15+ Things Americans Think Are Normal But Everyone Else Finds Super Weird

It's common knowledge that many experiences are uniquely American, so much so that the rest of the world will often take to watching the U.S.A. like the daily lives of those who live here are a spectator sport.

After hearing about some of the differences between this country and literally every other, as shared on Reddit in a couple of threads, I can't say I blame them. Here's a list of just some super weird things Americans think are normal so you can see what I mean.

1. The variety between states.

Unsplash | Clint Patterson

Every state has its own unique identity and culture, which apparently is a shock to those from overseas! "I went to live there for a year and on the plane over, the guy next to me said, 'Each state is like a different country.' I thought he meant it in the same way that Manchester is different to Birmingham. But everything is so different state to state: the people, the attitude, the food, etc," wrote one user.

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2. Yellow school busses are apparently a shock.

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A few people mentioned being surprised that the school busses were actually yellow, with one saying they thought that was only a thing in cartoons.

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3. Having a whole aisle in grocery stores dedicated to cereal.

Unsplash | Franki Chamaki

In most other places, their selection is severely reduced. So they miss out on all the fun of choosing between four brands of the same type of cereal? So sad.

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4. The state of maternity leave.

Giphy | SoulPancake

The amount of leave given to new parents is laughably small when compared to countries like Sweden, which has up to 16 months of paid parental leave.

What's maternity leave like in America again? Right, 12 weeks unpaid, which is below the 16-week recommendation set by the World Health Organization. Yikes.

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5. The sheer amount of space between places.

Unsplash | Michael Carruth

The U.S. is a big, big place, with many not realizing just how big until they get there. Many commenters remarked how a drive between two cities in America would be the same as driving across their home country! As one user put it, "There are vast stretches of absolutely nothing (+ cows) between major cities."

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6. Paying for ambulance rides.

Unsplash | José de Azpiazu

This one came as a big shock to many, with Americans sharing stories of themselves or people they knew taking taxis or Ubers to hospitals as an ambulance would have cost them over $1000.

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7. Cheese in a can. Just cheese in a can.

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I get this one. It sounds like an absolutely ridiculous idea to anyone who would have never thought of it. Forget 'sounds like', actually, it is a ridiculous idea.

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8. The dramatization of the news.

Giphy | South Park

One user elaborated on this thought, "Your news. It’s over-sensationalized. I couldn’t believe it when I visited. Every news program seems much less like news and more like reality TV."

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9. Tax not being included on price tag, so you don't know your actual total before you check out unless you do the math.

Unsplash | Marjan Blan

I, personally, had this shock when I visited Belgium. The prices were listed as-is, nothing to add at the end. It was a small difference that actually felt way nicer!

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10. Speaking of prices and shopping, couponing!


Everywhere has coupons, but the act of so-called 'extreme couponing' is pretty unique to America, as many other countries have laws that prevent the coupon stacking involved.

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11. Our portion sizing.

Giphy | Food Network Canada

Echoed many times was visitors being absolutely shocked at the size of food and drink portions, namely at fast-food restaurants. Many said the size of a small soda would compare to a medium or large back home.

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12. We're so bombarded with ads all the time, we often think little of them, but there are some that surprise visitors just by existing.


Like ads for medications and lawyers, which are completely outlawed in many countries! The only reason layers can advertize in America was due to a Supreme Court decision in 1977 in which lawyers argued that advertising is free speech, and they won!

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13. The tipping system.

Unsplash | Sam Dan Truong

Tipping culture is a lot bigger in the U.S.A. than most anywhere else. While here, there are a variety of industries where tipping is expected or considered polite, some countries don't have a single business that accepts tips.

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14. The amount of ice in drinks.

Unsplash | Giorgio Trovato

A simple difference is glasses of ice-cold water being served up at restaurants This was shared by non-Americans who loved it when they visited, and Americans who missed it when traveling overseas.

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15. Jumping off that, the act of getting water for free at all.

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What's considered a free amenity in America isn't held to the same service standard elsewhere, with many other countries charging for glasses of water at restaurants.

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16. Saying the pledge of allegiance.

Flickr | Becker1999

"The Pledge of Allegiance. If that [...] isn't brainwashing, I don't know what is," one commentorwrote. Other Americans tacked on stories of themselves or people they knew getting in trouble for sitting during it or refusing to say it.

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17. Directional signs inside cafes and restaurants.


You know those arrow signs on the ceiling that say 'order here' and 'pick up here'? Yeah, apparently other places don't have those. I like knowing where I need to go!

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18. Having extremely public hangouts and conversations.

Unsplash | Taylor Grote

As one user who visited New York specifically put it, "[...] I was flabbergasted by the amount of people just loitering on the streets or having phone conversations that everyone can hear on the train [...] People outside of the USA don't hang out in public or let other people into their business on public transport."

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19. People being extremely friendly and striking up conversations with strangers.

Unsplash | Priscilla Du Preez

Sort of related to the last is the friendliness of people in America. Actually, an American shared their perspective on this one, saying they had European friends who have described that strangers rarely share a word with one another in their home countries. Here, you can see people chatting each other up everywhere you go!

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20. Finally, a fitting end, is the huge amount of American flags everywhere.

Unsplash | Kevin Lanceplaine

There's definitely something to be said for American patriotism. It's hard to go a block in the U.S.A. without being reminded exactly which country you're in.

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