The most surprising things about food in America, according to a Silicon Valley engineer who moved from India 7 years ago

Business Insider/Aniruddh ChaturvediLinkedIn software designer Aniruddh Chaturvedi in 2011.

  • American culture as it relates to food can be different from what you find in other countries.
  • A LinkedIn software designer named Aniruddh Chaturvedi moved to the US from India in 2011, and listed what he found to be the most surprising things about the food industry in the US.
  • He was struck by the huge portion sizes at restaurants, Americans’ obsession with coffee on the go, and the phenomenon of free soda refills.

America’s relationship with food can be a surprise for people who have never been before.

Aniruddh Chaturvedi, a senior software designer at LinkedIn, came to the US from India in 2011 and noticed several things about American food culture that were different from his native country.

Chaturvedi detailed his most surprising observations in a Quora post, drawn from his experience as a student at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University and his time working in the San Francisco area. He emailed additional thoughts to Business Insider.

Here are the things he found most bizarre, from the size of restaurant portions to the phenomenon of free soda refills.

‘Unfortunately, it is expensive to be healthy in America.’


“Rich people are thin/well maintained, poor people are fat. This stems from the fact that cheap food is fatty, rich people don’t eat cheap food – they tend to eat either home-cooked food which is expensive or eat at expensive/healthy places. Unfortunately, it is expensive to be healthy in America.”

‘American serving sizes are HUGE!’

“American serving sizes are HUGE!”

I am by no means a small eater, but it usually takes me at least 1.5 meals to finish the entree.”

Americans tend to ‘waste a lot of food.’

“Americans waste a lot of food. It is very easy to buy in bulk because it’s so much cheaper and as a result a lot of wastage occurs.”

Americans are obsessed with buying coffee.

“Starbucks, Dunkin’, etc. is crowded with office-goers and students every morning. I don’t understand why they can’t drink or make coffee before leaving for work. Such a waste of money! ($US5 a day times 5 days a week times 52 week sa year!)

Supermarkets in America have a strange way of pricing their goods.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“The way that stores price their products makes no apparent economic sense, and is not linear at all.”

“For example, at a typical store: “- 1 can of coke : $US1.00 “- 12 cans of coke : $US3.00 “- 1 Häagen-Dazs ice cream bar : $US3.00 “- 12 Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars : $US7.00”

Somehow, in America, soda is ‘cheaper than bottled water.’

Scott Olson/Getty Images

“It makes no sense that carbonated and flavored water with HFCS is cheaper than regular water, but hey, that’s just how it is.”

And fast food is cheaper than healthy food.

“Fruit and vegetable prices, as compared to fast food prices:

“- Bag of grapes: $US6.00 “- Box of strawberries: $US5.00 “- 1 lb tomatoes: $US3.00

“- McChicken: $US1.00 “- McDouble: $US1.00”

Americans have great options when they’re on the road.

Flickr Creative Commons/DaveR

“There are full service rest stops with decent chain restaurants and big supermarkets every couple of miles on interstate highways.”

When it comes to free refills, Americans don’t know how good they have it.

Flickr Creative Commons/Mike Mozart

“The first time I visited McDonalds in 2007, the cashier gave me an empty cup when I ordered soda. The concept of virtually unlimited soda refills was alien to me, and I thought there was a catch to it, but apparently not.”

Same goes for the number of drink options.


“I’ve noticed that the typical fountain machine has a huge selection, including Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Sprite, Sprite Zero, Hi-C, Powerade, Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade (and/or their Coca-Cola counterparts) … the list goes on. This may not seem like much, but it is actually a lot more compared to the 3-4 options (Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta, Limca) that most Indian soda fountain machines have.”

Finally, Americans may not realise ‘the sheer variety of products available’ at stores.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

“The typical supermarket has at least a hundred varieties of frozen pizza, 50 brands of trail mix, etc. I was just astounded by the different kinds of products available even at small gas station convenience stores.”

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