16 Unique American Traditions That Are Completely Unheard of Abroad
Every culture has its quirks and customs. Yes, the U.S.’s social influence can be far-reaching, but the American way of life is no different. Here are 16 traditions in the States that are unheard of abroad, as noted by one online forum.
1. Garbage Disposal Units
Having a garbage disposal unit attached directly below your sink isn’t as common as you might think. This type of disposal system is even illegal in some places since it discharges waste into sewers, and water treatment companies are not always equipped to handle such high waste concentrations.
2. Air Conditioning
Cranking up the AC every time a warm swell arrives just isn’t a thing globally. Sure, some countries use air conditioning more than others, but typically, it’s a luxury that one should appreciate more often.
In the USA, we use month-day-year (–/–/—-) when writing dates, but around the world people do day-month-year. One American explains, “It’s how we talk. ‘December 22nd 2022’ is what we say, so it makes sense to do mm/dd/yyyy.”
4. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
“I thought PBJ sandwiches was a worldwide phenomenon (as a kid)!” shares an American commenter. Don’t worry, I did too. But many people around the world are disgusted by this very American comfort food.
5. Red Solo Cups
Yes, now that we have that Toby Keith song stuck in your head, red solo cups are apparently also very American. One British national says, “I literally saw red plastic cups in Poundland (a British Dollar Store) the other day that were labeled ‘American cups.'”
“Growing up, I thought baseball was as widely played as football (soccer) worldwide,” shares an American reader. Another says, “Football (soccer) is the only true global game.”
7. Free Public Bathrooms
It’s fairly easy to find a free public bathroom anywhere in the USA. But in other parts of the world, like Europe, you have to pay to use a public restroom.
8. Free Water
Some American travelers noticed that they had to pay for water when they were out in some European nations. Sometimes, American tourists had to choose between bottled water or sparkling water.
While water is free in many nations not named the United States of America, an American would be stunned if a domestic restaurant charged them for a glass of water.
9. Sales What?
One Brit was shocked that the price displayed on the shelf in American stores differs from that at the checkout counter.
It’s called sales tax, bruv, and Americans are perplexed by it, too. Even in a few states where legislators have scrapped the sales tax, they typically shuffle that tax elsewhere.
10. Texas-Sized Portions
Let’s face it, “America” has become a synonym for “fat.” Europeans may wonder from afar why Americans struggle so mightily with their weight. When those Europeans dine in American restaurants, it becomes apparent (as soon as the food hits the table) why the U.S. has become the Land of the Steak and Cheese, and Home of the Hot Fudge Parfait.
11. Expecting the Waiter to Bring You the Bill
One American who traveled to Australia waited longer than a crocodile’s tail (Croikey!) for the check to arrive. After almost 20 minutes, the diner finally called the waiter, only to find out the bill was waiting at the hostess counter. Apparently, the pay-when-you-go model is more common in several other cultures than in the U.S.
12. American Holidays
You may be sorely mistaken if you’re expecting local restaurants in France, Dubai, or Bali to offer Thanksgiving dinner during your November vacation.
13. Pre-Pay Gas Pumps
Not only may you hear English-speaking foreigners calling gasoline “petrol,” but you may also be confused that the gas starts flowing from the pump before you’ve paid. Virtually every gas station in the U.S. abandoned the “trust me, I’ll pay you after I pump” system decades ago.
If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you’ll know that a table of diners with detectable accents may as well be Chernobyl. The waiter will go in if they absolutely have to, but many foreigners’ unfamiliarity with tipping means that servers often get stiffed.
15. Fahrenheit and Inches
If you’re traveling out of the United States, you better get used to Celsius and meters. What, you didn’t read the classic European novel Celsius 451? Or see that British movie about the football-playing prison squad, The Longest Meter?
As the rest of the world proceeds in metric harmony, America continues to trudge along to its own beat, foot by foot.
16. The Greek System
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a frat in Germany. You can get plenty of brats, but not so many frats. Good luck tracking down a sorority in Zimbabwe or Iran. “Rush Week” means an entirely different thing in Spain. It typically involves a scrum of horned-up animals tearing through the city with no regard for laws or decency—OK, maybe it’s not so often from the American Greek university system after all.
10 Cities That Hold the Title for “Best Mexican Food” in the U.S.
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15 Epic Travel Experiences Around the World People Swear By, Have You Been?
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15 American Foods Non-Americans Think Are Completely Bizarre, Weird, or Disgusting
Sometimes, we think our food choices are ordinary until an outsider comes along and points out it is not. These 15 American foods have been described as bizarre, weird, or disgusting by non-Americans who’ve tried and tasted them. Are you surprised by the list?
15 Incredible Places in the U.S. You Might Not Have Realized Were UNESCO Sites
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15 Travels Destinations “So Difficult” To Visit They’re Worthy of Your Bucket List
Sometimes, you have to “risk it for the biscuit” (as we say in South Africa) which travelers often do to get to a beautiful or bucket-list destination. These 15 off-the-beaten-track destinations are so challenging to get to that it’s an achievement when you reach them.
Where indicated, some image courtesy of Depositphotos.com.