- Some things Americans find commonplace don’t necessarily exist outside of the US.
- For example, you won’t see yellow school buses anywhere else.
But some of the things US citizens consider to be commonplace are actually pretty unique to the states.
From bright yellow school buses to toilet stalls with inexplicably wide gaps, you’d be hard-pressed to spot these 14 everyday American things outside of the US.
Be it plastic-y orange cheese squares to sprayable cheese from a can, foreigners just don’t get the whole processed cheese thing.
British Quora users shared which American food items they just don’t understand, and processed cheese topped their list more than once.
“Orange ‘cheese’ squares and/or Cheez Whiz. Just no.” – Quora user Adam M. Steiner.
“That peculiar, bright yellow and wholly unnatural looking thing called ‘processed cheese.’ It’s clearly not the work of anything natural.”- Quora user Steve Jones.
When someone working in the service industry assists you – such as a hairdresser, waitress, or concierge – in North America, it’s customary to leave them a tip. And not just any amount – a whopping 20%.
Tipping isn’t a commonplace practice in countries such as French Polynesia, Belgium, or Switzerland. More often than not, tipping in other countries simply comprises rounding up the bill. In places such as Japan and Hong Kong, a tip can even be seen as impolite.
Gaps in bathroom stalls
OK, so wide-gapped toilet stalls probably do exist elsewhere, but nowhere are they as common and pervasive as in the US.
The question of why American bathroom stalls have gaps between the individual stall doors and the frames is one that has beleaguered visiting tourists not once, and not twice, but a seemingly endless amount of times.
Prevailing theories include that way back when, US bathrooms were purposely designed to be somewhat revealing, because authorities feared the hijinks people would get into (such as doing drugs or having sex) if they had utter privacy.
Yellow school buses
Buses that exist solely to schlep students to and from school – aka “school buses” – can be found outside of the United States, but the only place you’ll see them painted shock-yellow is in North America.
“School Bus Glossy Yellow” is a colour that was specifically formulated in 1939 for use on North American school buses. Originally called “National School Bus Chrome,” the shade was designed to quickly attract attention.
‘Direct-to-consumer’ pharmaceutical advertising
Pharmaceutical ads are a dime a dozen in the US – and because this form of health communication is so ubiquitous, American patients regularly suggest treatment plans and recommend drugs to medical professionals, rather than the other way around.
This “direct-to-consumer” pharmaceutical advertising is only legal in the United States and New Zealand.
Extremely long highways
Five out of ten of the world’s ten longest highways are located in the US, and while Australia, India, China, and Russia all also have at least one highway in the top ten, America essentially dominates the competition.
The longest numbered road in the United Kingdom, for instance, is the A1, a 410 mile-long motorway that spans from London to Edinburgh. Compare that to America’s longest road, the U.S. Route 20, a 3,365 mile stretch that goes from Boston, Massachusetts, to Newport, Oregon, and crosses through 12 different states.
If you’re a fan of long drives, check out the best route for your next epic cross-country road trip.
In-sink kitchen garbage disposals are common amenities in many US homes, but they’re controversial in many parts of the world for their negative environment impact. In fact, they are banned in most European countries.
Grape flavored skittles
In Europe, the purple skittles are black currant flavored.
Not knowing the final price of an item before checkout
Most states in the US don’t factor sales tax into the price tag reflected on shelf items – so, even if an item is marked at $US1.99, you’ll end up paying just over $US2 at the register.
When you buy goods or services in the EU, however, the total price, including all taxes and additional charges, is published on the price tag.
Coffee culture in America is rooted in a “grab-and-go” philosophy – large portions, plastic cups, and quick service.
But in countries like Italy, the birthplace of espresso, drinking coffee is a sit-down affair to be enjoyed, sometimes for hours. Italian barista and coffee expert Giorgio Milos told The Atlantic that American baristas also need “more training” and are using too many unorthodox methods of preparation.
Large portion sizes
There’s an ongoing joke that all Americans think “the bigger the better.” But this is undeniably true when it comes to the portion sizes of our food.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the portions doled out in American restaurants have doubled (possibly tripled) in the last 20 years – contributing greatly to the country’s obesity epidemic.
This couldn’t be farther from the case in places like France, where food portions are substantially smaller.
Saying “how are you?” instead of “hello”
In America, most people say “how are you?” instead of “hello.”
But when you think about it, “how are you?” is not a greeting – it should be a meaningful question that elicits an answer. And it does in other countries.
Quora user Todd Bartholomew speculates Americans use it this way for “diplomacy.” He writes, “It’s not an actual desire to see what your current state of being is; it just sounds nicer than ‘what do you want?'”
Drinking from red Solo cups
Seen in almost every college movie ever, red Solo cups are an iconic American symbol – and they have been around since the 1970s, which explains their ubiquity.
According to Slate, the cup’s “opacity [is] a selling point for underage college and high-school drinkers who would prefer not to reveal exactly what they’re sipping.” Beyond that, the cups are something you just don’t see anywhere but America.
In fact, people around the world throw “American”-themed parties that revolve around – you guessed it – the trademark cups.
Attentive restaurant servers
If you walk into any restaurant in America, you’ll notice that the servers are constantly stopping by tables to check on customers. Common interjections include: “How is everything?” and “Do you need a refill?” But this level of attentiveness is distinctly American.
In most countries, servers are there for one purpose: to serve food. Anything beyond the occasional topping of drinks is considered excessive and annoying.
According to Thrillist, it’s also quite common in Europe to relish your dining experience for as long as you wish – and the servers there won’t bother you about it.
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