18 Things In The U.S. That Boggle The Minds Of Europeans

by SharonKurheg

We’ve said over and over that when you travel to another country, it’s best to have an idea of the social norms of wherever you’re visiting. That way you don’t look like a jerk ;-).

This isn’t to say that you may go to a foreign country and think some of the things they do are on the odd side. If people in “Name A Country” do things that we don’t (or don’t do things that we do), of course we’re going to notice the differences.

For example, I remember when I saw whale on a restaurant menu, in Iceland. And did you know that chewing gum is illegal in Singapore? Oh, and blowing your nose in public in Japan is very much looked down upon. None of those things make sense in the U.S. Oh, and don’t forget all the hand gestures that are offensive in other countries (#1 and #4 just blow me away) but are perfectly innocent here.

But then again, there is PLENTY of stuff that happens here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. that can make Europeans scratch their heads and go, “HUH???”

Someone asked a bunch of travelers from Europe what confused them the most about life in the United States as they saw it. Here are some of the best replies:

  • I saw a woman put sugar in her Coke at iHop for breakfast. I’ve been told that’s gross, even for other Americans – aris_ada
  • Flags everywhere. Not just people’s homes but in front of everything. I even saw a U.S. flag in front of a supermarket. I could never imagine a Union Jack in front of a Tesco. – EnoughMaintenance
  • Indoors feels colder than being naked in the winter – RefreshingAC
  • I thought the gap in the bathroom stall doors were a myth. Didn’t get privacy for my five day stay. How do you s**t when someone can look you in the eye? – watercolorinc
  • Americans can join the armed services at 18 but they can’t drink until they’re 21. I was drinking when I was 16. – jacoblun
  • The fact that the responsibility is on the customer to pay for someone else’s employees to make a fair wage is mindboggling. The fact that they’re paying extra for someone to do their job, not even for doing it well, is astounding. And then there’s no set amount or percentage you should tip. It’s all very confusing. – CoLlInCrAt
  • The size of everything. Still shocks me that driving from NYC to Cleveland, OH takes twice as much time as a trip across my country. – EmbCMurphy
  • There are drive-through everything. Fast food, pharmacy, liquor stores…? – Outofplace
  • So I used to live in Boston last year. One day, I heard that story of a woman who got her leg stuck between the train and the platform on the orange line of the subway there. Her leg was cut open to the bone. So, that was already pretty bad. The people present gathered up and got her free by pushing the train, but what struck me was what she said when she was finally free, her leg completely messed up: “Don’t call an ambulance, I can’t afford it.” I mean…what. The…F**k?? What is wrong with healthcare there? – Fishercop
  • Honestly…WalMart!! Went there to buy a sim card and some groceries. Also found out that I could also buy pet fish, car parts and shoes..ALL IN ONE BUILDING?!?!?! – maxProcrastinator
  • Went there as a German soldier on a semi work related trip, wearing uniform. The sheer number and the way people thanked me for my service (apparently as a German I qualify for this by extension), gave me discounts or even stuff for free (Starbucks) was astonishing. In Germany, the public treats with what one federal president called a “friendly non-interest.” The US showed me a different world… But I also gotta admit that it was frightening to a certain degree. It feels like…a bit too much of everything. Too much admiration, too much trust in what the uniform stands for, etc. – Z0nK
  • Americans say thank-you for everything. Even the most mundane things, like a waiter bringing you a glass of water. – Christi
  • The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas absolutely blew my mind. The fact that outside it they have what looks like a scale for use on a farm, but for weighing people, and if they weigh over 350lbs they eat for free, was horrendous and it took me ages to get my English mind around it – ID Deleted
  • Tax not included in the price tag. It’s…weird. – avlas
  • Some of their food combinations are quite bizarre, really. Marshmallows and sweet potatoes? Ice cream and soda? Bacon and syrup? No. Just….no. – ID Deleted
  • All your paper money looks the same. Same size, same color. Also, what are these strange nicknames that say nothing about the coin’s value? Why is a dime smaller than a nickel, but worth more?- JakkoStrak
  • Americans are extremely friendly, almost to an uncomfortable degree for some. My parents got slightly lost and had to ask for directions, after five minutes, 20 people with huge smiles were surrounding them, trying their utmost to help. Several offering rides back to their hotel. – TheMediumPanda
  • The cheerful, smiling faces on a medication TV ad, whilst the voice over mentioned that death is a possible side effect – idilthil

Feature Photo: Pixabay

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derek June 2, 2022 - 9:57 pm

Chewing gum is not illegal in Singapore.

Corbett June 3, 2022 - 12:25 pm

The perfect retort! Casual clothing on the beach in Dubai (enforcement varies) would be my choice.

Karyn June 7, 2022 - 6:46 pm

It was, I think, in the late 80’s or early 90’s, an American youth was sentenced to be caned, I think 10 times, and the {reliable} media informed us for some weeks so bout the rather draconian codes & punishments there. Chewing gum was definitely illegal, at least then.

Ellen August 5, 2023 - 5:01 pm

That was for vandalism-he egged a car. You can chew gum in Singapore but you can’t buy it there. And you can’t vape.

Andy June 2, 2022 - 10:19 pm

Derek is right. You just can’t buy the non-medicated gum.

Corbett June 3, 2022 - 12:28 pm

Excellent choices! Regarding the military uniforms, am I wrong to bemoan the fact that I could spot an ally’s uniform at 10 paces as a patriot who never served? I would have no problem being just as kind to an allied solider as one of ours but the overflowing altruism should come as no surprise to anyone, even tourists.

Crystalia R June 5, 2022 - 2:30 am

Born and raised in the US and I am not a flag waver! We own no flags and I am dismayed when my neighbors feel the need to display a big flag or any flag on there house. Sorry US peeps you are over the top. My question is what are you trying to prove with abnoxious flags everywhere? I’m not against the US flag but it’s overkill and embarrassing. We have a friend from overseas and when we took a stroll through our neighborhood he was struck by all of our US flags. He thought it very odd. Should be on government buildings only.
I feel bad to admit this but our US citizens are very dense, arrogant, angry and abnoxious especially while driving! we acted very poorly during the pandemic as well! Adults act very juvenile here and what’s up with this gun obsession…idk🤔
I want out because most of the red state politicians will never change gun policy. Thankfully I’m in a blue state! 😀

Christi H June 9, 2022 - 9:31 am

I am totally with you! A lot of Americans (I am American btw) are arrogant and obnoxious. I don’t really understand why we are so proud here. There’s too much to be ashamed of and embarrassed about. I mean, we chose Trump to be the leader of our country. That will always be a bit of a head scratcher to me. I honestly feel like other countries are laughing at us. Ugly Americans, am I right?

Ellen August 5, 2023 - 5:03 pm

We are in the middle of the Women’s World Cup and the USWNT has made the second round. The incessant U-S-A, U-S-A is obnoxious, to put it mildly. Please stop.

Cormorant June 8, 2022 - 1:40 pm

It really depends on where you go. Urban areas are drastically different from rural ones, deep red states might as well be different countries from deep blue ones. I’m in a very blue state and it’s rare to see any flags anywhere other than government buildings, we’re not super over the top patriotic unless it’s Independence Day. Politeness varies a lot from region to region too.

Regarding the bathroom door thing, yeah people *can* look you in the eye, but it’s really rude to do that. Avert your eyes and pretend you can’t see anything.

derek August 4, 2023 - 7:18 pm

American waitresses make more than most European waitresses. It’s an old myth than they don’t.


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