“Loose” approach to credit card security
In most foreign countries, people meticulously guard their credit cards, caring about its security as much as they can. In the US, signatures rarely matter and hardly anyone uses their pin.
Water in the toilet bowl
For foreigners, the amount of water in the toilet bowl is absurd, especially to those from countries where clean water is rare.
Giant food portions
Food portions are much larger, in case you’ve been living in a cave and hadn’t noticed. Things like large value meals and upsizes are not common abroad.
In most countries, bread -no matter what ingredients it’s made from – usually tastes neutrally or slightly salty. American bread appears to be sweet, and dough-like which is very unusual to foreigners.
The number of places to buy guns in the US is beyond comprehension to most outsiders.
Adoration of college sportsmen
University sport teams can be found in almost all countries, but the way student athletes are revered within the US is unique. The most successful football, baseball and basketball players are treated as true celebrities.
Attachment to Alma Mater
Speaking of universities, another thing that might be weird to many foreigners visiting the US, is the strong attachment of local people to the colleges and universities they graduated from.
Free drink refills
The size of the cups in fast food chains are strange enough, but unlimited refills might be too much to handle.
Aerosol cheese in a can
Also known as the spray cheese or easy cheese, the canned aerosol cheese is something that many non-Americans consider pure insanity. I actually agree with them on this one.
Dumping food that you don’t eat, throwing well-preserved sneakers away just because they are not trendy anymore or getting rid of your working iPhone 5 because iPhone 6 has just been released is something people from many countries find particularly weird.
An 18-year-old in America is allowed to do quite a few things. They can drive (16 years), buy a gun, join the army and get a pilot’s license. However, they have to wait until they are 21 in order to buy a beer. Again, I have to say I generally take the outside world’s viewpoint on this matter.
In some American fast food joints and restaurants, soda is cheaper than bottled water and within food stores, fruits and vegetables are sometimes more expensive than junk food and frozen meals. In most countries, fresh fruits and veggies are usually the cheapest items.
In many cultures, drinking coffee is almost a ritual. People take time to enjoy the coffee, sipping it discreetly from little ceramic cups. Therefore, seeing Americans gulping down large cups of this beverage as they go, can be surprising. I asked a server for a larger cup of coffee one time I traveled to Amsterdam, and the person looked at me like I had three nipples.
Confusing price tags
In many countries you traditionally pay exactly what you see on the price tag. In the US, the tax is not normally reflected and it can be confusing to some.
Large gaps around toilets
Answering the call of nature is something Europeans usually associate with the utmost privacy, which is why American toilets (with huge bottom and side gaps) seem so intrusive.
We have already discussed the shock many visitors experience when they first see the enormous portions served in American establishments, but there is actually one more thing that relates to food in general – the almost unlimited variety. No matter if it’s ice cream or sandwiches – you have it in all possible and impossible flavors, forms and types.
The U.S. is known for one of the highest numbers of cars per capita (4th highest in the world, to be precise) and Americans really do like to use their cars. Therefore, tourists from countries where public transport is the most popular form of transit, can find driving a few blocks to a real hassle.
Perception of distance
To piggy-back on the last point, driving two hours for a lunch or five hours to the beach, is something that people from small countries don’t understand either. For a person from San Marino (a country that can be literally walked across in about two hours), driving somewhere more than 10 minutes is incomprehensible.
Foreign visitors find it peculiar that our AC is often turned down to cooler temperatures and is even used when outside weather drops to comfortable levels.
Popularity of peanut butter
Along with hamburgers and pizzas, peanut butter can be considered an American staple. While Americans love peanut butter and eat tons of it, foreigners find the sweet-salty tasting spread to be too much. Suit yourself. Peanut butter is life.
Nudity is a taboo on numerous American TV channels. Not so taboo on most European channels.
System of measurement
This has been a point of contention for many people, and is a question that may never find an absolute answer – why do Americans insist on pounds, inches, miles, gallons and other units while the rest of the world uses the metric system? One word sums it up best — “‘Merica”.