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Things Only Americans Think Are Normal



Ah the good old USA – a land brimming with 24-hour restaurants, copious amounts of icy beverages, and a people who aren’t shy about expressing their patriotism. While it’s true every nation has its own eccentricities, here in the states we have quite a few customs and behaviors that set us apart from the rest of the world.
As Americans, we have certain practices the rest of the world can find a bit odd. From our love of big-box stores to our currency and even our restrooms, here are 40 weird things Americans think are normal.

Ads For Lawyers & Prescriptions

Pharmaceuticals are big businesses in the USA, so it’s no surprise they spend big bucks on advertising. Ever watched the evening news? Chances are 90 percent of the commercials during prime time news hour will be for prescription drugs, something people from other countries find pretty bizarre. The same goes for attorney commercials. They’re everywhere – and that’s something you rarely see overseas.


America’s love of the drive-thru began way back in 1947 with Red’s Giant Hamburg in Missouri opening what is considered to be the first true drive-thru. By the 1950s drive-thru’s were popping up all over the country – and since then the convenient trend has spread to banks and pharmacies. However, it’s a convenience that is pretty much unique to America. Across the rest of the world, most people have to park their cars and enter a business to get what they need.


In the USA tipping is not only customary, it makes up the majority of restaurant servers’ wages since their paid hourly rate is so low. Across the rest of the globe, most waitstaff are paid a decent wage so don’t have to rely on tips to pay their bills. In most European countries, service fees are included in the price, so tipping isn’t expected.

Huge Grocery Selection

We are a nation of choices – from massive novel-sized menus at certain restaurants (hello Cheesecake Factory!) to big box stores housing every imaginable item, we love to have a lot of options and the same goes for our grocery stores. Tourists to the USA are frequently shocked – and overwhelmed – by the huge grocery selection our supermarket’s house.

Excessive National Pride

Sure, national pride is worldwide, but America’s love of the stars and stripes can seem a little overkill to people from other countries. From hanging flags on the front of our homes, donning red, white and blue colors, and even getting American flag tattoos, our national pride can seem a bit excessive to foreigners.

Smiling At Strangers

Our friendliness towards strangers can seem a bit odd to people from other countries, who may be taken aback by your affable smile. While some parts of the USA may not be as willing to offer up a smile to a stranger, Americans, in general, are a smiley, friendly bunch, even to random strangers.

Free Refills

International tourists to the states can’t believe their luck when they realize refills are free. Across many parts of the world, you have to pay for refills, something Americans find perplexing. In most countries when you pay for a soda or a cup of coffee, you have to pay for each additional cup.

Same-Colored Money

Sure, money spends the same whichever country you’re in, but our American dollars can seem a little bland and boring compared to other currencies. Take Australia for example, not only is their currency lovely and colorful, but it’s also waterproof. Many other currencies separate their paper money by size and color, making it easier to tell the difference between notes. Here in the USA, it can be confusing for tourists to tell the difference between a $10 and $100 bill since they’re the same size and color.

Constant A/C

Even in some of the hottest countries around the globe air conditioning isn’t run constantly, but here in the USA businesses, offices, shops, and restaurants keep the AC set to sometimes frigid temps. According to the Washington Post, a 2008 survey found that 88 percent of Americans say they find some retail establishments too cold and 76 percent say they have to bring an extra layer of clothing with them when they visit restaurants or movie theaters.

Absurd Portions

When it comes to portion sizes in the USA it’s go big or go home. We love to see our plates piled high with gigantic helpings of food. Whether it’s because we have bigger appetites, love to see value for money, or want those all-important leftovers to take home, the USA is renowned for its overflowing plates of food – something tourists from other countries can find hard to justify.

Giving Away Credit Cards

Here in the states, we have no problem handing our credit cards over to random strangers working in restaurants and bars to pay our tab, but in other parts of the world, this act is deemed somewhat unsafe. In other countries, the waitstaff will run your credit card through a machine beside the table so your credit card is always within eyesight.

Huge Road Sizes

The USA is a huge country and part of the benefit of having so much land is that we can have massively large road sizes, something you don’t see in other countries – especially in Europe where roads are narrow and winding. Foreigners can find it pretty overwhelming to hop in their rental car only to be faced with driving on a six-lane highway.

Not Taking Vacation

The average American gets only two weeks of paid vacation per year in stark contrast to many European countries where six weeks is the norm. Americans can sometimes be viewed as workaholics by other nations, who are amazed by our long work weeks, short lunch breaks and lack of paid vacation time.

Ridiculous Amounts Of Advertisements

One thing visitors to the United States find bizarre is the number of commercials we have on TV – and not just how many commercials interrupt a thirty-minute TV show, but how sporadically they can be placed. Fortunately, with many of us streaming our favorite TV shows now our TV advertising consumption is more in line with the rest of the world.

Commercial Pharmacies

In many countries, a pharmacy (or chemist as they’re known in some parts of the world) sells just medicine or medical supplies. But here in the states, our pharmacies are like mini grocery stores, with some selling toys, food – and even booze!

Tons Of Ice

America’s love affair with icy beverages is notorious, but many visitors to the states actually ask for less ice because they believe it waters down the taste of the beverage. It’s not customary in other countries to pour drinks over a cup full of ice, normally you only get one or two cubes max.

Cheerleaders At Sporting Events

Ever tuned in to watch an international soccer match? Chances are you won’t see any cheerleaders since they’re a uniquely American thing. Whilst the origins of who invented cheerleading are debatable, cheerleading was first noted in 1897 during a football game between Princeton and the University of Minnesota.

Gender Neutral Bathrooms

America has made quite the spectacle when it’s come to gender neutral bathrooms, or as some of us grew up calling them, single person, or family restrooms. Regardless, we’re the only place who seemingly need to specify even though it’s a single, shared restroom. And if they’re larger spaces, they’re always separate. This confuses foreigners constantly.

Pajamas In Public

Turns out our love of comfortable clothing in public sets us apart from the rest of the world, where people wouldn’t dream of being seen in their PJs out in public.

Coffee To-Go

In many countries, coffee is meant to be savored whilst sitting down and watching the world go by. Not so in the USA. We like our coffee-to-go and in big sizes. Whether we’re nipping through the coffee shop drive-thru, or grabbing one to carry with us while we go shopping, our coffee culture is vastly different from other parts of the world.

Shopping At Superstores

We love our big-box superstores in the USA, in fact, we love them so much we’re willing to pay an annual membership fee just to get our hands on the vast array of supersized products. Since houses in America are generally quite spacious compared to many other countries, we have no problems stacking our pantries and garages with supplies that will last us for months on end.

Over-Attentive Servers

Across the globe, diners can expect limited interactions with their servers, who come and take the order and then maintain a suitable distance for the remainder of the meal. Not so in the USA, where our servers rely on tips to make up the majority of their wages. Not only are our waitstaff overly attentive, but they also make more money when tables are turned over quickly. Here in the states we generally eat and leave, whereas in many European countries diners can sometimes sit at the same table all night long.

Giant Toilet Stall Gaps

While we may not have noticed anything odd about our toilet stall gaps in America, visitors to our country are often perplexed and somewhat disgusted by the giant gaps at the bottom of the stalls. Many TripAdvisor users bemoan the lack of privacy it gives them, whilst others are just downright perplexed. Turns out there may be several reasons for the gargantuan spaces. Firstly, it allows for easier cleaning of the stalls and secondly, it makes it easier to spot someone who may have passed out inside the toilet stall.

Refrigerating Eggs

If you’re traveling to a foreign country you may find it odd to see that eggs normally aren’t stored in the fridge. Turns out we may be doing it wrong in the USA. In the states, our eggs go through quite a rigorous washing process that not only removes chicken dirt, but it also strips the eggs of their protective layer. Since this washing process leaves the eggs prone to harmful bacteria, we are left with no choice but to refrigerate our eggs – something that doesn’t happen in other countries.

Grape-Flavored Candy

Is grape-flavored candy an American thing? Turns out it is! From grape-flavored candies and popsicles to grape-flavored soda, we love that artificial grape flavor, but in other nations, you’ll be hard pushed to find anything remotely similar.

Deep Fried Foods

Although it may not be the best for our health, let’s face it, anything fried is delicious – and it’s something we, as Americans, love to eat. Whilst foreigners understand the desire to deep-fry chicken and fish when it comes to Twinkies, candy bars, and other unusual American fried goodies they can find it confusing and a little decadent.

Red Solo Cups

America’s love affair with the Red Solo Cup is so legendary that country music star Toby Keith even composed a top hit featuring the backyard barbecue fixture. Other countries are so fascinated with our Red Solo Cup fixation it’s rumored “American-style” boozy parties are sometimes thrown where everyone drinks out of – yes, you guessed it – a Red Solo Cup.

“How Are You” As A Greeting

Turns out, when we ask “how are you?” we really don’t need a full-blown answer. In America, we often use this phrase as a greeting, instead of a regular “hello.” However, visitors to the country may find this a little confusing, so be prepared for them to answer the question in detail instead of just replying “good.”

Flying Tons of Flags

According to the National Retail Federation, 65 percent of consumers reported owning an American flag – and we don’t just save them for Veteran’s Day or July Fourth. We are a proud nation and we love to show our national pride by adorning our homes and businesses with the stars and stripes.

Using Coins

According to some travelers to the states, our coin system can be a tad confusing – especially since the size of the coin doesn’t correlate to the value. Sure, a quarter makes sense, but having a dime that’s smaller than a nickel is just downright perplexing.

Late-Night Dining

In America, if you want to chow down on a plate of pancakes at three in the morning there’s a restaurant that is happy to oblige. Although 24-hour restaurants appeal to the nightclub and bar crowd, many of the first 24-hour restaurants opened near factories to offer food to the night-shift workers.

Carding Older People

Visitors to the USA can find it amusing to watch old people being carded when buying alcohol, but for store clerks, it’s the law – and let’s face it, it does feel pretty good to be asked for our I.D.

Not Including Sales Tax In Pricing

If they’re not forewarned beforehand, travelers to America can expect a shock to find out sales tax is added at the register. In Europe, for example, sales tax is included in the price so you always know what something is going to cost.

Being Loud

Americans are a gregarious bunch and it’s no shock that we can sometimes be viewed as excessively loud by other nations. We can’t help it – we love to whoop it up with the best of them and aren’t shy about showing our excitement and enthusiasm.

Talking About Work

Strangely enough, we love to ask people what job they do. It’s almost as though our job makes up a huge part of our identity and it’s something people from other countries can find amusing. According to The Guardian, Americans feel that asking someone about their work is a means to open up a conversation and find out more about them. We also love to chit-chat about work outside of office hours. Between the lack of vacation time, long working hours, and after-work conversations, it’s no wonder we’re viewed as workaholics.

Baby Showers Or Gender Reveals

We love our baby showers in America. It’s the chance to spoil that mother-to-be and bestow upon the parents-to-be all kinds of baby paraphernalia to help make the job a little easier. We’re also becoming big on gender reveal parties, but in some parts of the world, it is actually considered bad luck to celebrate a baby before it is born.

High Medical Bills

In the United States, healthcare is big business and unfortunately, we get hit with some of the highest medical bills in the world. If you have good health insurance chances are you won’t have to cough up the whole amount, but for those without insurance one trip to the hospital could lead to a huge financial mess. In many parts of the world, healthcare costs are either subsidized, or a national health insurance program is in place.

Imperial System

Did you know the United States is only one of three countries that still use the Imperial System? In other nations, the metric system is the measuring system of choice and it can be confusing for both Americans traveling overseas and for foreign tourists coming here to try and figure out the difference.


Surprisingly, we’re not the only country that loves our microwaves. Finland is also a huge fan of the quick-cooking kitchen appliance, but in many European countries – take Greece and Italy for example – it’s quite rare to find a microwave in a home kitchen.

Two Political Parties

Ask the average American which political party they are affiliated with and they will most likely answer Republican or Democrat. Since 1852 these two parties have won every United States Presidential election. However, many other countries have more than two political parties and, considering the political divide we are currently facing, that may not be a bad thing. According to The Atlantic, George Washington’s successor, John Adams, worried that a “division of the republic into two great parties…is to be dreaded as the great political evil.”

Calling Themselves Americans

Whilst we see no problem referring to ourselves as American, for people from other countries the concept can seem strange. The USA isn’t the only country in North America, we have Canada, Mexico, and all of South and Central America to consider.