17 Everyday Things Americans Do That Make Other Countries Confused

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By Jonathan Trent

Visit another country as an American and you’ll soon realize that many everyday habits you’re used to are most certainly not normal in other countries! These are the 17 everyday things that many Americans do which confuse foreigners the most.

Calling Restaurant Dishes “Entrées”

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Most Americans will refer to a main dish at a restaurant as an Entrée when they’re ordering. Yet many Europeans are confused by this. Entrée is a French word meaning entrance. It refers to the starter or appetizer, rather than the main course.

The Tipping Culture

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Tipping culture is extremely important in the U.S., but it isn’t in other countries. Foreigners can be very shocked when they have to budget for tipping everywhere they go. According to Lonely Planet, tipping in Japan “will often result in a waiter chasing you down the street to give it back”!

Asking For Water Without Specifying

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For an American, ordering water is a simple thing: you ask for water, and that should be that. But for foreigners, or if you’re ordering water in other countries, this can be very confusing. In European countries especially, if you don’t specify tap water then you’ll be brought bottled water and charged for it.

Eating Dessert Items for Breakfast

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Delicious servings of pancakes or waffles are a breakfast staple in America – yet, not so much in other countries. Most countries will have items such as donuts, waffles, pancakes, and syrups as dessert items. It can be considered strange to have these sweet items first thing in the morning.

The American Understanding of ‘Lemonade’

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Lemonade is a mainstream soft drink in many countries, especially the U.K. and New Zealand. Lemonade is akin to main brands like Coca-Cola or Sprite. But in the U.S., if you ask for lemonade, it’s either the old-fashioned vintage variety or a novelty that kids sell on the street.

How Loud and Open Conversations Are

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Americans are known for speaking loud and proud on the phone when out in public, or not being particularly bothered by people overhearing their conversations. This can be shocking to Europeans in particular, as public etiquette usually dictates avoiding phone conversations in busy places and keeping your business to yourself.

Talking to Strangers

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Just as with open phone conversations, Americans are known for willingly chit-chatting with strangers and sharing details about their lives – especially on public transport. In other countries, this can be surprising, as a lot of foreigners make a point of staying silent.

Complaining Too Much

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According to some foreigners, Americans are amongst the top people most likely to complain about, well, everything. People in the U.S. make a point of complaining if their food isn’t instantly ready, if they don’t agree with a price, or if stores aren’t easy to navigate.

Wearing Shoes Inside

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The debate over whether you should wear shoes inside the home really depends on what country you’re from. In the U.S., it’s normal. In Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, “shoes are never worn inside homes”, according to Southern Living, as it can be seen as disrespectful.

Choosing to Drive Everywhere

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While Americans do make use of the subway and other public transport, most foreigners are shocked that public transportation isn’t the everyday go-to. And it’s not just about the driving – it’s the road system, too. A lot of Europeans who enjoy walking everywhere are shocked at how inaccessible the U.S. can be for pedestrians.

Flying the Flag Everywhere

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Go to any neighborhood in the U.S., and it’s highly likely you’ll see at least one American flag. To foreigners, having your country’s flag hanging outside your window, or a flag sticker on your car bumper, is something you don’t often see. Other countries don’t understand why the flag has to be plastered everywhere!

The Baseball Hype

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Americans sure do love their baseball. Yet for those in the majority of other countries around the world, the importance of this sport is a little confusing. Baseball tends to be viewed as a very niche sport, with only Americans and Canadians rallying behind it.

How Americans Write the Date

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Other countries write the date in day, month, and year format. Foreigners don’t understand why Americans would list the month before the day instead. According to The Guardian, the US is actually the only country in the world that writes the date this way.

Not Letting Go of the Past

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Americans are patriotic, and they’re also highly proud of their heritage and ancestry. This can be lost in a lot of other countries, as many people simply don’t feel a connection to parts of their heritage. For people outside of America, their heritage is simply the country they live in.

Asking What Job You Do

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According to people from other countries, Americans put a huge focus on what you do for a living – so much so that it becomes the first thing they ask during a conversation. For foreigners, asking what something does for a living right off the bat can be confusing.

The One Dollar Bill

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Having paper money for currency as low as a dollar is very surprising for many other countries. Most foreign countries have a coin instead of paper money, such as one euro or one pound. According to the Bureau of Engraving & Printing, “because the $1 note is infrequently counterfeited, the government has no plans to redesign”.

Asking a Rhetorical Question as a Greeting

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Speak to anyone in America and they’ll likely say “How are you?” as a way of greeting, without actually wanting an answer. It’s a simple way to say hello. Yet in some countries around the world, this can be confusing to learn that the person asking doesn’t actually want to know how you’re doing!