Cultural Musings

10 things that are “so American”

My last post was about things that are “so Polish” and someone suggested I write a post about things that are “so American”. Since I was just in the States for 2 weeks (it was glorious – In Florida it’s like 25 degrees now!), it was a lot easier for me to recognize those things and make some comparisons. So here are 10 things that are “so American”.

1. Chitchatting with every person possible.

This includes waiters, salespeople, and the guy standing behind you in line at the store. This is to create the illusion of rapport with people that you interact with, sometimes on a daily basis and sometimes once. Somehow you had a successful day if you’re able to have a positive interaction with the cashier at the store. It gets exhausting, but also you get used to it after a few days.

2. Positivity.

This is one thing I quite like about Americans. We’re able to see the good in the bad and just roll with it. At least that’s what we tell people and that’s ok I think. Maybe you had a bad day, but you know what? Tomorrow is another day. A common phrase you hear among Americans. Of course you don’t lie and say everything is fine when everything is shit, but you don’t dwell. This can of course go the other way when people refuse to tell you anything negative, even if you’d really like to know how they really feel. I guess it’s just easier to lie and not cause any uncomfortable situations.

3. Drinking and driving.

This is unfortunately common in the States. The blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is .08 (or .8 if you’re a Pole… still don’t get that. I guess it’s a different measurement). That means you can have a drink or two and still be within the limit, depending on many factors of course. For that reason, many people tend to take the risk and go for it. Also, public transport isn’t very popular, so sometimes there isn’t much choice but to drive if you want to go out and that also leads to more drinking and driving. It seems like a lot of people don’t do it in Poland because the limit is so low that it’s not worth the risk.

4. Thinking you’re the best (as opposed to Poles who think they’re the worst).

Americans are infamously self-confident. It just oozes from their pores. I think it’s just part of our national character. We’re encouraged in school to participate, give our opinions, etc. and it’s important to be confident if you’re going to put yourself out there so much. We love people who love themselves (think: Kim Kardashian) and that’s what we all strive for.

5. Thinking America is the best country in the world (as opposed to Poles who think Poland is the worst).

It’s really true, even among people who’ve never traveled abroad (maybe especially among those people). Americans are brought up with this idea and I really notice it when people ask me about my decision to move to Poland. It’s hard for a lot of people to imagine why you’d ever leave America. Patriots!

6. Organic food.

Don’t get me wrong – I think organic food is great, but everything is organic in the States nowadays. They even have organic charcoal. Maybe someday even organic water! It’s kinda insane but also kinda awesome as you always have the choice. There are some things that I wish I could get organic easily – meat and fish, every fruit and veggie, all dairy products. But sometimes I think people mix up organic with healthy. Just because a cookie is organic doesn’t make it good for you. It’s still a fucking cookie.

7. Smiling at random people.

Every time I come back from America I have to switch my brain back into Polish mode and not smile at all people I pass by. It’s hard at first!

8. Driving everywhere.

Weird thing is that gas (benzyna) is two times cheaper in the States but engines are way bigger so I guess it evens out. But the speed limits on the highway are low! The fastest you can go is 75 mph or 120 km/h. I met with someone in a cafe while I was back home and they lived across the street but still drove claiming it was “easier”. If that’s not American, I don’t know what is!

9. Convenience.

This goes along with driving everywhere. Americans generally have pretty convenient lives. What I mean is They have all the modern conveniences with a low price – air conditioning, dryers, cheap gas, affordable cars, affordable housing, all the new gadgets first, etc, etc. When we go elsewhere and these conveniences aren’t there, it’s really hard to adjust. wah wah.

10. Tipping way more than necessary.

I feel like tipping is a little extreme in the US. Why do I have to tip someone a dollar for opening a beer for me? Or for giving me a coffee? In restaurants, ok, but 20% or more? I know waiters don’t make much money in America, but come on.

What else do you think is so American? Solo cups? Drinking games? Fraternities and sororities? Yeah those things are super American too but I didn’t feel like explaining them! Feel free to put your ideas in the comments below!

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  • Reply Agnieszka Gadoś 7 December 2017 at 19:11

    I think that BAC limit in US is measured in percents of alcohol and in Poland we use promils (parts per thousand)

  • Reply Peter 7 December 2017 at 20:02

    From my time in NYC, I’d say one of the most american things is that everything is XXXL SUPER KING SIZE. I remenber going to Costco, seeing huge, I think 3 liter jars of mayo, or those Big Gulp cups of soda you could get basically anywhere, huge cars, and anything you can get upgraded to a bigger size.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 8 December 2017 at 06:59

      Peter – hah yeah that’s definitely true! I didn’t think about that. There are really big sizes of everything! But here you can also find huge tubs of mayo in Selgros or Makro 🙂

  • Reply Robert Reppy (short for Rzepiewski) 7 December 2017 at 20:50

    I don’t know if the Poles get as worked up for their soccer teams as Americans do with their football teams, but the custom here of having your team’s colors or flag on your car, home, T-shirt, boat, etc. seems a bit extreme.

    Free refills of drinks. When I don’t get one when abroad, I feel like one of my basic human rights are being violated!
    Voting for the most deplorable, awful political candidates possible. – Well, I guess that’s self-evident now, isn’t it?

  • Reply K 7 December 2017 at 21:47

    I think Americans are used to high quality customer service which makes them difficult customers in general. They are demanding and entitled and it really stands out especially when they travel abroad.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 8 December 2017 at 07:00

      That’s really true. Americans are difficult customers – high expectations. The worst is when they ask “Do you speak English”?? With that stupid look on their faces.

  • Reply Alex 8 December 2017 at 08:40

    do you know else is so American? How people answer where you are from. Even in London where I live they would say “California” or “Texas”. No one ever says “US” or “The States”. As if I would say “I am from a greater London” or “Upper Silesia”…

    • Reply Ula 12 December 2017 at 03:39

      But that’s somehow true since California or Texas are even bigger than the whole UK 🙂

  • Reply GoHa 10 December 2017 at 10:58

    popcorn and “our boys” (nasi chłopcy) phrase are two things more :3

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 10 December 2017 at 20:20

      Popcorn is American?? 🙂

      • Reply goha 11 December 2017 at 01:19

        Not sure, but if I would have to choose an export product I would choose corn. what’s more, probably everything in popculture of USA has its own popcorn version (at least the bits of popcult which reach me here). I saw tons of recipes with popcorn as a main ingredient 😮 Even cakes!

        Popcorn popculture. pop!

  • Reply GoHa2 10 December 2017 at 11:13

    ah, and this kindness! When I was writing with Americans doing business with them they were so kind!
    I can confess that this was a bit of a “mindfuck” to me – first, I didn’t expect them being so kind, secondly, it was like cognitive dissonance – are they just polite because they like being that, or maybe they are forced to be polite? Is this a ‘true’ politeness or a fake behavior? Weird when you just want to finish a job and then tons of empathic and rather personal stuff comes in 😀

    Do I have to respond in similar way to that, or just pass by and ignore this part? What are the customs? 😀

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 10 December 2017 at 20:20

      You absolutely have to respond in a similar way. It’d be so awkward if you didn’t. That’s why it can hard for Americans when they come to some parts of Europe because people just aren’t as open about their emotions and things. So imagine how I felt when I asked a lady at the airport in Frankfurt if I could go in front of her in the security line because my flight was leaving in 15 minutes (and I was with a baby) and she just said flat out “no, I have a flight in 15 minutes too”. Americans would be like “I’m sorry but I also have a flight to catch. I hope you understand”.

  • Reply G 13 December 2017 at 07:38

    I believe that the reason behind all the chitchatting etc. is that most Americans are used to interacting with people of different races and cultures on a daily basis. Successful communication is only possible is when you open up and not take things for granted like homogenous societies do (as in Poland, for example, no one will ask you what your religion is, because you must obviously be a Catholic).

  • Reply eman 16 December 2017 at 17:43

    It’s definitely not the most American thing existing but I am annoyed by the lack of the soda dispensers in the grocery stores like in the US. It would be really helpful.

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