There’s no denying that life in the United States is like nowhere else on the planet. Ask almost any American, and they’ll tell you that because despite our country’s flaws, it’s still the best place on Earth. Why? Well, because it just is! That deep love of country and patriotism is just one American tradition that we citizens of the U.S. of A may not know is weird. But it’s far from the only thing we do that’s a little odd to people from other parts of the world.
Beyond patriotism, there are everyday practices and traditions that are uniquely American. For instance, the restaurant experience in our country is highly unique. The moment you sit down, you’re given a glass of ice water, you get unlimited refills on your coffee, soft drink, or tea, maybe you order some pumpkin pie, and when you finish your meal you tip your server and get a doggie bag full of leftovers to go. But that experience is unheard of outside of America.
Of course, our unique traditions go far beyond how we eat and drink. Not sure which all-American things are bizarre to other countries and cultures? Get ready to have your mind blown!
If you know a woman who’s expecting her first child, chances are they’re having a beautiful baby shower where friends and family members give her gifts and well-wishes for the growing family. But outside of America and Canada, baby showers aren’t really a thing. It’s actually considered bad luck to celebrate a child before they’re born in many countries around the world.
Even when it isn’t Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Flag Day, you’re likely to see American flags flying on front porches and people boldly declaring that America is the best nation on the planet. Why? It just is! Over-the-top patriotism, from singing the national anthem at sports games to saying the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, is unusual in the developed world.
No one does holiday shopping quite like the U.S. On the day after Thanksgiving, millions of people flood stores across the country trying to get the best bargains for Christmas gifts on Black Friday. Other countries criticize this American tradition because it over-commercializes a religious holiday — but they may just be jealous they didn’t get a big screen TV for half off.
Go to any restaurant in America and ask for a glass of water or a soda. It will come with a massive amount of ice in the cup. But if you go abroad, beverages are kept at room temperature and delivered that way. But Americans, we like our glasses filled to the brim with ice.
There’s an American tradition of making quick and easy meals after work to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. But in many countries in Europe and around the world, dinner doesn’t even start until 8 or 9 p.m. Americans love an early dinner because we rush through, well, every meal — and that’s if we remember to eat breakfast or lunch at all.
Pumpkin is an all-American crop, and it fills fall tables here in a way that few other countries truly understand. No Thanksgiving table is complete without pumpkin pie, grocery store shelves are stocked to the brim with pumpkin spice products, and we even serve this particular squash in savory ways. To say Americans are nuts about pumpkin is a bit of an understatement.
You know that ice cold soda you purchased at a fast-food chain or casual eatery? Well, get ready to drink tons of it, because in the U.S. of A, we have free refills, baby! The tradition of gorging on soft drinks, coffees, and teas without extra charge is very American.
The over-commercialization of Christmas hasn't just affected Christians in America, it has found its way into Hanukkah celebrations. In reality, Hanukkah is a pretty minor Jewish holiday, but its proximity to Christmas has led to American Jews giving eight days of presents to each other in addition to lighting the menorah and frying latkes.
No teenager’s life is complete without getting all dressed up in a tuxedo or ball gown and going to prom. While other countries have formal dances and balls, they lack the very particular pomp of prom and the iconic prom king and queen.
Every February 2, Americans watch with bated breath to see if a certain groundhog in Pennsylvania will see his shadow or not. If he sees his shadow, we have six more weeks of a long, frigid winter. If he’s shadow-less, spring will come sooner rather than later. But this celebration to break up the coldest months of the year is unheard of outside of the U.S. and Canada.
It’s not unusual for the American election season to stretch on for over a year and a half, especially when it’s for the presidency. Don’t believe it? Hilary Clinton announced her bid for the Democratic nomination in May 2015 (Donald Trump followed by announcing his presidential run in June 2015). The battle for the presidency went on for a staggering 18 months. In contrast, the longest election in Canadian history lasted 74 days.
Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle… Santa goes by many names around the world. The American version of Santa Claus is also quite distinctive. His ever-jolly disposition, flying reindeer, and ability to endorse any number of commercial products is all-American. His love of milk and cookies is also an American twist on this iconic character. Other countries around the world leave out different things for Santa.
In theory, fruitcake is a delicious food. It has candied fruits, nuts, and holiday spices, and sometimes it even has booze! But fruitcake is a punchline in the U.S. It’s often thought of as stale, a thoughtless gift, and an item that is passed around the family from generation to generation. But in Britain and other European countries, Christmas pudding (which is more or less fruitcake) is a beloved dessert.
Go to pretty much any other country in the world, and things will be measured in meters, grams, and Celsius. But once you step foot into the United States, it’s all about ounces, feet, and Fahrenheit. This measuring system is as American as apple pie, and though there was a major push to get the U.S. on the metric system in the 1970s, it didn’t stick for the general populace, though metric is still used for scientific and educational purposes in America.
Of course you open a birthday present or holiday gift in front of the loved one who gave it to you! How else would they know whether or not you liked it? But actually, opening a gift right away or opening it in front of the giver is seen as greedy in many other places.
Thanksgiving is already an all-American holiday that confounds foreigners, but the most bizarre Thanksgiving tradition is the presidential turkey pardon. The president “saves” one lucky bird from a place at the Thanksgiving table and sends him to a farm instead. The Kennedy administration unofficially started this tradition, but it’s been a regular occurrence since 1989.
Walk around your neighborhood park or go to the grocery store in the U.S., and people will just… smile and wave at you. Of course, this doesn’t happen in big cities, but if you head to a charming small town or literally anywhere in the Midwest, prepare to be constantly greeted. It’s just another way Midwesterners are friendlier than anyone else on the planet.
Americans are nuts about sports, but so are many other countries (just try and talk to someone about soccer in Europe). But a unique way Americans get ready for major sporting events? Tailgating. Hours and hours before the stadium even opens, Americans are outside, grilling meat and pounding beers in the parking lot. It’s a great way to day drink and get in on the action, even if you’re not a big sports fan.
You’ve gone to an incredible steakhouse and had a massive strip steak and heap of mashed potatoes. Portions in American restaurants are so big, there’s no way you can finish it all. The solution? A doggie bag! You just take your leftovers home and eat it for lunch the next day. But in other countries, taking your food to-go is embarrassing.
Americans tip everyone for everything. Going to a restaurant? Tip your waiter 20 percent. Going to the bar for a beer or two? Throw a couple of bucks the bartender’s way. We tip hairstylists, cab drivers, baristas, and just about anyone who works in the service industry. But in other countries, tipping isn’t really a thing. It’s on the employers to pay their workers a living wage, not the customer. And while some restaurants in America have gone to a no-tipping policy, it hasn’t caught on in a major way.
No Halloween is complete in the United States without youngsters going door-to-door, pillowcases in hand, and begging strangers for miniature chocolate bars and other various candies. But outside of America, trolling the neighborhood for free sweets and treats is unheard of.
In America, legal dramas aren’t just for scripted television. The very real trials of O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton, and Casey Anthony were massive media events — and the latter wasn’t even a celebrity before she was put on the stand. These so-called “trials of the century” take the nation by storm and news coverage is constant as we wait for verdicts.
The biggest food holiday in America isn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas, it’s Super Bowl Sunday. This singular sports game gets the biggest ratings of any TV event of the year, and people throw massive Super Bowl parties with all sorts of indulgent, unhealthy treats like chicken wings, pizza, dips, and barbecue. But no one outside this country cares about the Super Bowl, because they don’t care about football.
“Dilly, dilly!” Yes, even Americans who loathe sports will still watch the Super Bowl for the advertisements. Every brand from laundry detergent to candy to beer will spend millions upon millions of dollars for 30-second ad spots during the big game, and there’s an unofficial competition to have the buzziest commercial by the end of the day. It’s a bizarre American tradition to say the least. And while all these traditions are weird, they have nothing on these befuddling all-American slang terms other countries do not understand.
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