18 Weird Things About America That Confuse The Heck Out Of Non-American Travelers


1. Star Wars Everywhere

I worked at a hostel down in south Portugal a few years back doing night shifts. One day I met a typical ‘murica guy tourist, very quiet, very indolent, heavy dude with a hat saying “Arizona”. He sat down in the living room with me not talking much, very reserved. At that time at night I was watching Start Wars and he out of the blue said:

“You know, I was in Tibet the other day, in a small village out in the mountains. I saw people living in the most isolated place I’ve ever been to, man. They had no electricity, no water supply, the kids had no school to attend to and most of the folks lived on land and were farmers. These people had no knowledge of our outside world and nothing that gave them a future, yet when I got there I saw little kids running with lightsabers knowing exactly what Star Wars was.”

He got up and left. That moment gave me a new perspective about America and western culture.


2. Commercials For Drugs

Having commercials for drugs. “Ask your doctor about drug X!” It’s weird.


3. Required Extracurriculars For College

Not heard about but experienced: tons of extracurricular activities “for college applications”.

I was partially educated in the US but left freshman year of high school… and even at that point there this pressure to volunteer in tons of places, take absolutely random classes (painting classes at 7am, wtf), play sports, etc. and all in the hopes of having stuff to put in your college applications. I still remember how distraught I was because I didn’t make it on the softball team and it was too late to join another team and that meant I “lost” a semester of sports credits or whatever that was. It all looks so ridiculous now but man, the pressure was huge! Granted, I went to a good school that always sent peeps to good colleges, but still… you know, let 12-13 year olds be kids and enjoy doing nothing after school!


4. How are you doing?

Read this before somewhere…

Americans greet each other in passing by saying, “How are you doing?” without any care for a response.


5. Weddings

Going into debt for a wedding.


6. Using Credit Cards For Everything

This whole credit system and the way to build it. I mean, back home, you take a credit when you really need some expensive shit (car, house, boat, Warhammer figurines). But when you set foot in a bank, they explain you have to work for it, you have to take a lot of small credits before taking a big one. That is really weird.

This and spending so much on public healthcare with so little benefits.


7. No Sick Leave

The fact that your employers don’t have to give you paid sick leave or holidays is concerning. Also the lack of paid maternity leave.


8. Price Tags

That the price on things in your stores are not the actual price but the price without tax and such.


9. No Kettles

Americans don’t have electric kettles.


10. Literal Religious Views

I live here now, and have come to terms with a lot of the quirks, but something that still strikes me is a much more … literal interpretation of religion and priority of faith over morality.

Back home a lot of people would consider themselves ‘Christian’ predominantly in a cultural sense, with the bible seen as a collection of stories designed to inform morality. Faith and belief was secondary to being a morally good person and in general your relationship with any God was something for the private sphere. In contrast, I’ve met a lot of religious people here in the states where morality is secondary to faith, and to be Christian is defined by the literal belief in Christ and his resurrection. Your relationship with God is also much more in the public sphere. Which just … confuses me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met very kind, tolerant, loving, good people who are religious here. But it’s an interesting contrast – my parents give no fucks about whether me and my partner believe in God, so long as we are good people. In contrast, my partner’s parents are still sad that neither of us have their kind of faith (anymore).


11. Cheesy TV Commercials

Your Tv ads are the cringy-est, cheesy, fake pieces of garbage I’ve ever seen. It’s like watching a bad lifetime movie condensed into 2 minutes with a product at the end.


12. Americans Take Their Politics Too Seriously

My family that moved to the US from Canada talked about how neighbours, co-workers, friends and family will stop talking to each other over political opinions. I wouldn’t talk to like half my family if I did that. It just seems so sad.


13. The Extreme Lack Of Sidewalks

Sidewalks are an endangered species in the USA. I’m a US citizen but emigrated to Canada seven years ago, and something that really surprised me is that there are sidewalks everywhere. Like… everywhere. It’s possible for a person to actually walk to the store without having to risk life and limb walking literally in the lane of traffic.

Compared to Canada, I’m convinced that Americans must have a collective fear of STD’s (sidewalkally transmitted diseases.)


14. Taking Pride In Working Yourself To Death

The number of people who will take pride in working themselves to death. You Americans have shitty holidays, fuck tons of shady stuff like unpaid overtime, huge student loans that count to credit rating. Some people react rationally and realise how shit it is, others take an absurd amount of pride in it.

15. Guns/Liquor/Ammo

Canadian here. Driving past those “GUNS/LIQUOR/AMMO” stores is always startling.

I mean, we can’t even buy booze at the supermarket, never mind at the corner store, along with a gun.


16. Pride In Being From A COuntry you’ve never visited

It’s not even something I’ve heard but something I’ve experienced from Americans and it’s how much pride they take in their heritage, calling themselves Irish-American or Italian-American and so on, and how much they embrace it, especially with how far back they go (I had an American dude tell me we were brethren because his great-grandfather was Irish)

Where I’m from, it doesn’t matter where your grandfather or grandmother were from, you were born here so you are from here and, in my case, I certainly don’t go about saying I’m French-Northern Irish.

I kind of understand why they do it, it’s just so fucking strange to me and most people I know.


17. Tipping Culture

Tipping culture – I would hate to feel like unless I was super fake and desperately tried to please customers every shift so that they would tip me well, I would be left with a ridiculously small wage. Absolutely, wages should be increased and tipping should become something that is a nice little extra, not something people need to rely on to pay rent.


18. College Culture

College culture and college basically being a boarding-school for adult children. I had my expectations slightly tainted by movies etc. when I went to university, but it has almost nothing in common. There are no dorms, instead, you find your own place to live. Extra-curricular activities are usually just sports-groups that meet up a few times a week or some other hobby group. Lectures and courses are just a means to an end, you basically just try to get it over with so you can get out there and find a job.