10 Things That are Normal in America That are Considered Weird Elsewhere


Have you ever thought to yourself that foreigners sometimes do some really weird things? Well, guess what? They think the same thing about us. Here are ten things that are normal in America that are considered weird in other parts of the world.

10. Ice-Cold Beverages

Ice Cubes
Source: Pixabay

There’s nothing better than an ice-cold refreshing beverage on a hot summer day–well, at least that’s the way Americans feel. People outside the U.S., however, have a much different sentiment. It’s not that they don’t like ice, but they feel Americans put way too much ice in their drinks. And, in Europe they don’t even really use ice cubes. Instead, their beverages are served at room temperature.

FUN FACT: Putting ice in our drinks goes back to the early 1800s, when a man named Frederic Tudor expanded his ice harvesting business by convincing bartenders to incorporate his product into drinks. “The object is to make the whole population use cold drinks instead of warm or tepid,” Tudor wrote in his diary, according to The Boston Globe. “A single conspicuous bar keeper…selling steadily his liquors all cold without an increase in price, render it absolutely necessary that the others come to it or lose their customers.”

9. Paying Sales Tax

Source: Pexels

It’s not that people in other countries don’t pay sales tax–the fact of the matter is they do. It’s just that it’s usually built into the price shown on the tag or menu or whatever it is they’re looking at. According to USA Today, it confuses foreigners when they come to the U.S. and end up paying a totally different price at the register than the price shown on the item they’re purchasing. There are even advisories warning people who are traveling to the U.S. to be prepared for sales tax when shopping.

8. Stores That Stay Open 24 Hours

Open 24 Hours
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Justinc CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=400301

Many Americans love the convenience of being able to make late-night runs to the store or to the drive-thru of their favorite restaurant. But in the UK, this type of thing is pretty much non-existent. They did actually try it, but unfortunately it didn’t work for them. According to The Cheat Sheet, it just simply wasn’t worth the cost–at least it wasn’t for Tesco anyway. The store, which happens to be the biggest retailer in the UK, tested the 24-hour model at 400 of its locations, but there weren’t enough interested shoppers to cover the cost of overhead.

FUN FACT: Most European stores close early in the evening on weekdays. And, on Sundays many stores aren’t even open at all.

7. Arctic-Blast-Like Air Conditioning

Air Conditioner
Source: Pixabay

For those of you who live on the East Coast or in the Deep South, you know how important air conditioning is–especially on those days where it’s so humid the moment you step outside the humidity literally takes your breath away. But, here’s the beautiful thing about American retail stores. If you’re out and about, you can always go inside a store to escape the brutal temperatures. That’s not the case in Europe, however. Their stores aren’t kept freezing cold. In fact, some stores don’t even have air conditioning at all! Perhaps they don’t have the humidity we have here in the U.S., lol!

6. Smiling at/Talking to Strangers

Source: Pexels

Many foreigners think Americans are rude. Ironically, many of them also believe we’re too friendly when it comes to strangers. In fact, many of them find it downright odd that we smile and wave at strangers. But, this is totally normal behavior, especially for those who live in small towns. Of course, not all foreigners feel this way about our need to chat with strangers. Reddit user CompleteWoks wrote, “The hospitality, generosity and kindness to strangers, the friendliness and welcoming warmth is paralleled nowhere in the world.”

5. Lots of TV Commercials

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Many foreigners are both surprised and annoyed at the amount of commercials airing on American television. “I love America. But the one thing I hate is the placement of commercials on TV. It might be only for certain channels, but for a 30-minute show, there will be about four commercial breaks. And not even evenly spaced. Including one before the credits at the end of a show. Then it’ll jump straight from the credits to the next show,” Reddit user WhatWouldTylerDo wrote.

Something else that rubs them the wrong way is the fact that we love Super Bowl ads more than the actual game.

4. Tipping Service Professionals

Tip Jar
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Gary J. Wood [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

As we all know, skipping out on the tip is very much frowned upon here in the U.S. But, believe it or not, it’s not even expected in other parts of the world. As they see it, it is up to the employer, not the customer, to make sure their employees earn a living wage. And, just like foreign travelers are warned about sales tax when considering traveling to America, they are also warned about tipping before they come here.

3. Giant Food Portions

Heart Attack Grill
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Heart Attack Grill [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Foreign travelers are often in awe when it comes to the supersized food portions served up in American restaurants. Something else that’s uncommon abroad is taking leftovers from your supersized restaurant meal home in a “doggie bag.” Taking food home is considered both embarrassing and rude in other parts of the world. In fact, it was considered so terrible in France that they actually had to pass a law allowing people to take doggie bags home in order to get rid of food waste.

2. Free Refills

Source: Pixabay

Not only are free drink refills not a thing in some countries, it’s actually banned in some parts of the world! However, unlike the other so-called weird American traditions, this is one tradition that foreign travelers actually like. A man named Ryan from Germany told the Houston Press that his wife “Iris was also really surprised the first time she saw one of those giant iced teas in the red cups (like at Pizza Hut or something). She thought it was the biggest thing she ever saw. When we drank them, and they refilled it for free, her head exploded.”

1. All the Money is the Same Color

Dollar Bills
Source: Pixabay

At least when it comes to dollar bills anyway. In other countries, different denominations are unique in color and size. But, the fact that our dollar bills are the same size and color can be especially confusing for foreign travelers, who might accidentally mix up a $10 with a $100 bill. If they’re lucky, the person taking their money will give them the correct change and help them to avoid making the same mistake again. If they’re not so lucky, they’ll just have to chalk the experience up to a lesson learned and hope that they keep it in mind for the next time.


Are you a foreigner who also finds Americans customs to be very strange? We encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!