“America Is Weird” – 12 Practices That Completely Baffle Foreign Visitors

By: Georgia | Last updated: Mar 21, 2024

The United States, a melting pot of cultures, often presents distinctive experiences to international visitors.

As millions traverse its vast landscapes yearly, they encounter a myriad of practices, some familiar and others intriguingly foreign.

An Unexpected Retail Generosity

Many tourists are left astonished by the U.S. retail sector’s lenient return policies. Unlike numerous global counterparts that employ stringent return guidelines, American shops offer a refreshing flexibility.

A woman in a maroon coat and sunglasses holds multiple shopping bags in her gloved hands against a light-colored background with shadow patterns

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This system showcases the nation’s consumer-centric approach and the trust-based commercial relationship between retailers and customers.


Stars, Stripes, and Ubiquitous Patriotism

In the U.S., the national flag doesn’t just represent the country; it is an emblem of collective pride.

A two-story white house with columns, a blue front door, and a large American flag hanging in front

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Displayed ubiquitously across homes, schools, and businesses, the flag’s prevalence sometimes bewilders foreigners.

Clean Streets and Rigorous Regulations

The aesthetic appeal of U.S. cities doesn’t just happen by chance. A rigorous enforcement system, which fines citizens for littering, ensures urban environments remain pristine.

Aerial perspective of a city intersection with modern and brick buildings. Cars are parked alongside the road, and pedestrians cross the street

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For many visitors, especially those from regions with varied cleanliness standards, America’s emphasis on maintaining orderly and tidy streets stands out as commendable.

Healthcare: A Costly Affair

Navigating the American healthcare system can be a daunting experience for foreigners. Especially shocking for many is the significant cost associated with medical emergencies.

Close-up of a hand holding a medical device next to a patient's arm, which is covered with a blue sterile drape. An intravenous (IV) line is inserted into the patient's arm, and the background shows hints of medical equipment

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In a world where national healthcare systems are prevalent, America’s unique healthcare model, marked by its high expenses, often emerges as a topic of animated discussion among international travelers.

Conversations: Candidly American

One striking feature of American culture is the openness in everyday conversations. Tourists often observe the candid nature of dialogues, where sharing personal anecdotes or experiences is commonplace.

Groups of people seated at tables in a restaurant with teal-colored walls, engaging in conversations

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For some, this cultural nuance is endearing, while for others, it becomes a fascinating study of America’s societal fabric.


Supersized Delights: The American Plate

The U.S. dining scene is nothing short of a gastronomic adventure. Notably, portion sizes at restaurants often dwarf those seen internationally.

Detailed view of a large burger with melted cheese, lettuce, and sliced red onions on a bun, accompanied by a side of fries

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Massive plates loaded with food, especially popular fast foods, serve as a testament to the nation’s love for hearty meals, leaving many foreigners both amazed and slightly overwhelmed.


“Awesome" - The American Lexicon's MVP

Language evolves, and in the U.S., the term “awesome” has carved a unique niche. Employed frequently across various contexts, its prolific use intrigues many international visitors.

Close-up of a hand giving a thumbs-up against the backdrop of a sandy beach

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This linguistic preference provides a small yet telling glimpse into the ever-evolving nature of American English and its dynamic vocabulary.


The Price Puzzle: Taxes and Tips

For an unsuspecting tourist, understanding the final bill in the U.S. can be challenging. Added taxes and customary tips often increase base prices for restaurants, shops, and services.

Clear glass jar labeled 'Tip' with a handwritten note and a heart symbol, containing some bills

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This financial nuance, differing from all-inclusive pricing systems in many countries, often requires a quick adjustment for many international visitors.


The American Volume

Even auditory experiences in the U.S. are unique. International visitors frequently remark on the noticeable volume at which Americans converse.

Group of men seated and chatting in an outdoor setting with plush sofas, surrounded by green hedges

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Be it spirited laughter or passionate discussions, the auditory levels are undeniably distinctive, making it a quirky yet integral part of the American experience for many foreigners.


Taxi Rides: Not Always the Go-To

In many global cities, taxis are the preferred mode of transport. However, in the U.S., taxis often come with a heftier price tag.

Yellow taxi cabs lined up on a city street, with tall buildings in the background

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This pricing structure pushes many, including tourists, to explore other transportation options, transforming urban commuting into an experience that diverges from global norms.


The U.S. Canvas: Religion and Vast Landscapes

Religion’s continuing influence on American society and the vastness of the nation’s geography stand out. While many western nations have witnessed religion’s diminishing societal impact, the U.S. remains distinct.

Interior of a church focused on the altar. The altar is centered beneath a large wooden cross mounted on a wooden-paneled wall

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Additionally, the sheer geographical scale, with sprawling cities and landscapes, often surprises and captivates the imagination of many international travelers.