After traveling and meeting people from many different countries, I’ve gotten a sense of some things that people consider “very American” — many of these being things that I wouldn’t have realized were so unique to America until I traveled. I’ve put together a list of some of the things I’ve learned may seem strange to a foreigner visiting America:
1. Tailgating sporting events. Sometimes a bigger deal than the actual game.
2. Tax not included. Foreigners beware, the price you see is not the price you get. Tax varies by state (anywhere from 0-10%) and is not included in the price labels, so don’t be shocked that your total price is higher when you check out.
3. American pride. Americans love America. End of story.
4. Free refills. So buy the small drink and keep refilling it, obviously :P Plus, you can even mix sodas if you’d like — Fanta flavored Coke, anyone? (Fun Fact: You’ll often see American kids mixing together every soda in the dispenser. This is called a “Suicide”).
5. Obsession with education. Attending university is a pretty standard expectation. At least more-so than other countries I’ve visited. You can’t graduate high school without hearing the question “Where will you be attending in the fall?”
7. PB & J. Or really just peanut butter in general… The American obsession with peanut butter is like the Australian obsession with Vegemite — many foreigners just don’t get it. Fun fact: An American kid consumes an average of 1,500 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches by the time he/she graduates high school, according to the National Peanut Board.
8. Solo cups. A necessity for any event involving alcohol. And yes, the red ones are better than the blue ones.
9. Ketchup. We don’t just eat ketchup with our fries… we eat fries with our ketchup. Not only that, but you’ll find Americans putting ketchup on everything from eggs, to pasta, to grilled cheese, to mac ‘n cheese…
10. Guns. America has around 270 million guns (more guns than cars!), making us the country with the highest gun ownership rate, according to americangunfacts.com. It must be a pretty well-known fact, since the amount of times I’ve been asked by foreigners if I own a gun is slightly ridiculous.
11. Drinking games. Beer Pong, Flip Cup, King’s Cup, Twenty-One, Quarters, Chandelier, Asshole, Ride The Bus, Edward 40-Hands, Horse Races, and the list goes on…
12. Television. There’s generally always something on to watch, even if it is just that trashy reality show you hate that you love. I realized I’d taken this for granted when I moved to Australia and had to eat dinner while watching the news (*gasp*) instead of an entertaining show.
13. Tipping. Not optional. Tips are how servers get paid in the US, so generally you should give 15-20% at restaurants. If you want to know how not to tip, see Buzzfeed’s list of 12 meanest ways to tip a waiter.
14. Great customer service. One result of servers relying on tips to pay their bills is that American servers typically have great customer service — especially compared to servers in other countries where tipping is not common. In a decent American restaurant, the servers will check in every few minutes to see how your food is and if you need anything.
15. Easy Mac. This sometimes-too-bright-of-yellow cheesy goodness is something I’m pretty sure every American has tried (and probably loved) at some point or another, despite not being the healthiest of options. Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese is actually banned in some countries (i.e. Norway) due to it’s added artificial yellow color. (Note: Kraft has recently removed the yellow food dyes in some of their American products due to moms complaining about the health dangers to kids).
16. Bacon (the American kind). One of the first things I hear Americans complain about when they visit other countries — the lack of good bacon! In a country that hosts a Bacon World Championship (along with qualifying bacon-making competitions), Americans are a little obsessed.
17. Subway. And… Five. Five dollar. Five dollar footloooongs. And that catchy song that you now can’t get out of your head.
18. Bagels. We love our bagels. Plain, chocolate chip, blueberry, onion, sesame seed, cinnamon-raisin, everything, jalapeño-cheddar cheese…
“Bagels – they’re the best thing ever! Americans just love variety; there’s so much choice, it’s overwhelming. But I love trying the blueberry and raisin and cinnamon bagels. Luckily, I exercise a lot.” -Emma Watson, People Magazine
19. Fast food culture. McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Chick-fil-A, and oh so many more.
20. Large portions. And, (naturally), large people. In a country where “Super Size” was once an option, what do you expect?
So this is my list so far of things I’ve found to be pretty “American,” according to non-American travelers I’ve met and foreign countries I’ve visited. Anything else to add?