In every corner of the globe, there are customs that seem completely ordinary to the locals but might appear unusual to outsiders.
The United States, with its vast and diverse culture, isn’t an exception. Right here are 33 American traditions that have amused and perplexed visitors from different parts of the world.
The Casual “How Are You?”
A standard greeting in the US, the phrase “How are you?” is less about inquiring about one’s health and more about acknowledging their presence.
Unlike in Europe, where this might lead to a genuine discussion about one’s well-being, Americans often expect a brief “Good” or “Fine” in return.
A Friendly Smile on the Streets
Whether you’re in a bustling city or a quiet town, don’t be surprised if strangers greet you with a smile or a nod. While natural for Americans, this friendly gesture can sometimes take international visitors off guard.
The Ubiquitous American Flag
Traveling through the US is hard not to notice the stars and stripes flying high. Whether it’s a holiday or an ordinary day, Americans’ pride in their flag is evident, a sightless common in many other countries.
The Hardworking American Ethic
Americans have a reputation for their strong work ethic. Unlike other nations where vacations might span several weeks, many in the US seldom take extended breaks, leading to the stereotype of the always-busy American.
The Iconic Red Solo Cup
Synonymous with parties and gatherings, the Red Solo Cup is a staple in American celebrations. Its unique design and the mystery it provides (what’s inside?) add to its charm.
Generosity with Refills
Order a drink in the US, and there’s a good chance it’ll be refilled—often at no extra cost. This contrast with many countries where every refill is another charge on your bill.
The Greenish Dollar Bill
While other nations showcase vibrant and multi-colored currencies, the US predominantly sticks to its classic green design, which can seem monotonous to some.
Coin Names that Puzzle
In the US, the dime, nickel, and penny might confuse those accustomed to coins named after their values. Only the quarter, valued at 25 cents, seems to make immediate sense.
Cities that Never Close
Whether craving a late-night snack or early-morning coffee, 24-hour establishments are not uncommon, especially in larger cities.
Age is Just a Number at Bars
Even if one looks decades past the legal drinking age, IDs are frequently checked before making an alcoholic purchase—a practice less stringent in many other countries.
The Cheerful Spirit of Cheerleading
Cheerleading, with its high-energy routines and vibrant cheers, is quintessentially American. Unlike many global sports events, American games often feature these lively squads.
Coffee on the Go
The US popularized the concept of takeaway coffee. While Europeans might savor their coffee in cafes, Americans often prefer theirs on the move.
From restaurants to pharmacies, the convenience of a drive-through is a hallmark of the American fast-paced life.
The Frosty Love for Air Conditioning
On a scorching summer day, a sweater might be required stepping into an American establishment. The love for air conditioning can be intense, much to the chagrin of some international visitors.
The All-in-One Superstores
Wander through an American superstore, and you’ll find an array of products, from electronics to groceries, all under one roof—a bewildering experience for some.
Pharmacies Beyond Medicines
In contrast to their international counterparts, American pharmacies provide a wide array of products, ranging from everyday essentials like food and cosmetics, to specialized items such as over-the-counter medications, personal care products, and even health supplements. This diverse range of offerings makes American pharmacies a convenient one-stop destination for all your needs.
Generous Portions on Plates
From colossal burgers to mammoth milkshakes, the portion sizes in the US often surprise (and delight) visitors.
Attentive Restaurant Service
In US restaurants, expect servers to check in frequently, ensuring patrons have everything they need—a contrast to the more hands-off approach in many other countries.
A Constant Flow of Water
While dining out, water glasses in the US are often refilled continuously, leaving some to wonder just how thirsty one can be.
Ice, Ice, and More Ice
Americans have an unmistakable love for ice. Whether it’s water or a soft drink, expect a generous helping of ice cubes.
The Decisions of Dining
Customizing meals is not just a commonplace practice but a true hallmark of the US dining experience. From choosing the type of bread that perfectly complements your main dish, to carefully selecting side dishes that complement your taste preferences, the pleasure of personalizing your meal is in the abundance of choices available.
So whether it’s adding a dash of creativity to your sandwich or opting for unique combinations of flavors, the joy of customizing your dining experience is an integral part of the culinary culture in the United States.
The Art of Tipping
Tipping in the US is not just appreciated; it’s expected. With tips often reaching 20% of the bill, this practice can be a culture shock for many international visitors.
Trusting With Credit Cards
It’s common in the US for servers to take credit cards to a separate area for processing—a stark difference from the table-side transactions in many other countries.
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