Cultural Musings

20 things Americans think are perfectly normal and the rest of the world cannot understand

When Americans go abroad, they expect things to be exactly like they are at home. They expect good customer service and are often very disillusioned when confronted with the reality in other countries. It can be hard to understand and accept. It shows that in America we’re really used to certain conveniences that the rest of the world just doesn’t have. Read on to find out exactly what!

Out of curiosity, I started watching the Netflix show Emily in Paris. I was interested in how Emily being American had an influence on her life in Paris… and, basically, everyone hates her because of it. She’s obnoxiously perky, dresses garishly, and is always trying to push the American point of view on a group of chic, stereotypically French people. Overall, she oozes Americanism. They even nickname her “the hick”. And I wonder, do we all seem that way? I think Poles honestly like American people, so it’s not an issue here, but I’m curious as to how Americans come off to Europeans in general. Or maybe I don’t want to know! Here are some things, like Emily, that are very American and very not European.

  1. Free refills. Free water. ICE in your water!
  2. The date being written MM/DD/YYYY  😱
  3. For people to bend over backwards just because you’re a customer.
  4. Not being able to buy alcohol until you’re twenty-freaking-one years old.
  5. Toilet stalls you can crawl under. Why not just extend the partitions and make the damn things more private?
  6. Yellow school buses 🚌
  7. For everyone to smile and be friendly everywhere you go.
  8. Price tags that don’t include the tax. In America, they always add the sales tax at the register (to be fair it’s a lot lower than in Poland, so the diff isn’t that big).
  9. Garbage disposals. Flip a switch and all the junk in the kitchen sink gets blended up and goes down the drain. Brilliant.
  10. Pledging allegiance to the flag EVERY.DAMN.DAY at school. Talk about creepy.
  11. Tipping 20% (or more!) πŸ€‘ Waiters are paid next to nothing by the restaurant, so they make the bulk of their salary from tips.
  12. Exposed toilet bowls and flushers on the side. In Europe it’s usually a button on the wall. With 2 options!
  13. Paying for college. Paying massive amounts, rather, for college and being in debt until who knows when.
  14. Revealings all kinds of information about yourself when you first meet someone.
  15. People being warm and friendly to strangers. I almost feel like we care more about what strangers think than people we really know, whereas the rest of the world couldn’t care less.
  17. Being able to ask for anything and everything at a restaurant. Swapping out one thing for another, asking them not to use some ingredient, ice in your water, more bread, etc. In Europe, you just don’t do those things.
  18. Turning right at a red light.
  19. College sports 🏈
  20. Being afraid to go to the doctor/hospital because you have no idea if you’ll have to pay and how much it’s going to cost.

Anything else you think is worthy of a mention? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Reply Lizzie Reyes 10 December 2020 at 22:15

    For me one of the things is that in the US election day is not on Sunday or any other day that majority of people have off, but at a random work day. Also to what extreme measures some people have to go to just be able to vote.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 11 December 2020 at 08:20

      Hey Ela – yeah, that is actually really bizarre that it’s always on a Tuesday. Super inconvenient. BUT at least in America we have early voting and absentee voting, so you can actually vote through the mail without any issues, which you can’t do in Poland. I always thought it was weird that Poles have to go to the embassy to vote if they’re not in Poland.

      • Reply Monika 11 December 2020 at 09:02

        Yes, you can vote by mail. There are goops to jump through, but you can.

        • Reply Leah Morawiec 11 December 2020 at 10:40

          Oh ok! I’ve just never heard from someone that you can do that. And it’s totally normal and really easy in the States.

  • Reply Damian 11 December 2020 at 08:20

    21. People carrying guns like it’s a normal thing to do.
    22. Bumper stickers on cars – as many as possible.
    23. Political signs on every corner (at least no faces of politicians like in Poland).
    24. Checks – because why would you use bank transfers in XXI century?
    25. Laundromats.
    26. Drive-through at the banks (and everywhere else).
    27. Bigger is better.
    28. More is better.
    29. Dryers.
    30. COSTCO.
    31. So MANY churches. All kinds.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 11 December 2020 at 08:26

      You live in the States, so you really see those differences!! Guns… true. Very true. Dryers! I have one in Poland too πŸ™‚ Someone else said checks too and I was like oh nooo I forgot something really important. Checks are such an issue. When I got my stimulus check in the mail I had to actually mail it back to my bank in the States, which was super inconvenient and risky for me. My American family members just started using bank transfers! In Poland, it’s just the normal way to pay! America is really in the last century in a lot of ways. Drive-through banks!! I forgot those existed. That’s actually a beautiful thing. Miss that! Thanks for your insights, Damian!

  • Reply Grace 11 December 2020 at 08:38

    When I moved to Poland I thought it was so creepy that you give out your bank account number to make a transfer.

  • Reply Maciek 11 December 2020 at 12:49

    Oh not, MM/DD/YYYY date format! πŸ˜€ I have no idea who had this *genius* idea of putting not the most granular piece of data on the front (days), not the least granular (years), but the middle one, so all of the parts are in random order! πŸ˜€ It makes no logical sense! (and the LOGIC is the most important thing in life, right? RIGHT?!) And don’t make me even start ranting about the imperial units… πŸ˜€

    Jokes aside, I haven’t seen the show, but I’m sure it is based (at least to some extent) on exaggeration – like 97% of TV shows ^^ Until you are not acting like a total moron expecting everything to be exactly like in the US (because everything in US is the best, because it’s from the US! It’s that simple, which part you didn’t understand?! – See? I’m exaggerating again ^^), why shouldn’t we like you? Americans are cool πŸ˜€ But I guess it applies to all travelling folks and discovering new cultures, just stay open-minded and don’t assume you always know better πŸ™‚

    PS: Damn, this garbage-blending-sink-machinery sounds sick, I want one!

  • Reply Ronald Ti 13 December 2020 at 11:44

    Hey Leah!
    You forgot miles, tons, pounds, ounces, US gallons…..the rest of the world is virtually all metric, only America holds out!

    and “USA Today”- not a shred of world news or anything much outside the USA. This rag will have as headlines:



    and on page 6 or at the back you will have


    Or maybe not the last one becuase it has the word ‘Brecxit’ in it, and not many in the States are aware of this….

  • Reply stephen earl 5 January 2021 at 16:59

    The things i get most annoyed about in the states is the loudness of Americans, they love the sound of their own voice! They are very noisy sometimes overiding everyone else in the room!
    Another thing, Americans don’t know or understand geography, don’t know which? I was in Myrtle Beach playing golf , as i do, and the pro in the shop said what our tee time was and he said that in front of us was a 4ball from England like us! Well i had already heard these men talking and they were Scottish! When i told the pro this he said that Scotland was in England ? When pointing out that Scotland was another country next to England he couldn’t understand at all and kept insisting Scotland was in England? I have many of these stories from Myrtle Beach! I love it there, been about 10 times!

  • Reply Ko 18 July 2021 at 11:41

    I would say race obsession (from European point of view it is) ;”white privilege”,”one blood drop rule” and so on.Of course it comes from US history, but still it seems hard to understand.
    Americans tends to see Europe as ” country” – I know, not all are like that, but happends too often to hear “in Europe …”-as if it was one big land, where everything is the same
    Inability to understand diffrence between nationality and ethnicity- even for those who have been living in Europe for years-“you look polish” or “you look german” – what does it even means?? Not sure is it more funny or irritating πŸ˜†
    And I LOVE american easiness in small talk and being open to talk with strangers- best conversations all over the world I had with Americans ,so easy to start a talk !

  • Reply Max 6 January 2022 at 20:04

    You guys have no idea how difficult it makes it to software developers to have that MM/DD/YYYY thing of yours lol many, MANY things could break and collapse just for that tiny small detail you are so used to πŸ˜›

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 January 2022 at 07:57

      Hahah that’s amazing. Don’t lump me into that though because I’ve been Polonized πŸ™‚ I’m already worried about all the “how are yous” from strangers on my upcoming trip to the States!

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