25 Things That Visitors Will Find Most Surprising About The United States

The United States is a very misunderstood country. In fact, almost everybody in the world has a different point of view concerning what it should/could be and the media never helps. As big as it is, generalizations are very hard to make. Every state is different. Actually, every state even has its own military! To understand why America is what it is you need to go back to its roots. It was built by people trying to escape government. It was built with a wild west, this-land-is-mine mentality. It’s a no-government-can-tell-me-what-to-do mentality. It’s survival of the fittest and this mentality survives until today. This is why each state has a militia. That is why guns are prevalent. This is why the US has a huge rich-poor gap. In Europe people are used to monarchies and governments making decisions, providing protections, etc. In fact, government oversight is typically seen as a good thing. In the US it is not. In Europe taking care of the poor is seen as the government’s job. In the US it is seen as the role of the churches, non-profits, etc. The mentality is different and almost every single items you find on this list stems from that anti-government, wild west mentality. For better or for worse these are 25 things that visitors will find most surprising about the United States.

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25

People almost never carry cash. Payments are usually debit or credit.

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24

If you are from Europe this won't surprise you, but parents can be arrested for physically punishing their children

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23

Your credit score is extremely important and not just for getting a loan. Even (government) jobs will sometimes check on it.

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22

Tipping happens a lot. If you're going out to eat or getting a haircut get ready to flex your algebra muscles!

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21

Prices. The U.S. price tags don't include taxes, so what you see on the tag is not necessarily what you pay at the register. This may confuse some visitors.

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20

People actually drive within their lanes. Ok, this is pretty common in Europe too, but if you're coming from Asia or Africa get ready to witness the wonder.

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19

The country is huge and there is virtually no public transport. This is a symptom of the Wild West mentality. It's up to you to find your own way around.

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18

Poorer people are usually more obese than richer people. Once again this stems from the Wild West mentality. Health is not seen as a societal issue but an individual issue. As a result, poor people will have less access to and knowledge of health related topics.

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17

With some exceptions, cities look the same, suburbs look the same, and everything is zoned. Don't expect your suburban neighborhood to be full of cool stores, boutiques, or bars. (Though we have to admit, this is a trend that is changing)

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16

Piggybacking on the last point (and the one about public transport), if you do happen to want to go to a restaurant or a store you will absolutely, categorically need a car...unless you live in a big city.

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15

Portion sizes are beyond massive. Coupled with the car culture it is easy to see why obesity is more prevalent than in other parts of the world

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14

The government has much less say in your life than in other countries and there is far less regulation of food, health, family life, education etc.

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13

Guns! Yes, this is a prime example of the last point. It is insanely easy for you to purchase a gun. But no, most Americans have never been in or seen a gun battle. The country is safer than the news would suggest.

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12

Drive-throughs are everywhere. In fact, there are even drive through pharmacies! Once again, more convenience is offset by less health.

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11

The US is one of the only developed nations without public healthcare. Once again, this reflects the "no government" philosophy. Each person is seen as being responsible for making enough money to fund their health. Everything, including healthcare, is earned.

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10

Everything is big. Houses are big, food is big, stores are big, cars are big, the country is big.

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9

There is no free higher education. Once again, this is a result of less government oversight. On the flip side, each state regulates education independently and many times if you do well in school the state will pay for your college via a scholarship. As we said before, everything is earned.

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8

Each state has its own military! Well, technically they are militias. This also highlights a much deeper point. Every state is run independently. Taxes, education, military, etc. is all controlled to a significant extent on the state level.

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7

Compared to other places, philanthropy is a way of life. In fact, no matter where you are from, the amount of money the average household gives to charity will probably disturb you a bit. But, once again in Europe people see charity and taking care of the poor as the responsibility of the state. In the US it is the responsibility of individuals, churches, non-profits, etc.

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6

Children are expected to leave home when they are 18. No matter where you are from you will find this surprising.

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5

Americans are very friendly to everybody, even strangers. Almost everywhere else on Earth friendliness/bubbliness/openness is reserved for your closest friends and not your acquaintances. This causes some visitors to feel confused when they meet somebody on the street only to realize later that the relationship isn't as deep as they thought it was.

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4

Buffets, washing machines, 24 hour Walmarts, free refills...for better or for worse, these conveniences are unheard of in other parts of the world.

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3

The customer is king. While in Europe both the customer and employee are on equal footing, in the US the employees are expected to satisfy the customers. Typically this leads to a higher level of customer service/attentiveness which visitors may find helpful or annoying depending upon their mood.

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2

The diversity is unreal. Geographically, climatically, demographically, ideologically, it is almost impossible to categorize or generalize about the United States.

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1

From the Revolutionary War to the Gold Rush to modern day healthcare and education, everything is earned by the individual through blood, sweat, and tears. The U.S. is a land of great opportunities. But with great opportunities come great risks. For those who are willing to take risks and fight an uphill battle (and possibly lose everything), then the Wild West is still open for business.

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