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20 Things That Have Been Normalized in the US That the Rest of the World in Confused By

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The notion of ‘normalcy’ is inherently subjective; what may seem commonplace in your immediate surroundings could be regarded as a cultural idiosyncrasy in a distant corner of the globe. Every nation harbors its distinct quirks and customs, and even in the so-called ‘land of the free,’ this phenomenon is not exempt. It can be truly enlightening to realize how the everyday behaviors of your life assume a distinctly curious hue when observed from the perspective of another culture.

A user asked, “What has been normalized in America that would be strange to other countries?”

1. Compulsory Tipping

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Tipping your service delivery person seems reasonable, but it’s almost compulsory in America. One user contributes, “Making the customer directly responsible for a big part of bar and restaurant workers’ wages.”

One agrees, “Tipping. The entrenched tipping culture caught me totally unawares when I visited. (I) Should’ve done more research, I guess?”

An American online user adds, “A lot of s*** makes my blood boil about my country, the US, but this one takes the f*****g cake.”

2. Ambulance? Please Don’t

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If you ever need to call for an ambulance, the damage to your pocket should not be your greatest worry. But alas, in America, it is. Allegedly. One user says, “Worrying about paying for an Ambulance.”

Another user does the math: “A $10,000 ride in an ambulance to the hospital 5 miles away, with a $2000 band-aid administered for a $3000 application fee.”

Sounds a little stretched, but what do we know?

3. What Came First? The Day or the Month?

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According to one online user, the MM/DD/YYYY American style of writing dates is just odd. Most countries have DD/MM/YYYY.

Another user adds, “This is just wrong. DD/MM/YYYY makes the most sense cuz it goes from smallest to largest. The day within the month within the year. Anything else just seems strange and illogical.

4. Moving Out at 18

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An online contributor of Asian origin said, “At least in my country, it would probably be the normalization of children having to move out of their parent’s house once they turn 18. I always thought it was weird, though it’s probably because I live in an Asian country where it is normal for children to stay with their parents for a long time, even after marriage.”

An American agrees by saying, “There is a BIG stigma against living with your parents in the US.”

Maybe staying with parents after marriage is where we should all draw the line.

5. School Shooting Drills

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Another says, “My US friends find it weird that we didn’t do school shooting drills in school. They find it normal and think it’s reckless that we don’t do those drills in Canada.”

One clearly irate Redditor said, “What the f*** is my country? Just, what is this? What are we? There is no going back…”

It’s a touchy subject.

6. Either Vote A or B

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Most countries have a multi-party system, but the choice is only between two parties for the USA. A user says they find it strange that there are “Only two parties to vote (for).”

Someone agrees with them by saying, “This is my favorite answer. It’s more than just the 2-party system; it’s how you are expected to wholesale accept the party’s platforms, norms, etc.”

However, another user clarifies: “There are plenty of parties. Only two viable ones.”

7. Maternity Leave? What’s That?

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Most countries have compulsory maternity leave for new mothers. One user says, “The problem is that it (maternity leave) is not required by the government.”

Indeed, there’s no law guaranteeing maternity leave in the home of the brave.

8. The Triggering Issue of Gun Ownership

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The liberality of the American law on guns is baffling to many other nationalities. One user said, “Mostly guns. I’ve never even seen a real gun in my life.”

Someone else adds, “The guns. The f*****g guns.”

Another user replies, “I’m Australian; the only person I’ve seen with a ‘big’ gun (besides police carrying their pistols) is security at parliament house and people from my hometown with their shotguns going hunting.”

Someone adds, “Just the whole gun thing. And the notion that not being allowed to have any gun at any time for any reason is some horrific violation of your rights. I live in the UK, and not a single time have I been in a situation where a gun would have been useful.”

9. Which Floor is the First Floor?

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For most people, the ground floor is, well, the ground floor. One contributor says it’s confusing that “The ground floor is the first floor in America.”

9. Hard to Understand Measurement Abbreviations

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Ounces and pounds abbreviations confuse most non-Americans. How Ounces became Oz, and Pounds became lbs should be a national investigation.

10. Everybody Loves PB and J, No?

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One user says their strange American norm is “peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

Have you lived, though, if you haven’t had one?

11. Mind Your Language

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A user seemed unimpressed by the American slang. He says, “An entire country obsessed with “butt” and “a**” – used in sentences like punctuations.” He gives an example, “big-a** car or smarta** comment.”

It’s time to choose other, more acceptable body parts for reference.

12. Do Shoes Belong In or Outside the House?

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An online user says her confusion with Americans is “Wearing shoes inside your home or other people’s home.”

A Canadian contributor added, “Wearing your shoes inside your house/other people’s houses. Why do you guys do that..?”

It depends on whether you think the shoes are clean or the house is dirty.

13. The Taxman’s Modus Operandi

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An online user says, “I will never understand why taxes are not included in the price indicated like everywhere else in the world.”

Someone on the thread agrees, “Tax not being included on the shelf price.”

Another user explains, “As frustrating as that is, it’s because there is no standard tax rate here. Some states don’t even have sales tax. And in those that do, it varies from city to city/town/county. So it could be 8% tax in one town and 6% in the next town. We think it’s dumb too.”

That’s a crash course on taxation. You’re welcome.

14. Gaps in Public Bathroom Doors

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How low should a public bathroom door go? One online user isn’t happy with the Johns door height. They say, ” The stupid gaps in the public bathroom stalls.”

Why, America, why?

15. What’s with All the Flags?

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One user says their issue is “Flags, flags everywhere.”

Another user adds, “Rampant flag waving and having flags on your houses.”

You’ve seen them too, haven’t you?

16. Let’s Drive There

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There seems to be a general consensus that Americans drive to places too much.

One user says, “Driving everywhere and avoiding public transport like the plague unless you’re in certain cities like NY or SF where there are no parking spots ever.”

If the Dutch can cycle everywhere, Americans can drive, no?

Some of these things are genuinely confusing. Even one resident agrees and says, “Everything? I’m not sure what is going on anymore, and I live here.”

Everything? Maybe not.

17. Commercials for Medicine

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Commercials for medicine are strange, since it should be discussed with your doctor. Commercials for prescription only medication? This has foreigners perplexed.

18. Skipping Vacations

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Not only is the US severely behind most other Western countries for average annual vacation days- but many Americans don’t take all their vacation days! Crazy to others that understand the importance of vacay time to reset.

19. Sugary Everything

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While sugar is sneaking into everyone’s diet worldwide, the level of sweetness in sodas, baked goods, and even foods that shouldn’t really need added sugar (sauces, yogurts, etc.) is unfathomable for some cultures.

20. Debt for Higher Education

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Going into lifelong debt for education? This is not a thing in most European countries.


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