Okay, bear with me on this one, as it’s a long list! You may find all of these things completely commonplace if you’ve grown up in the US and particularly if you’ve never left. But once you start thinking about how it might work otherwise, maybe you’ll see how strange our customs really are.

 

Tax

In most other countries, the prices stated on an item always include tax. So it can be particularly annoying and confusing for foreigners who get their money ready only to find out it’s a few dollars more! Why not just add the tax into the price?

 

How are you?

A Polish friend visited the US for the first time and asked me: “Why does everyone keep asking me how I am? Even at Starbucks! Do they really want to know how I am? Because I will tell them.” You start to realize that this inane greeting is simply that, an inane greeting, and if you do it anywhere else, you’ll get a very different response.

 

Driving

Unless you live in a city, Americans drive e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Way more than people do in other countries, where they are much more likely to have better public transport systems.

 

Ice

We have a lot of ice in our drinks. Like, a lot.

 

Portions

This one is probably already obvious to most Americans, and is a big contributor to our obesity problem in the US. Our portion sizes are pretty out of control, and most countries aren’t used to the doggy bag idea.

 

Tipping

Tipping isn’t unique to the US, but the way we do it is. While you can tip a dollar or two in most European countries if your service was good, in the US, you tip even if the service was BAD. The minimum expectation of 10% (more like 15-20% for most places) can be confusing to visitors. It’s even expected at bars and to-go places, which they often don’t realize, making it difficult when you go to the bar for another drink!

 

Medical insurance

Even our next door neighbors Canada are ahead of us on this one. Socialized medicine is not the demon many politicians make it out to be. Every country I’ve visited has had some variation on it, meaning you can walk into ER, get treated, and come out with a reasonable bill, or nothing at all! There are millions of people in the US currently without medical insurance, or going broke because of it, which is simply not normal.

 

Chocolate

Believe me, when you’ve tasted Swiss, German, English, French, Colombian, and Polish chocolate, you realize that ours is simply not as good. Move over Hershey’s, Cadbury and Milka are the best!

 

Money

This may surprise you, as the American dollar bill is something of a universal symbol of money, but it can be confusing to others in two ways. Firstly, all of our bills are the same colour, whereas in most other places it’s different for each denomination. Secondly, have you ever noticed how some of the coins have a name rather than a value? Not everyone knows how much a nickel or dime is worth, and the sizes aren’t conducive to value either!

 

Dates

Where we write our dates with the month first, many other places write day, month, year. This can result in some very confusing situations!

 

Flags

As a patriotic nation, we love our flags, and not just on independence day. Seeing stars and stripes on regular residential houses at any time of the year is a little weird to others. Do we need reminders of the country we’re in?

 

Imperial measurements

We are one of the last countries holding onto imperial measurements. Cups, pints, gallons, Farenheit, and miles aren’t used in most parts of the world, rather, they use metric measurements such as metres, litres, and Celsius.

 

Toilets

This is a funny one, but our toilet water is way higher than most other places. My English friend once came out of a public bathroom telling me all of the toilets were broken, because the water was so high! She also pointed out that she felt very much on display (once I assured her they weren’t broken) due to the insanely large gaps on either side of the doors. What IS that about, anyway?

 

Drinking and driving

We can’t drink til we’re 21 but we can get behind the wheel of a car when we’re 15? Hmm…