12 things that surprise foreigners when they visit the US

We took a look at a Quora thread that asked, “What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America?”

Answers ranged from tipping customs to the need for healthcare to the lack of public transportation.

Put yourself in a tourists’ shoes and take a look at some of the highlights from the thread below.

1. Customers can return almost anything they buy.

Quora user Aniruddh Chaturvedi is originally from India and couldn’t believe how lenient the return policy is in many stores in the US.

Chaturvedi pointed out that in some cases, shoppers don’t even need to cite a problem with the product in order to return it and receive a full refund.”Most stores actually have a ‘Buyer’s Remorse’ category under Reason for Return options while returning the product.”

2. Americans have a strong sense of patriotism.

American flag kidREUTERS/ Jonathan AlcornPeople are proud to be American.

Chaturvedi also noticed that the American flag is on display almost everywhere in the US. According to Chaturvedi, the Indian flag is not displayed nearly as prominently in India. “I was surprised to see that the US flag is displayed in schools, on rooftops of houses, etc. India has very strict rules governing the display and use of the national flag.”

3. The US is a pretty clean country.

Quora user Dan Holliday had a friend visit from Spain who commented on the fact that, compared to Spain, America was relatively litter-free. The friend was especially surprised when he saw a police officer give someone a ticket for littering.

4. Healthcare is expensive and necessary.

Quora user Aditya Lesmana — who is from Asia — thinks the cost of healthcare in America is insane. “It seems that all aspects of healthcare are designed with a ‘patient must be insured’ assumption. Any uninsured small procedure will leave a lasting impression in your financial health for many years to come.”

5. Cabs aren’t cheap.

Shubhojit Chattopadhyay, a Quora user from India, was shocked that, for the most part, Americans don’t use cabs for their everyday commutes. “Here, cabs are expensive enough to be called only when you don’t have a car or cannot get a ride or if there’s no public transport. In India, a cab is public transport and cheap enough to use for everyday commute.”

6. People who work in customer service are actually helpful.

Riona MacNamara is from Ireland, but has been living in Seattle for 17 years. According to MacNamara, the service customers receive from sales associates in the US is much better than the service received in Ireland. “In Nordstrom, when a sales assistant says ‘Can I help you?’ she or he actually means ‘Can I help you?’ and not, say, ‘You’re distracting me from my phone. Can you please leave?'”

7. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, so not many Americans pay with cash.

Quora user Triya Bhattacharya is from India, a place she says requires cash since most establishments don’t accept credit cards. Bhattacharya encountered the opposite in the US. “Every place accepts credit cards. Even a small picnic I went to, which had an entry fee, had some sort of mobile app and a device attached to accept credit cards. It was amazing.”

8. Americans tip for most services they receive.

Bhattacharya also mentions her frustration at almost always having to leave a tip. She says she doesn’t really understand the concept. “So I pay you for cutting my hair. And then I tip you because you were gracious enough to cut my hair?”

9. Public transportation isn’t always available.

According to Quora user Natalia Rekhter — who is from Russia — unless you live in a big city in the US, you probably need a car to get around. “There is almost no public transportation except in a few large cities. People actually have to have cars to get places. Cars are a necessity, not a luxury.”

10. A good part of the population is religious.

Quora user Olof Ã…kerlund is from Sweden, and was surpised by the number of Americans who believe in creationism. “The role of religion is much stronger here than in other Western nations. Things like creationism are usually believed by a handful of people in other places, but here it seems to be at least a force to be reckoned with.”

11. Americans love sports, and they care about their overall fitness.

According to Quora user and Toronto native, Lana Kolupaeva, Americans are obsessed with living an active lifestyle. “Everyone runs or rides a bike or skates or does yoga in the park. Public tennis courts and pools are full all summer long, not to mention fitness clubs.”

12. The US is a huge country, so distances between places are vast.

Quora user Candace Dempsey describes herself as Italian-American. Although she is originally from the West Coast, she has Italian relatives, all of whom can’t believe how far American cities are from each other. “My Italian relatives come here thinking they can visit me in Seattle, plus also see New York City, Miami, the Grand Canyon and Hollywood all in a week — by car. I can’t get them to understand that it’s 3,000 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.”

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