No matter how many times you’ve visited the States, no matter how many years you have lived there as an expat, if you’re European there are some Americanisms you simply cannot get used to.
Here are 16 things that Europeans find strange about America.
1. How are you as a greeting, not a question
When a sales clerk in the States says “how are you” it’s not a question, but a way of saying “hello.” No matter how often this happens to a European, they will launch into a monologue about their health and well being and ask it right back — and expect an answer.
2. Ice Cubes
Just like Americans are flummoxed by the lukewarm water presented to them in Europe, Europeans can’t wrap their heads around how drinks in the US are mostly ice. How does a soda-to-ice ratio of approximately 30:70 make any sense?
3. Free refills
Is this because of all the ice? Europeans will never understand why they are presented with a second cup of soda while the first one is still half full in front of them. What’s even stranger though, is the fact that one can (and does) order a large soda — despite the refills.
4. Portion sizes
They’re huge! Doggy bags are great — who doesn’t love a two-for-one meal — but the concept virtually doesn’t exist outside of the US, as people can generally easily finish their meal.
5. Certain food combinations
Marshmallows and sweet potatoes? Ice cream and soda? Bacon and syrup? These combinations seem odd to Europeans.
6. The Question Game
White, whole wheat, sourdough or rye bread? Swiss, American, provolone or cheddar? Most Europeans feel accosted when bombarded with 12,857 questions when they just want to order a simple sandwich.
The fact that the onus is on the customer to pay for someone else’s employees to make a fair wage is mind boggling to Europeans. The fact that they’re paying extra for someone to do their job, not even for doing it well, is astounding. Europeans also find it confusing that there’s no set amount or percentage one should tip, and who gets tipped seems equally ambiguous.
Yes, annual taxes are hard for everyone, but that’s different. What’s just nonsense is the fact that the price you see on an item is not the same one you pay at checkout.
What are these strange nicknames that say nothing about the coin’s value? Why is a dime smaller than a nickel, but worth more? Euro coins, on the other hand, are actually called by their numeric denomination.
10. Air Conditioning
Why is the average shop or office in the US set to Arctic? Indoors anywhere in America during the summer is painfully, unbearably cold to a typical European.
11. The Measurement System
It just makes no sense. How is 7/8ths an appropriate measurement? How are feet still a thing? The rest of the world has embraced the metric system, and it’s high time for the US to follow suit.
12. Being cashless
Few Europeans wander about with wallets utterly devoid of cash, but America is basically a cashless society. Being able to pay for as little as a pack of gum with a card is still amazing to most Europeans.
13. The insane range of options
The average European will walk out of the average American supermarket or deli utterly bewildered by the array of choices they just witnessed. There’s an entire aisle for soda?
A dozen brands of milk? How many flavours of chips?
14. 24-hour stores
Convenience seems to be the cornerstone of this great country. Stores are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s a drive thru everything. Most European shops, on the other hand, close at 6pm and all day on Sundays.
15. The drinking age
In most of Europe, the legal drinking age is 18 (and in many places, it’s legal for teens as young as 16 to drink alcohol) — much younger than the 21-age limit it is in the US. Europe also has a much more liberal stance on public drinking, as you are allowed to bring alcohol out on the streets — something that you generally can’t do in the US, except for these American bastions of civilisation.
16. Not taking vacation days
Squandering 169 million vacation days like Americans did in 2013, or not taking a single day off like almost half the country last year is completely and utterly unfathomable to a European.
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