Are you traveling to America soon and worried about what cultural adjustments to make so you can avoid awkward situations? Or maybe, you’ve been to the country already and you’ve noticed some things that you’re not sure if it’s a rare thing or something that is truly American. And for the Americans, if you think there’s something weird about these tourists then expect that they think the same way towards you!
So what do these visitors in America find surprising?
1. The American Smile
Americans are known to smile a lot. This is surprising for non-Americans but for Americans it’s a polite way to make someone feel comfortable and welcomed. Some people might see it as fake but hey, that’s better than giving a frown or a suspicious look isn’t it?
From the “smile” of course it all directs to their friendliness. It’s not even uncommon for them to chat with strangers while on public transportation, while waiting on line, while inside the elevator, and anywhere possible.
And don’t forget about the ultimate “How are you?” question, where you’ll expect answers like, “Good.”, “Not much.”, or “Fine.”. It’s only a common phrase or greeting that shouldn’t be taken literally, but for non-Americans, it could pose as a serious question and an honest answer might be given. That’s culture shock for both then.
Due to this initial friendliness, people who are from a culture that is initially reserved tend to get confused and think Americans are superficial once their attitude towards someone changes.
3. Super-sized Meals and the Doggie Bag
For foreigners, the huge meal portions can already be good for sharing, and some shake their heads and say how unhealthy the sizes are. The American custom of taking home a “doggie bag” is thought to be a great idea for some who don’t want to waste food and otherwise disgusting for others.
The waitstaff, bartenders, cab drivers, hotel employees, and almost anyone in the service industry are tipped. The rule is to tip not less than 15% and although it’s considered as voluntary, giving less than the accepted percentage or not leaving anything at all is generally looked down upon. This is one of what foreigners often rant about when in America (and the locals do that too anyway).
5. America is Really Huge
If you plan to visit the country for a week and the places to visit you have in your itinerary include driving from New York to Miami to Mount Rushmore to Grand Canyon to Las Vegas to Hollywood, please realize that it’s impossible to happen. Remember, America’s area is 9,826,675 km² which first-timers often underestimate. Hint: Italy is just about the size of California.
6. The Non-Metric System
When going the United States, visitors are welcomed with the words inches, miles, and the rest of the imperial measurements used widely in the country. It’s confusing for those who’re used to the metric system but people from Liberia and Myanmar will totally have no problems with it.
Patriotism for other countries could automatically look as a negative quality or nationwide xenophobia. In America, people can easily wave their flags, cheer and sing on how they are proud of their country – and that’s not a problem at all.
8. Return Policy
Foreigners are amazed on how almost everything can be returned for a full refund from clothing to food.
9. Cars… Everywhere
For those who’ve lived in cities with reliable public transportation or places that can be reached in minutes by walking or by riding a bike, trying to walk as a normal pedestrian in America can make the person feel frustrated and alone. It’s not that there aren’t any people around the area. In fact, most of them are in their cars driving from point A to point B.
10. Taxes Only Added at Checkout
Foreigners find it strange that they can’t have any idea on how much they’re about to pay until they get into the cashier and find out the sales tax included in the purchases. The reason behind this is taxing can be different depending on the state you’re located. Moreover, counties do even have their own sales tax percentage. The exclusion of sales tax also allows companies to advertise lower prices.
When On Earth Magazine is for people who love travel. We provide informative travel guides, tips, ideas and advice regarding places to see, things to do, what to taste, and much more for world travelers seeking their next dream vacation destination.