10 American Traditions That Baffle The Rest Of The World

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America has plenty of quirky trends, foods, and customs that seem totally normal to Americans but completely baffling to other countries. From free soda refills to paying extra for tips, here are 10 things about American culture that foreigners don’t get.

Free Soda Refill Privilege

In America, free soda refills are standard at any restaurant. But other countries don’t do unlimited refills, as one French visitor learned. “My man looked at me like I was inviting him to commit felonies,” the American said after encouraging his French in-law to try all the flavors at a self-serve soda fountain.

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The concept of unlimited free refills is foreign to most non-Americans. While we see it as normal hospitality, it strikes others as strange overindulgence. America is one of the only places you can drink soda until you almost explode – and not pay extra!

The Ubiquitous Red Solo Cup

The red plastic party cup is an icon of college parties and backyard barbecues across America. But to outsiders, its popularity is bizarre. “What kind of stranglehold does the red plastic cup industry have over there?” one foreigner asked.

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Indeed, the Red Solo Cup dominates American gatherings for no clear reason. It’s flimsy, wasteful, and plain – yet beloved anyway as a symbol of fun and freedom. Solo cups are so tied to American culture that they even have their country song!

Americans’ Obsession With Ranch

Ranch dressing topping everything from salads to pizza has led to it being called “the king of condiments.” But elsewhere, it’s virtually unknown. “We call this American dressing in other countries,” one commenter said.

Source: Jackie Hartlaub

America’s favorite dressing baffles other nations with its creamy, tangy flavor. Yet ranch pairs well with almost any food, at least to American tastes. The country even managed to make cool ranch-flavored Doritos a hit abroad – by calling them “Cool American” flavor!

The Concept of Tipping

Paying an optional “tip” for good service is second nature to Americans, whether at a restaurant or coffee shop. But elsewhere, throwing in extra money can come across as strange.

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Tipping confuses foreigners because it’s not required, yet socially mandatory. Some restaurants even add automatic tip amounts to the bill! The custom pressures Americans to pay extra – even for bad service – or else feel guilty for not following norms.

Owning Pickup Trucks Just In Case

Americans love their pickup trucks – even if they rarely haul stuff. “It’s a ‘might need it’s thing,” one commenter said, noting trucks are often everyday vehicles rather than for work use.

Source: Joe Thorn

The American tendency to buy vehicles and household amenities “just in case” they’re useful strikes others as excessive. But trucks’ all-American “rugged cool” makes them appealing even to suburban drivers. After all, you never know when you might have to … haul a sofa once a year!

Astronomical Healthcare Costs

From basic doctor visits to major procedures, healthcare costs in America can be staggering compared to other nations. One user told of getting a $60,000 hospital bill “for being a victim in a mass shooting!”

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Even with insurance, major health issues can bankrupt Americans who can’t fully cover deductibles and out-of-pocket fees. Stories of six-figure medical bills for life-saving care baffle outsiders used to public healthcare. Yet paying huge sums for health needs has tragically become an accepted part of American life for many.

America’s Reputation for Obesity

The country’s issue with obesity earns its ridicule abroad. When asked about their first thought about America, many foreigners cite the large portion sizes or the large amount of overweight citizens.

Source: Reuters/ Lucas Jackson, Corbis

Though many developed countries struggle with obesity now, America still leads as the most overweight. From supersized fast food meals to the rise of plus-sized clothing chains, the country’s weight problem shapes global views of American excess. The US appetite for big cars, big gulps – and just plain “bigness” – feeds negative stereotypes among foreigners.

Backyard Barbecues All Summer Long

Americans can’t get enough summertime grilling. The culinary pastime brings families together over hot dogs, burgers, and BBQ dishes. But elsewhere, constant backyard cooking is uncommon.

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While grilling up meat or veggies is popular worldwide, other cultures don’t make an entire season out of it like Americans do. As soon as spring hits, US outdoor spaces fill with smoke and sizzle. Tailgating, campouts, and lazy Sundays kick off months of cooking out until autumn. Though others may occasionally have a cookout, only American BBQ culture brings people together all summer at the grill.

The Madness Surrounding Super Bowl

For sports-crazed Americans, the yearly NFL championship game is a huge pop culture event on par with top soccer finals abroad. Fans host elaborate Super Bowl parties to watch the spectacle of mashups: football, a flashy halftime concert, movie-quality ads unveiling big campaigns, athletes battling dramatic overtime finishes, and more.

Source: Linkedin/ Doghmani Houssem

Such an explosive sports-entertainment hybrid bewilders countries less enthusiastic about American football. But the Super Bowl draws such record viewers even overseas that its popularity is undeniable. On Super Sunday, people across America are united in the collective madness of competition, consumerism, and camaraderie at Super Bowl celebrations.

Two Ages Define Adulthood

America sends mixed messages about when adulthood begins. An 18-year-old can move out, attend college, join the military – yet still not buy alcohol or handguns, vote, or rent a car in some states until age 21.

Source: Honeypeachsg Bakery

“I can go off to war and buy a shotgun, but I can’t vote nor buy a handgun. This makes no sense,” one baffled teen said. Indeed, what constitutes maturity in America seems arbitrary even to Americans. How can someone be responsible enough for war, but not beer? It’s just one of many American paradoxes foreigners struggle to understand.

Quirks Foreigners Find Bewildering

America has endless oddities, foods, and customs that may seem normal to us citizens but seriously strange to others. From ranch obsession to healthcare costs to Super Bowl mania, the country brims with culture shocks and head-scratching contradictions even for Americans ourselves!

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But whether it’s giant sodas, pickup trucks, tipping, or ADA-compliant backyard grilling spaces, these traditions unite us as a nation. It’s the bizarre realities, absurd hypocrisies, and little absurdities that define America as the proudly weird country we call home – peculiarities and all. Article Here

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Matty Jacobson

Written by Matty Jacobson

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