19 Things Foreigners Find Very Odd About Americans

American people have a reputation among foreigners for being friendly and loud, but there are far more things that outsiders find puzzling or even amusing about us. Many typical American behaviors or traditions seem strange to those from other countries—here are 19 things that non-Americans find weird about people from the U.S.

Small Talk 

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According to Transparent Language, Finns, Norwegians, and Swedes find the American habit of casually discussing the weather or exchanging pleasantries extremely strange. In Scandinavia, communication serves a specific purpose and people rarely talk about general topics with strangers. In the U.S., small talk is regularly used to break the ice or alleviate boredom. 

Using First Names

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Foreigners from Europe and Asia are often accustomed to using formal titles like Mr., Ms., or Dr. and often balk at the casual way Americans address other people, even in formal settings like the workplace. Using first names can be seen as disrespectful in some cultures, but in the U.S., it makes sense and complements other social norms (like casual dress codes).

Baby Showers

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Elsewhere in the world, expectant mothers tend not to celebrate their pregnancy with a dedicated celebration, as American people do. In the U.S., they’re typically organized by female relatives and friends and involve gifts, baby-themed games, well-wishes, and advice. Abroad, it’s often customary to send gifts and congratulations after the birth and not to throw parties.

Personal Space Bubbles

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Despite a reputation for being friendly and outgoing, Americans tend to maintain much larger personal spaces around themselves, especially compared to Latin cultures in Spain and South America. Many foreigners find the American habit of standing a bit farther back during conversations and avoiding hugs or kisses on the cheek oddly stand-offish.

Homeowners Associations

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Mandatory homeowners associations (HOAs) are in very few countries worldwide: these include the U.S., Philippines, and Canada. These legal entities manage common areas and enforce regulations within residential communities. Foreigners often find this overly controlling, strange, and restrictive, especially those who live in places where a person’s home is their own business.

Sororities and Fraternities

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Sororities and fraternities are social organizations found on many college campuses in the U.S. Indeed, Times Higher Education reports that there are over 1,500 such Greek organizations in America. For those living abroad, ‘Greek life’ is an alien concept, and they’re often perplexed by things like pledging, frat parties, Greek letters, and the potential for hazing.

Doing Your Own Taxes

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In most foreign countries, taxes are calculated by the government and automatically deducted from a person’s wage. The idea of having to file your own tax return and being punished for doing it incorrectly (even if the mistake was a genuine oversight) seems crazy to people abroad, where typically only the self-employed hire an accountant for (a far simpler) tax calculation. 

Pledge of Allegiance

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In many American public schools, the Pledge of Allegiance is a daily ritual in which students face the flag and recite a short oath of loyalty to the U.S. Many foreigners find this commitment to national pride a bit strange, particularly those from countries where people tend to be more individualistic and anti-establishment, such as France.

Gender Reveal Parties

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A relatively new phenomenon in the U.S., gender reveal parties allow expectant parents to announce the sex of their unborn baby to friends and family in a festive way. From blue/pink cake fillings to balloons and other decorations, these celebrations can seem a bit excessive and unnecessary to foreigners, who rarely reveal a baby’s sex in such an elaborate way.

Sales Tax Added After

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In the U.S., sales tax is typically added to the advertised price of goods at the register. This can be surprising for visitors because tax is almost always included in the sales price in foreign countries. The experience is made more confusing because the exact rate varies depending on the state and locality and even between certain product categories. Even locals find it confusing sometimes!

Positive Talk

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Vox says foreigners often find people from the U.S. to be excessively optimistic and positive, which can come across as fake, naive, or unrealistic. American culture emphasizes a “can-do” attitude and focuses on the “bright side” of every situation. Yet, some foreigners find this approach jarring, especially those from countries where expressing negativity is the norm.

Casual Fashion Sense

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American fashion leans toward casual attire, even in professional settings. What would be considered appropriate workplace attire in an L.A. office would probably be seen as far too informal for a similar setting in Tokyo or London. Many foreigners find it odd to see so many Americans wearing jeans, t-shirts, trainers, and athletic wear, even at work.

Big Tips

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Most foreign countries have a minimum wage that includes customer-facing service employees. People from abroad often find it strange that Americans leave a 20–25% gratuity in places like restaurants, taxis, and hotels. While the tipping culture in America is well-established and almost unchallenged, tourists can fail to anticipate how much money they will need to cover tips.

Sports Fanaticism

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Many countries around the world have a passion for sports, but few exhibit as much fanaticism as Americans. Whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, or motorsports, fans can be intensely devoted and spend a lot of time, money, and effort supporting their favorite teams. Some visitors are surprised by the number of team jerseys, tailgating parties, and heated debates.

Direct Communication

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Suppose an American doesn’t like or approve of something. In that case, chances are they’ll tell you openly and directly, and this applies to most situations. People from the U.S. are known for their straightforward communication style. People from more reserved countries with subtle conversation styles and stricter social etiquette can find this direct approach unnerving and even rude. 

Halloween Obsession

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Halloween is a major holiday in the U.S., and Americans make a huge effort, with elaborate costumes, spooky decorations, and mountains of candy. Indeed, NorthJersey.com states that the average U.S. household spends over $108 on celebrating. This can shock and perplex outsiders, particularly those from strictly religious countries or places that don’t acknowledge October 31st at all.

Selfie Sticks and Group Photos

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Americans love taking photos, especially selfies and group photos. While other cultures, like those in Asia, also get snap-happy, some European countries find this obsession with photo-taking a bit weird. This can be especially true for foreigners who witness American Instagram ‘stars’ snapping their meals or U.S. tourists documenting every single experience.


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While this trait varies from person to person and North to South, many Americans can be surprisingly open about their personal lives, especially compared to people from more reserved cultures. Sharing intimate details about their families, jobs, finances, love lives, and even their health can seem strange to people from countries where such topics are rarely discussed.

No Public Displays of Affection

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Despite their reputation for friendliness and openness, Americans can be surprisingly prudish and coy about expressing romantic passion and affection in public places. Outsiders can be shocked when U.S. citizens react with embarrassment or awkwardness when couples openly caress, make out, or fondle each other in the street.

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