12 American Customs That Make Absolutely No Sense to Foreigners

When people from other countries visit the United States, they often notice some things that seem really strange.

These are things that Americans do in their everyday lives, but they might not make much sense to visitors.

1. Tipping Culture

couple tipping waitress
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via DepositPhotos.com.

In many countries, tipping is seen as a gesture of appreciation for exceptional service, but in the United States, it’s practically an unwritten law. Waitstaff, bartenders, taxi drivers, and various other service industry workers rely heavily on tips to make a decent living wage.

This custom can be perplexing to foreigners, as the expectation of tipping is not always clear, and the percentage varies. The practice can leave visitors wondering if they’re being overly generous or inadvertently stingy.

2. The Obsession With Ice

glass of ice water.
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Americans have a fascination with ice that may bewilder foreigners. Whether it’s in a glass of water, soda, or even beer, you’ll often find an abundance of ice cubes. For many, this can dilute the drink’s flavor or make it uncomfortably cold.

To some visitors, it’s an inexplicable preference for serving beverages at near-freezing temperatures, even on a scorching summer day.

3. Casual Dress Codes

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In many countries, going out to a restaurant or even to the theater is an occasion to dress up, but in the United States, casual attire is often the norm. Visitors may find it odd to see people wearing jeans, T-shirts, and flip-flops in establishments that they would consider more formal back home.

The relaxed dress code can sometimes clash with the expectation of a sophisticated experience.

4. Huge Portion Sizes

Emotive dark skinned bearded guy keeps both hands on head, opens mouth from surprisement as sees too much desserts at one table.
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American portion sizes are legendary for their generous proportions. Foreigners may be surprised, and possibly overwhelmed, by the amount of food served in restaurants. It’s not uncommon to receive a meal that could easily feed two or more people.

While it may seem like a good deal, it can leave visitors wondering if Americans are trying to tackle the ongoing issue of food waste with their enormous servings.

5. Small Talk With Strangers

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Americans are known for their friendliness and willingness to strike up a conversation with strangers. While this can be a refreshing change for some, it can also be perplexing for foreigners who come from cultures where personal space and privacy are highly valued.

The constant exchange of pleasantries with people they’ve just met on the street or in an elevator can leave visitors feeling both bewildered and socially obligated.

6. The Pledge of Allegiance

Happy young woman holding American flag.
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One of the enduring customs in American schools is the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. To many foreigners, the practice of students standing and pledging their loyalty to the flag can seem quite unusual.

This patriotic ritual, ingrained in American education, may leave visitors wondering about its significance and level of fervor.

7. Drive-Through Everything

Waiter giving disposable tray with two cups of take out coffee to pretty smiling female driver.
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Americans have taken the convenience of drive-through services to a whole new level. Foreigners are often taken aback by the sheer variety of establishments that offer drive-through options.

From fast food joints to banks, pharmacies, and even coffee shops, the idea of never leaving your vehicle for everyday errands can be both bewildering and intriguing to those from abroad.

8. Sales Tax Surprise

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One of the quirks of shopping in the United States is the inclusion of sales tax at the register rather than in the displayed prices. This can leave foreigners baffled when the amount they expected to pay suddenly increases at the checkout counter.

It’s a practice that seems counterintuitive to many visitors who are accustomed to seeing the final price on the price tag.

9. To-Go Boxes

A view of stacks of styrofoam takeout boxes, in a restaurant setting.
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Americans often request “to-go boxes” or “doggy bags” to take home their leftovers from restaurants. This practice might strike foreigners as odd, especially in cultures where finishing one’s meal in a restaurant is the norm.

The idea of carrying half-eaten food home in a container can be surprising and even slightly wasteful to some.

10. Excessive Patriotism

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The sight of American flags everywhere, from front porches to car windows, can be overwhelming for foreigners. While displaying patriotism is common in many countries, the ubiquity of the American flag can leave visitors wondering about the depth of national pride and the reasons behind such fervent displays.

11. The Love of Drive-In Theaters

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In the United States, the nostalgia for drive-in movie theaters remains alive and well. Foreigners might find it peculiar that people opt to watch films from the confines of their vehicles rather than in a traditional theater. The charm of sitting in a car under the open sky while enjoying a movie may seem like an endearing yet unusual American tradition.

12. The Overemphasis on Personal Space

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Americans have a reputation for valuing their personal space. To foreigners, this can sometimes come across as stand-offish or distant. The practice of maintaining an arm’s length of distance during conversations, even among friends, can be seen as an excessive obsession with personal boundaries.

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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.