5 Things Americans do that confuse foreigners
Have you ever introduced yourself to someone from another country and they ignore your outstretched hand and pull you right in for a hug? Maybe, heaven forbid, they even kiss you on the cheek. Alternatively, they might avoid eye contact or physical touch altogether.
It’s easy to see these customs as strange or inappropriate when we are used to a different way of doing things, but have you ever taken the time to think about how the rest of the world views us?
There are plenty of things Americans do that to many countries, seem ridiculous. We’ve compiled a list of the top five.
We reject the metric system
This one is often talked about among foreigners and Americans alike. Almost the entire rest of the world officially uses metric measurements, but for some reason, we in the U.S. can’t seem to get on board.
One would think that metric is unequivocally better. It’s logical, and pretty much accepted to be easier to understand. So why don’t we use it?
The truth is that the U.S. has been trying to implement the metric system for many years. In fact, Popular Science describes a study done by Congress in 1968 that developed a ten-year plan for converting to metric. It was ready to be implemented, however, businesses ended up fighting back. The amount of trouble it would cause them to recalculate values and relabel goods convinced Congress not to make the plan mandatory.
So basically, the U.S. continues to teach children the imperial system because having to learn another way is simply a pain in the neck. Makes sense why other countries find it strange, no?
Our drinking age
In many other countries, the age at which you can legally drink is 18. And for a number of U.S. states in the 1980s, this was the case as well. Vox reports that all of this changed when activists began speaking out against the younger drinking age, believing it led to higher rates of drunk driving and made alcohol more accessible to those under 18.
And so, in 1984, Ronald Reagan proposed the drinking age be changed to 21 for all states.
There are many perspectives to this issue, but in the eyes of foreigners once you turn 18 you are essentially an adult. It’s understandable why they find it illogical that a kid of 17 can enlist in the army and risk their life, but an 18-year-old can’t drink beer.
Food, food, and more food
Many foreigners agree that the U.S. takes the cake in being the country that eats the worst food, and the most of it. Our fast-food culture is a famous one, with big businesses like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut… and the list goes on.
Not only do we love our greasy, fatty foods, but we love to eat a lot of it. We get heaping plates and eat until it hurts, and then we take whatever is leftover home with us. Too many people visiting the U.S., this is one of the first things they notice.
But it’s not just a hunch. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute shows that portion sizes have doubled and tripled in American restaurants in the past twenty years. And it’s no laughing matter. This steady increase in how much we consume is a key factor in our rising obesity rates, another thing Americans are known for.
You celebrate what?
Some of our holidays can be a real head-scratcher for foreigners. In the same vein as our ridiculously large portions, we have a whole day set aside just for eating food.
Sure, Thanksgiving has its own controversial beginnings as a day of sharing and gratitude, but let’s be honest. It has completely transformed into a day of who-can-eat-the-most-turkey-without-puking. We get the whole day off of work, sometimes even two days, and we travel across the country to slave over a hot oven with our families so that we can eat four dinners in one day and fall asleep in a mashed potato haze.
And then there’s Groundhog Day. An occasion with an entire feature-length film named in its honor, where we wait for a rodent to tell us whether winter is ending or not. I mean, can you blame them for thinking we’re insane?
Whether it’s about reality TV or the next big murder trial, the U.S. is known for its love of drama and sensationalism. Just look at our current president, who won the hearts of many for his shocking, unorthodox language and drama-stirring tweets.
While we are known for at least being fortunate enough to have freedom of the press, that press often bends, omit, or exaggerate facts in an attempt to reign in their audience and increase ratings. Sure, this happens in the rest of the world, too, but the U.S. is especially known for it.
Other countries see this as quite a strange trend and one that is hard to understand.
There are many more aspects of life in America that seem downright crazy to foreigners, and it’s good to hear their opinions. It allows us to see our country and our cultural norms from a different perspective, and in this way expand our understanding of our place in the world.
And really, who doesn’t like to have a good laugh at themselves sometimes?