25 Surprises for Foreigners Visiting the U.S.

Posted by , Updated on May 21, 2024

It’s a widely accepted idea that what feels ordinary to some people might seem strange to others. This article highlights aspects that are typical in the United States but might appear unusual to foreigners. From the love for peanut butter to prices shown without tax, explore these 25 Things That Could Astound Non-Americans If They Visit The U.S.


Giant food portions

big hamburgerwww.hahastop.com

Food portions in the U.S. are HUGE. Things like Large value meals, super sizes are unheard of abroad.


Popularity of peanut butter

peanut butterwww.huffingtonpost.com

Along with hamburgers and pizzas, peanut butter can be considered an American staple. While Americans love peanut butter and eat tons of it, to people from many other countries, the sweet-salty tasting spread may prove too much for them.


Pickles over-consumption


Pickles are popular in many countries all over the world but usually people only eat them with specific meals. In the U.S. however, foreigners tend to feel like pickles are given with everything.


Large gaps around toilet doors


Answering the call of nature is something Europeans usually associate with the utmost privacy, which is why American toilets (with huge bottom and side gaps) seem so weird to some foreigners.


Too much water in the toilet bowl

toilet bowlfurnifu.com

Talking about toilets, there is one more thing some visitors from abroad are not used to seeing – the amount of water in the bowl (especially to those from countries where clean water is rare).


The national flag

a row of flags in front of a building, a surprised visiting the USwww.ebaumsworld.com

The U.S. national flag is among the first things foreigners visiting the U.S. usually notice. Naturally, it’s good to have some patriotism but the prolific use of the national flag on just about every single corner, building, window, etc. may seem a bit exaggerated.


Confusing price tags

price tagrvanews.com

In most countries, what you see is what you pay when it comes to price tags. However, in the U.S. the tax is not reflected in the price which may be confusing to some foreigners.



wasting foodparade.com

Dumping food that you don’t eat, throwing well-preserved sneakers away just because they are not trendy anymore or getting rid of your perfectly working iPhone 5 because iPhone 6 has just been released is something people from many countries find particularly weird.



armed peoplefunstuffcafe.com

The sheer number of gun stores and gun owners in the US is beyond understandable to many visitors from other countries.


Aerosol cheese in can

Can of Cheesejohnmannophoto.com

Also known as the spray cheese or easy cheese, the canned aerosol cheese is something that many non-Americans consider pure gastronomical insanity (all be it, a delicious one). Forget about asking a Frenchman or a Dutchman what they think about this thing.


Antidepressant TV commercials


Occasionally, a TV commercial advertising some common drugs or medications appear in most countries, but antidepressants are usually available on prescription only and seeing these drugs advertised on TV may seem unusual to some people.


Driving everywhere


The U.S. is known for one the highest numbers of cars per capita (4th highest in the world, to be precise) and Americans really like to use their cars. Therefore, tourists from countries where public transport is the most popular form of transit, can find driving a few blocks to visit a friend a bit odd.


Perception of distance


On the other hand, driving two hours for a lunch or five hours to the beach, is something that people from small countries don’t understand either. For a person from San Marino (a country that can be literally walked across in about two hours), driving somewhere more than 10 minutes seems a bit crazy.


Free drink refills

drink refillswoongkyoandyujung.blogspot.com

To many non-Americans, soda cups in fast food chains are weird enough mainly due to their large size but once they find out the cups come with unlimited refills (in most restaurants anyway)…well this may prove a bit too much to handle.


System of measurement


This has been a point of contention for many people, and is a question that may never find an absolute answer – why do Americans insist on pounds, inches, miles, gallons and other units while the rest of the world uses the metric system?


Sweet bread


Another food-related thing. While in most countries, bread – no matter what ingredients it’s made from – usually tastes neutrally or slightly salty, the American bread appears to be sweet, which is very unusual to foreigners.


Uncareful approach to credit card security

credit cardwww.digitalmunition.me

In many countries, people guard their credit cards meticulously, caring for their security as much as they can. However, in the US, the signatures don’t matter and hardly anybody uses PIN.


Food variety

ice creamwww.calabashcreamery.com

We have already discussed the shock many visitors experience when they first see the enormous portions served in some American fast foods and restaurants but there is actually one more thing that relates to food in general – the almost unlimited variety. No matter if it’s ice cream or sandwiches – you have it in all possible and impossible flavors, forms and types.


Adoration of college sportsmen

college footballgordoscheesedip.com

College and university sport teams can be found in most countries but the way student athletes are treated in the US is really unique. The most successful football, baseball and basketball players are adored as true celebrities.


Attachment to Alma Mater


Speaking of universities, another thing that might be weird to many foreigners visiting the US, is the strong attachment of local people to the colleges and universities they graduated from.


TV censorship

violence on TVwww.papermasters.com

Nudity is a taboo on numerous American TV channels. Not so taboo on most European channels.


Air conditioning


In some US states, the weather is really hot and it’s totally understandable that restaurants, shops, offices etc. use the AC to cool down spaces. However, what some foreign visitors might find peculiar is the fact that the AC is often turned down really low and is even used when outside temperatures drop to comfortable levels.


Drinking coffee


In many cultures, drinking coffee is almost a ritual. People take time to enjoy the coffee, sipping it discreetly from little ceramic cups. Therefore, seeing Americans gulping down large cups of this beverage as they go, can be surprising.


Price policy


In some American fast foods and restaurants, soda is cheaper than bottled water and in food stores, fruits and vegetables are sometimes more expensive than junk food and frozen meals. In most countries, fresh fruits and veggies are usually the cheapest items.


Age limits

people drinkingwww.dailymail.co_.uk

An 18-year-old American is allowed to do a surprisingly wide range of things. He can drive a car (usually even from the age of 16), buy a gun, join the Army, get a pilot license etc. but he needs to wait another 3 years to be officially allowed to buy beer.