23 Things That Are Normal in The U.S. But Are Weird To Foreigners

If you’re from the United States, you might not realize that some of your everyday habits and customs are actually pretty foreign to people from other countries. We’ve put together a list of things that Americans do all the time without batting an eye but can leave foreigners feeling confused, amused, or even offended. So let’s dive in and take a look at some of the things that are considered normal in the U.S but can be seen as weird by people from other parts of the world.

Eating Mac & Cheese

by Louis Burley

Mac & Cheese is a classic comfort food for many Americans. But to someone coming from another country, it might seem strange to see grown adults indulging in a dish made of pasta and cheese powder. However, once they taste this delicious meal, they’ll understand the hype!


by Kzenon

In most countries, tipping is not a common practice. But in the U.S, it’s expected to leave at least 15-20% tip when dining out or using services like taxis and hair salons. This can be surprising for foreigners, who may not be used to budgeting for tips in their travel expenses.

Ice in Drinks

by Lemon_tm

One thing that Americans love is ice. They put it in all kinds of beverages – from water and soda to beer and cocktails. While other countries may also serve drinks with ice, the amount used by Americans can seem excessive to foreign visitors.

Portion Sizes

by Breaking The Walls

This one is no secret – Americans like their food in large doses. So, if you’re dining out in the U.S, don’t be surprised when your plate comes overflowing with food. In other countries, it’s not uncommon to have smaller servings, and some may find American portions overwhelming.

Small Talk

by Robert Kneschke

Americans are known for being friendly and chatty. They often engage in small talk with strangers, whether it’s at the grocery store or on public transportation. In other countries, this kind of behavior can be seen as intrusive or unnecessary.

Personal Space

by Irynakhabliuk

In line with their love for small talk, Americans also tend to have a smaller personal space bubble. While people from other countries may prefer to keep a comfortable distance, Americans may stand or sit closer than expected during conversations.

Smiling at Strangers

by JackF

Smiling is another cultural norm in the U.S. Many Americans greet strangers with a smile, whether they’re walking down the street or waiting in line. In other countries, this kind of behavior is not as common and may be seen as strange or insincere.

Using Fahrenheit

by Laurence Dutton

While most countries use Celsius to measure temperature, Americans stick to their own scale – Fahrenheit. This can take some getting used to for visitors who may not be familiar with the numbers and what they mean in terms of weather.

Non-Metric Measurements

by Artstudio Images

Aside from temperature, Americans also use non-metric measurements for things like weight and distance. So if a foreigner is told that they weigh 150 pounds (68 kg) or that the nearest gas station is 5 miles (8 km) away, they might find it a bit confusing.

Sales Tax

by designer 491

Another surprise for visitors to the U.S is sales tax. Unlike in other countries where taxes are already included in the displayed price, Americans add sales tax at the register. This can be confusing for foreign shoppers who may not be aware of this practice.

Bagging Your Own Groceries

by Billion Photos

In many countries, grocery store employees bag your items for you. But in the U.S, it’s common for customers to bag their own groceries after paying. This can be surprising for foreigners who may not know where to find bags or how to properly bag their items.

Drinking Tap Water

by Vinkirill

In many parts of the world, tap water is not safe to drink. But in the U.S, it’s perfectly fine and often tastes just as good as bottled water. This can be a relief for foreign visitors who are used to having to buy bottled water everywhere they go.

Public Restrooms Without Bidets

by gerenme

Bidets are a common sight in many countries, especially in Europe and Asia. But in the U.S, they’re not as popular – most public restrooms don’t even have them. This can be quite a shock for foreigners who are used to having this essential item.

Bringing Your Own Alcohol

by foodie factor from pexels

In the U.S, it’s legal to bring your own alcohol to certain places, like parks and beaches. This can be seen as strange by foreigners who come from countries with stricter alcohol laws or where it’s prohibited to drink in public.

Wearing Shoes Indoors

by Cottonbro studio from pexels

In many countries, removing your shoes when entering a home is customary. But in the U.S, most people wear their shoes inside. Although some Americans may find this a bit unhygienic, for foreigners, it can be seen as disrespectful to walk around someone’s home with shoes on.

Using Credit Cards Everywhere

by blackCAT

Americans love their credit cards. They use them for everything from small purchases at the store to paying bills online. In other countries, cash is still king and credit card usage may not be as widespread or accepted everywhere.

Refilling Drinks

by bigacis

In the U.S, drinks at restaurants are typically refilled for free. But in other countries, customers are expected to pay for each new drink they order. This can be surprising and even confusing for foreigners who may not realize that they can continue getting free refills.

Celebrating Halloween

by choreograph

While Halloween is celebrated in many countries, it originated in the U.S, and Americans take their festivities to a whole new level. From elaborate costumes to over-the-top decorations, Halloween is definitely a big deal in the States.

Using Self-Checkout

by Reshetnikov_art

Self-checkout machines are popular in many countries, but they’re not as common as in the U.S, where you can find them at almost every store. For foreigners who are not used to this type of technology, it can be quite daunting to navigate the self-checkout process alone.

Holidays Observed

by sergiimastovyi

In many countries, there are only a few major holidays that everyone celebrates. But in the U.S, there seems to be a holiday for everything – from National Donut Day to Talk Like a Pirate Day. This can be seen as a bit excessive and strange for foreigners who are used to fewer holidays.

Drive-Thru Everything

by RDNE stock project from pexels

Drive-thrus are a way of life in the U.S. You can get everything from fast food and coffee to banking services without ever leaving your car. For visitors from other countries, this may seem like an odd concept, but it’s just another convenience that Americans have come to expect.

Saying “how are you?” when we mean “hello”

by photographer

When a store clerk or acquaintance in America asks, “How are you doing?” they aren’t actually looking for an answer. Instead, it’s meant as a simple greeting, similar to “Hi there!” A European, on the other hand, “will launch into a monologue about their health and wellbeing and ask [how are you?] right back and expect an answer,”

Carrying Confusing Coins

by Robert Kovacs

In many instances, the name of a coin will tell you something about how much it’s worth. However, while the quarter makes sense—seeing as its value is equivalent to one-fourth of a dollar—that’s the only coin whose name is at all logical in terms of its worth. If even we Americans don’t get it, we can’t expect anyone else to either.

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