not allowed. It’s a uniquely American approach to healthcare and advertising.

Lawsuit Culture

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America has a reputation for being lawsuit-happy. You might see warning labels on products that seem obvious, like “Caution: Hot” on coffee cups. This comes from a culture where lawsuits are common, and companies try to protect themselves. While not everyone is suing all the time, the possibility of legal action shapes many aspects of American life.

Free Refills

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Many restaurants in America offer free refills on soft drinks and coffee. You can drink as much as you want for the price of one drink. This is great for customers but can be surprising for visitors from places where you pay for each drink separately. It’s part of the American idea of getting good value for your money.

24/7 Culture

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In many parts of America, you can find stores, gyms, and even restaurants open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Need groceries at 3 AM? No problem. Want to work out at midnight? You can do that too. This “always open” mentality reflects the fast-paced American lifestyle and the desire for constant convenience.

Air Conditioning Everywhere

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Americans love their air conditioning. It’s in homes, offices, stores, and cars. Some places are so cold in summer that people bring sweaters indoors. This can be a shock for visitors from cooler climates or places where AC isn’t as common. But for many Americans, it’s a must-have for comfort.

Cheese on Everything

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Americans have a reputation for putting cheese on just about anything. From burgers to salads to apple pie (yes, really!), cheese finds its way into many dishes. Spray cheese in a can is a uniquely American invention. While not everyone goes crazy with cheese, it’s definitely a big part of American food culture.

Free Public Bathrooms

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In many parts of America, it’s normal to find free public bathrooms in stores, restaurants, and public spaces. This isn’t the case in many other countries, where you might have to pay to use a public toilet. Americans often take this for granted until they travel abroad and find themselves searching for coins to use the bathroom.

Customizing Everything

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Americans love to have things their way. At restaurants, it’s normal to ask for changes to menu items. “I’ll have the burger, but no onions, extra cheese, and can you make that well-done?” This level of customization extends to many areas of life, from personalizing gadgets to designing your own shoes online.

Casual Dress Code

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In many parts of America, casual dress is the norm. People often wear jeans or even sweatpants to restaurants, movie theaters, or when traveling. This can be surprising to visitors from countries with more formal dress codes. Of course, there are still places and occasions where Americans dress up, but overall, comfort often wins out.

To-Go Coffee Culture

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Americans are often seen rushing around with coffee cups in hand. The to-go coffee culture is huge, with people getting their morning fix on the way to work or school. Many people have reusable travel mugs, and coffee shops offer a variety of sizes and customization options. It’s not just about the caffeine – it’s a way of life.

Doggy Bags

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In American restaurants, it’s totally normal to ask for a “doggy bag” to take home leftover food. Despite the name, these leftovers are usually for the customers themselves, not their pets. This practice is less common in many other countries, where taking home restaurant leftovers might be seen as odd or even rude.

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Victoria Omololu

Victoria Omololu is a fashionista exploring the world on a budget. She co-founded Only Earthlings in 2023 to show her travels in North America, Europe, Africa, and everywhere else. Victoria loves writing about travel tips, itineraries, packing guides, and taking photography from all over the world.

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