Things Europeans Find Odd About America
If you have ever been abroad, then experiencing new and unfamiliar cultural differences might be familiar to you. No matter where you go, you will always find something that will make you think “why in the world are they’re doing it this way?” One of the most typical comparisons seems to be between Americans and Europeans. It’s been this way for decades now… but why is that? Let’s take a look and see what makes people think this way.
If you’re in the US, the phrase “I am from Europe” is enough to describe yourself there. Even though Europe is not a country, but a union, across the ocean American’s assume it’s one whole thing.
I have also found that Americans like to be special in one way or another, so if you hear “this is not how we do/call it here” don’t get surprised, it’s okay! For instance:
- Football means only one thing in the US, and that’s American football. European football is soccer and only soccer. Don’t try to convince an American that football is soccer – it will not work.
- The way they peel a banana. For an European guy like me, it just doesn’t feel right watching an American peel a banana. To me, they’re peeling it upside down, which is unacceptable. But this is the way Americans peel their bananas, and you can’t do anything about it except watch and smile.
- You’ll be served ice everywhere. The very first thing you get in an American restaurant is a glass full of ice, and some water in it. While many Europeans would like a nice cup of hot tea or coffee, Americans will drink iced lemonade, tea, soda, coffee… basically everything with ice. The reality is that you get used to it fast.
Go big or go home! Yes, everything is bigger in the US. Unlike Europeans, Americans prioritize the size in their life. You will notice that in many aspects of the American culture:
If you’re ordering a medium size meal in the US, you will receive a significantly bigger portion than you’d recieve back home in Europe. This happened to me when I first got an ice cream in the States. As usual, like back home, I ordered two scoops of ice cream – but something went wrong and I couldn’t finish it. Then, I realized: those two scoops of ice cream where equivalent to like three or four scoops of ice cream in Europe.
This is a normal thing everywhere in the States. So if you’re not a big eater, be careful what portion size you order in the restaurants. Otherwise, you’ll get a surprise next month when you try (unsuccessfully) to squeeze into your favorite jeans.
Once you get to the US, you’ll notice that the pickup trucks are big enough to crush a house and SUV’s are pop up like buildings everywhere. While Europeans choose more compact cars to fit on their small city roads and save space at home, it’s different for Americans. They love having big cars, and that’s a fact. Even more impressive than that is that many American families have three to four cars.
- Houses and Supermarkets.
Another thing you’ll notice while being in the States are the huge houses and a large variety of superstores like Home Depot, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target and so on. If you’re coming from a place like a mid-sized town in the UK, you will surely feel the super-sized difference.
Smile and be nice! That’s how most Americans live. Coming from a European country, where everyone is too busy with something to even say hello, to a country where everyone is smiling and asking you “how are you doing” can be quite challenging in the beginning. It took a while for me to realize that the phrase “how are you” just means “hello”, and you don’t need to explain how your life has been so far. But, in any case, it feels nice to be surrounded by people who are always smiling at you.
Tipping, hidden taxes
When it comes to tipping, there is no where better than it than in American. While in most European countries you tip only what you feel the place deserves (and, in some places, it’s even included in your receipt), in US it’s considered rude to tip less than 10% of your order.
A really annoying thing for Europeans in America are hidden taxes. If you got a snack in a store which says $2, be ready to dish out a few more coins for the treat, because taxes in America aren’t always included in the price. It may seem insignificant if you’re a native American, but for travelers, it’s sure is annoying!
If you want to make your life a little more complicated, then look no further than the American measurement system. Americans have a totally different measurement system than Europeans, which can make you confused at first. You will not find in the US measurements such as Celsius, centimeters, kilometers or kilograms. So don’t be surprised when you ask an American what is the temperature, and he tells you it’s 95 degrees!
Now that you know all of these weird and wonderful comparisons, you’re prepared to deface American cultural shock!