19 Everyday Things Americans Do That Make Other Countries Confused

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By Jonathan Trent

The United States of America is a country like no other, much adored by its residents and permanently misunderstood by those who don’t. If you don’t know what we mean, here are 19 everyday things that Americans do that confuse people from other countries.

Tipping Everyone

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One of the most shocking realizations for tourists arriving in the States is that they are expected to tip pretty much everybody, even bartenders and taxi drivers. In most countries, the standard tip is between 10% and 12.5% of the total charge, whereas it stands at around 20% in the US.

Waiting Until 21 to Drink

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While most of the countries in Europe have a legal drinking age of 18, the United States prefers

to make their young citizens wait a little longer, with the legal age to purchase alcohol being 21. This still doesn’t eclipse Eritrea’s drinking age, though, which stands at 25, as reported by CNN!

Refer to Their Nation as ‘America’

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Despite Canada being equally part of North America, people from the U.S. won’t hesitate to simply call their country America, sometimes even shortening it to ‘Murica.’ In many South American countries, calling the US ‘America’ is deemed politically incorrect, which is understandable.

Hosting Baby Showers and Gender Reveals

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While the baby shower concept has recently started to move into European culture, it’s still not commonplace. Gender reveal ceremonies are also relatively new in countries outside the US, but over here, they’re absolutely massive. These events are pretty baffling to most foreigners!

Filing Taxes

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Americans are tasked each year with the mundane job of filing their own tax returns, something that most people outside of the US don’t have to do. This isn’t just if you’re self-employed either; most companies outside the US deduct their employees’ taxes from their pay, while here, we do them ourselves.

Not Having Sick Leave

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To most people outside of the US, using up paid vacation time to get the day off work because of sickness would seem like a violation of one’s human rights. In most developed nations, statutory sick pay is required by law for all employers, but not here, sadly.

Using the Imperial System

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It seems that the US missed the memo when the majority of the world switched to the metric system in 1795. In fairness, the US’ use of imperial measurements was the fault of the British, who, according to CBC, had enough influence over Americans to prevent a large-scale metric migration.

Driving Everywhere

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Most people, especially Europeans, will struggle to comprehend the scale and vastness of many US towns and cities, which explains their reasoning for driving everywhere. US public transport also rarely meets the same standard as in more developed nations; after all, it’s a country designed around vehicles.

Throwing Mild Parties

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Most American movies paint their college parties in the sort of light that makes them seem like the most rowdy, unmissable events to have ever taken place in the Western world. In reality, they’ll likely involve cliques of people drinking weak beer out of red plastic cups, which Europeans find rather confusing.

Saying ‘Have a Great Day!’

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Most tourists visiting the US will be shocked at the number of times they are told to “have a great day!” The relentless insincerity of small talk in the US feels exhausting to outsiders but is part of the fabric of society within the nation. We think it’s better than having a cold attitude!

Paying Sales Tax at the End

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Many people visiting the United States will be shocked when they get to the checkout to find their goods’ price has increased by 15%. Most shopkeepers in other countries will factor in tax to the shelf price of their products, leaving no nasty surprises when it comes to the payment.

Eating Huge Portions

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Food portion sizes across the US are unfathomable to most non-Americans. While they love it, a study by the National Library of Medicine has found that the large portion sizes in the USA may be directly contributing to a growing obesity crisis in the country, which is concerning.

Putting Ice in Drinks

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Americans love an ice cube or ten in their drinks. They serve beverages with tons of cubes floating on the surface, making your lips cold after every sip. Ice is still served in drinks outside of the US, but with a much lower ice-to-drink ratio.

Shopping Late at Night

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The US is home to many stores that stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While this isn’t strictly an American thing, it’s far less common to see 24/7 stores outside of the US. Many in the US will utilize these opening hours, especially parents or those working night shifts.

Writing the Date Month First

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One of the most confusing aspects of American life for outsiders to understand is reading the date in MM/DD/YYYY format. Only a tiny fraction of the globe opts for this style of dating, with most other nations preferring to write their dates in DD/MM/YYYY.

Large Coffees

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It seems that the USA is the only country in the world where you can easily order a coffee larger than your own head. The thought of such a large dose of caffeine would be considered highly uncultured in countries such as Italy, where shot-sized espressos are considered the norm.

Wearing Shoes Indoors

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When visiting an American house, most foreigners will likely take their shoes off out of common courtesy. To many, the thought of wearing shoes indoors is inconceivable, as they seem dirty and uncomfortable. However, Americans just don’t seem to care about this, which is pretty baffling to foreigners.

Flying the Flag

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Most countries will have a strong sense of national pride, but not all of them will be as outward in their expression of it as the United States. Statistics back up the sentiment of national pride in the States, with YouGov suggesting that a whopping 70% of the population is proud to be American.

Handing Their Credit Cards Over

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Finally, tourists in the US are taken aback by the waiter or waitress who takes their credit card away from them to be swiped. Most restaurant staff in other nations will bring the card reader to the table for the customer to insert their card and PIN number into themselves. It feels sketchy, but trust us–it’s normal here.