American Behaviors, Virtues and Expressions That Foreigners Do Not Seem To Understand

Blue. Red. White. A Sunday sport of Rugby to be viewed, with creamy steaks to be consumed. Enjoy some hot dogs at baseball. These are a few out of the many things that symbolize the American way of life. Every individual knows it’s significance to us, but other cultures may not be able to relate, not in the least bit.

Of course, those who weren’t raised in the American setting may find it difficult to understand certain ‘traditions’ of the United States citizens. Some customs, for instance, may have become second nature to you because while growing up, you became used to it. Americans, too, may likely opine that what you’re doing seems strange. Some of these American Customs are listed below; especially those that may just cause a foreigner to lose his mind.

Coffee On The Move

One of the foundations of the American Subculture is Coffee. However, we don’t imply the “Sit in the parlour, share a cup with a friend” type. A typical American culture that the rest of the world practices, too.

What we’re implying, rather, is the portable and huge, disposable cup that you can use up until nearly midnight, when you might need another cup. It is left unacknowledged by the American Labour Force, but non-Americans can’t quite grasp the essence of it.

Personal Space

Quite frankly, no one thinks about the importance of personal space, especially during a discussion or conversation. We only seem to, when we don’t have it any longer. Hence, never forget to give Americans some space when conversing or dealing with them, as they see it as a sort of respect.

Although, they are aware of proximity, Europeans however, do seem to communicate in a more physical manner, even when romance isn’t involved. For the Americans, even an unwanted bodily contact or touch may be offensive. But for people outside the States, a pat on the shoulder is simply what it is; normal, even between strangers.


One topic people may end up discussing or getting involved in while traveling, is the subject of tips. Wherever you may find yourself as a frequent traveler, the idea of tipping will unavoidably be suggested to you – whether you want to, or not. Tipping is common place in the American setting, it is usual for bartenders and other related workers to get their real wages solely through tips.

This is not usual outside in paces like Europe, where tipping is not done on the same level as the Americans. This doesn’t mean that Europeans turn down tips – they accept a nice one if available.

Covering Up

Another thing that differentiates the Americans from other people all over the world is the beach or seaside wardrobe (or should we say, the lack of it). The Americans seem aware of the availability of some beaches that allow for nudism(virtually no clothing on).

Americans seem to find it funny whenever they think of their friends across the Atlantic; how they became so sensitive about what they put on. And in the fashion genre, when you consider what is left to your imagination regarding the ‘Speedo’ garments, you’ll understand why it was never truly successful in America.

Money: A Delicate Subject

Concerning how much zeros and digits you earn, a lot of Americans do not have a positive approach toward such topic as the rest of the world. This doesn’t say that Americans aren’t inclined to have an informal discussion o the subject of their salaries. What it implies, rather, is that America’s dog-eat-dog system, makes people more sensitive to topics regarding finances and budget as a whole.

For the Non-Americans, however, they aren’t as disturbed when in the middle of such a subject matter. They find the American rat-race to be a bit more intense. And if they’ve got financial problems, they seem pretty opened about it and do not allow it get them down.

Heavy Workload

We could also divert into the workforce as well, if we’re gonna speak about money. A discussion about money with Americans is sensitive because we get it through hard work.

In a report published back in the year 2013, about one out of four Americans are not guaranteed a paid leave. Those who do usually get up to 21 days. You can compare that with Europe, where workers get as much as 30 days of paid vacation in every 365 days.

Fending off Harsh Criticism

Generally, Americans are kind people; and very nice too, but some Non-Americans think that this may become a disadvantage. For example,

While in an office during work hours, they may be too polite. If their response or opinion toward a particular idea is ‘no’ they would rather say ‘I wonder if this is the best solution’. This type of approach may be commendable, however, but other people think it is better to be direct with your opinions, even if some observers may regard you as mean.

Opening Presents Right On The Spot

Hurray, It is Christmas again! Everybody hurries to the Christmas tree to ope the boxes. Or rather, not everyone. People from other countries may find it strange that Americans just go ahead and open their presents in everyone’s presence.

In other cultures, including the Asian setting, it is proper to open your presents a while later; as opening your presents right away can be interpreted as greedy, and can result in some awkwardness.

Informal, Regular Plane Clothing

When going to catch your flight, the appropriate dress to put on may seem a big deal. For the Americans, foreigners would likely suggest that you be ‘as comfortable as you can’.

You may be stuck in your flight for extended hours so you might as well feel comfortable bodily. But the Americans don’t see it that way, and would rather suggest that you look as nice and presentable as possible, even on a plane.

Gassing the Vehicle

This is one thing almost everyone never really stops to consider, but people not from America make it seem ridiculously hilarious that we do not. If Americans say they wish to fill their car with gas, they don’t really mean gas, what they imply is actually a liquid: fuel.

For the Brits, who would rather say ‘petrol’ they can’t seem to understand why Americans say that, when everyone is aware that gas isn’t  actually something anyone would use in such a vehicle.

Universities Called ‘Colleges’

Brits also feel strange when they notice Americans referring to higher institutions and Universities as ‘college’. They believe Harvard should be called a university, as it is.

From the American’s point of view, the college culture is synonymous with these higher institutions. And schools which are fond of partying shouldn’t be referred to like regular schools, but should be called ‘colleges’ instead.

One-Colored Currency

The outsiders may wonder why all the U.S dollar notes and bills are the same colour, but in other countries an assorted color set helps to distinguish the bills.

You can explain this by saying that the United States Dollar is of more worth and class, but the Non-Americans may never really understand nor agree with that.

Super-sizing It All

Well, lets not discuss obesity and weight problems in America, but it is one of them. Thing is, we Americans prefer to super-size virtually everything. In a theater or cinema, you can always get a coke of jumbo-size, or a 7-eleven.

But that is so not the case in other countries, and in Europe. They have this opinion or belief rather, that less is more, and then wonder about the methods of Americans in this regard.

Everything Needs Ice

Americans treasure their ice, and they love to grab an ice-cold one before taking a seat on the couch and watch the TV. Non-Americans find the ice part to be a bit strange.

Of course, outsiders also like ice-cold drinks, but do not consider it a requirement in every one of their drinks. Could be that they have ‘special’ preferences with drinks tasting cold and delicious.

Date Formats

Europeans just prefer writing their dates in day/month/year format, while the Americans use the month/day/year method. Europeans prefer theirs, because they opine that it is more reasonable, at least from the point of view of progressing time. But aesthetically, Americans are more appropriate because July 4, 1993 would correspond with 07/04/1993 respectively.

Free Refills

Something commonplace in  many American eateries and restaurants; the practice of giving free refills for drinks.

Whenever Americans visit Europe and they ask if such service is offered, they’re simply scoffed at. Having such ‘luxury’ outside America is extremely rare, and we might just be interested, so hit us up if you see or hear about one!

Red Party Mugs or Cups

This is a tradition that has gained wide advancement in the 21st century world, and Americans are just fascinated by it.

Large red cups are commonly used in American parties, especially the college ones. Not the white ones. Parting in style is a know-how for most Americans, and they know the type of cup best suited for a ping-pong. If you don’t like it then please contact Van Wilder.

Public Bathroom Stalls

Another slight issue that Non-Americans may have with the States; why the bathrooms have got wide spaces between stalls.

That may seem counterintuitive, as Americans seem to like their personal space. But when it comes to bathroom privacy, the rest of the world need it more. They may opine that standard stalls are bad – well not as bad public stalls at the baseball games.

Unnecessary Air Conditioning

And now to air conditioning. There are people outside America who do not like air Conditioning.

Air conditioning is something to enjoy, especially in this present day and age; used more often in America than other parts of the world. This is not to say that non-Americans don’t like or enjoy AC, it’s just saying that they can’t understand America’s fondness of it.

Too Much Variety

Everybody has surely experienced this – walking in a supermarket, in search of your favorite snack, product, or something. When you arrive at the aisle, you notice up to 15 different flavors or varieties of what you want. Then you begin to wonder why, while trying to make a good choice.

The non-Americans wonder the very same thing; for instance, what is the need for flavored ketchup Pringles, when you already have sour cream, and onion in hand?

Price Tags Are Deceptive

Non-Americans surely dislike this – price of an item is never its real price. Can you blame them for the dislike? Absolutely not.

Products are usually listed as $49.99 but when you throw in the taxes, it could reach as much as $56. Let’s not talk about the huge shopping lists, which carry higher taxes with them.

Junk Food Is The Trend

You’ve heard this before, perhaps, but it can’t be left out. When it comes to eating, Americans just don’t get it right – from diets to health considerations, etc. Junk food, fast food chains, donuts and so on.

Many Americans seem to be proud of this, while other people just scoff at them for their unhealthy diets.

Sugars And Drinks

Drinking culture and eating culture in America are actually in the same vein; unhealthy. But again, we Americans would love an Arizona Iced Tea after an early jogging exercise along the beach.

Non-Americans may say that there’s sugar in every drink except water. And that is true, or at least, relatively.


One other aspect of our American culture that gets us excited is the tailgate. There isn’t anything more appropriate than a good old tailgate, necessary for both the college life and young adult life preceding professional sports.

Barbeque, brews, vibes and all are available – but outsider haven’t gotten the hang of it, even though it fascinates them.

American Football

We were surely coming to this part. Another distinguishing factor between America and the rest of the world – football. Or rather, American Football.

Now, well over half of the world refers to soccer as football, but there should be clarity concerning the type of sport we are speaking about. Everyone else in the world have accepted baseball, basketball, and hockey, but why do the non-Americans not embrace its football as the rest of the world? They probably think it’s not worth the hype.

Going Right On A Red Arrow

Regarding road rules and traffic signs there may be slight variations from country to country. Now in America, drivers are allowed to go right on a red light.

If no incoming cars are in the way, then it’s ok to go ahead. For the foreigners, this seems s bit strange, as they are accustomed to waiting for a green arrow light directed to the right.

Varying State Laws

Even the Americans ought to find this part bizarre, too. Why are some things legal in some states and illegal in another, and laws vary in virtually every state?

If the United States is united as it is said, then shouldn’t the laws be steady and consistent? It just isn’t that simple, and foreigners who have to deal with it find it unnerving. Even lawyers are affected, and may just go through bar again if they switch states.

Confused greetings

Every day we go around greeting people with funky phrases as “what’s up?” or “how are you”, without any real intention of knowing, finding out, or even getting an answer; a true one.

“What’s up” for instance, is a way of saying “hi” in places as America, and everyone is ok with it. On the other hand, Non-Americans can’t seem to get it. They’ll let you know exactly what’s up with them when you ask.

School Mascots

Ever saw a clip, or an American movie taking place in a school? You’ll discover that the always require mascots on the field during their sports. That’s the thing. We don’t understand it.

Everyone may just go gaga whenever a panther, beaver or snail appears to show its dance and other moves. Ah, too much hype.

The Pointed Water Cups or Mugs

Staying hydrated is important for us all, right? At least its good to be aware that Americans are taking care of themselves and sipping water whenever they feel thirsty, but is there any need for water cups?

Bizarre in every sense of it, they don’t seem sensible to us Americans. Doesn’t it feel like it is going to fall apart between your fingers? At least it is good if they’re recycled, though.

The Season After Summer

You Americans really need to be ‘distinguished’ in every little thing, right? There’s nothing wrong with being different, but one  of your seasons just aggravates everyone whenever they hear it.

It is called ‘Autumn’! But you all just prefer to call it ‘Fall’. Of course, we know it signifies dropping leaves and drops in temperature, but we still prefer the ‘Autumn’ word.

Name Pronunciation

The Very American and Non-American distinguishing factors are in everyday language too, but lets not dive into the ‘analyze/analyse debate.

But we just have to talk about the fact that Americans pronounce in a strange way. For example, what’s up with the name ‘Craig’? Most people from other countries would pronounce as spelt, while people based in the United States pronounce it ‘creg’. We are surely not going with that.

The Extracurricular Activities

No doubt, extracurricular activities are going to look nice on a college application, but those in the United States seem a bit too intense.

They just maintain a rule that requires you to either take active part, or go home. Those within America would take part in band practice, basketball, prom committee and so on, while those outside might just partake in a sport club activity every week.

Going To The Restroom

We non-Americans really like to mean whatever we’re actually saying. So the use of the ‘Restroom’ word easily makes us bat an eye, seeing as nobody goes to a ‘restroom’ to actually rest.

Such a room actually describes the opposite.

Donut Holes

Truly, Donuts are tasty. Those who make such in the States deserve some kudos, but this is a kind of food we might have a little problem with.

And because they’re delicious, why would anybody want to take out its middle aspect? Is it really necessary, eating too little of things tasting so good? In other countries, they are actually stuffed in those little holes with spices and sauces, so you might be missing out  a lot.

Socks With Sandals

The weather and temperatures in America is as variable as the rest of the world, but why would you let that sole reason spur you into wearing socks and sandals? Yes, we’re aware it can get cold and hot in a day in America, but it doesn’t seem cool.

It’s ok to wear socks. Or sandals. But at least, you don’t have to do both simultaneously.

Peanut Butter All Over The Place

Yummy peanut butter. Crunchy peanut butter. If you could, you’d repeatedly ingest it all day. We know how it is, but do’t do it.

When you arrive here in America, you’ll notice that everybody is caught up in the galore of peanut butter. Mixed with jam, added to the strangest recipes, and eaten all day long. That may sound wonderful, but unnecessary.

High School Party: Prom

High school prom is not synonymous with American students alone; kids and teenagers all over the world take active part in it, but not as frequently and ‘passionately’ as their American counterparts.

In the States, your prom is regarded as ‘one of the most important nights in your entire life’. How? These youngsters spend chunks on outfits, driving limousines, with punch lines rampant. The appeal is understandable, but the intensity just isn’t.

Imperial System

Yanks, why? The world around you has switched to the metric system but you choose the imperial, and have decided to stick with it overtime. Yes, it may work for you, but it is really confusing for the Non-Americans.

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