If you've grown up in the US, there are plenty of practices that are so engrained they feel like second nature. But to outsiders, some American cultural norms feel totally confusing. So, redditor u/DadIsMadAtMe asked, "What’s the hardest thing for you to comprehend about American culture?" Here's how non-Americans responded.
1."The way that Americans have lunch at their work desk, and this 'lunch' is usually just a snack. Where I come from, lunch is the most complete meal of the day."
2."School mascots. Where I live, we have teams that play matches against other teams. In America, it’s all like 'GO EASTOWN EAGLES!!!!' and there will be some person in a cheap eagle costume spinning a basketball on his bird fingers or something. You have a full dramatic cheerleading dance-off before the match; whereas, at home, we just shake hands and stare at each other."
3."I'm Canadian, and I can't get over the baseline level of education in American. There are really smart Americans, but there are also completely uneducated people. The divide is massive and startling."
4."The fact that Americans have two weeks of vacation or no guaranteed PTO for most. In my country, you have to take two weeks of mandatory leave in a row. Including public holidays, I get about seven weeks of vacation every year."
5."The fact that 'entrée' here means main course."
6."Americans love fries, cheese, and gravy, but for some reason, poutine never took off south of the border. I have always found that odd."
7."Your healthcare system. It's so complicated and expensive. The fact that people go bankrupt because they get sick is bonkers to me."
8."Why America doesn't include tax in the total price of something. Just add in the tax up front and make life easier for everyone. I don't want to have to do math every time I go to buy something."
9."The American school schedule. The fact that kids start the school year in one calendar year and end it in the next is ridiculous. I don’t care if it’s so you can have a long summer break, it makes no sense."
10."Portion sizes! Don't get me wrong, I love your huge portions. Eating out in the US was often cheaper than eating in. But damn, it gets silly. All portions look like they should be two meals, and you're expected to take half home in a baggy. Can I just pay half, eat half, and go home without a container of leftover soup?"
11."The American attitude toward politicians. A lot of Americans follow and worship politicians like they’re gods, waving flags and all that stuff. In the UK where I'm from, it’s universally acknowledged that we hate all politicians pretty much equally."
12."Having to tip almost everywhere. It makes sense at some establishments (restaurants, bars, etc.), but I feel like Americans are expected to tip at the most random places these days."
13."That school-aged kids often have jobs. I always wondered if it's a real thing that American teenagers have to work or just something you see on TV. At my high school, people had summer jobs, but never during the school semester. I'm not even sure that's legal to hire teenagers here when they're not an apprentice/going to trade school."
14."The way that there is a lot of social stigma around living with your parents after a certain age where it's considered 'normal' to live at home, even if you’re contributing something. This seems to be very much a US thing."
15."Having to go back to work six weeks after having a baby. It's almost criminal for companies to expect that, but for so many American women, it's the reality. I'm thankful to live in Canada for that reason."
16."For me as a Russian, saying hello even to strangers and even sometimes complimenting them is very strange and incomprehensible."
17."To me, it is really confusing that Americans are allowed to homeschool their kids, especially at high school level. Do parents really think they know enough of history, English, a foreign language, biology, chemistry, and math to give their kids a proper preparation for college or for a career?"
18."That dental and eye care isn’t included in health insurance. Like, what else is it?"
19."Why must Americans do their own taxes? If in the end, the government knows if what you paid was what you actually owed — why not just tell you?"
20."All the things you can do before you can have a legal drink of alcohol. You can get into lifelong debt with a mortgage or university fees, you can drive a car, you can buy a gun, you can have kids, you can join the Army and kill people, you can get married. But at the wedding (even having done all of the above) when the father of the bride makes his speech and ends with a toast, you're raising a glass of sparkling juice because you're not allowed champagne."
21."The American attitude toward water. Why are Americans so weird about water? I've lived here for 20+ years, and it still makes no sense to me. So many people will drink Coke or juice or Gatorade all day, and if they drink water, it needs to be ice cold or flavored. Just drink the water! I've heard Americans say, 'Oh, I don't like water.' What do you mean?! Do you also not like breathing air?!"
22."Why does everything have to be bigger in America? People are obsessed with bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger food portions..."
23."The widespread prevalence of circumcising infants completely unnecessarily and for non-medical reasons."
24."Saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at school. Starting my first day of school in Texas and seeing everyone stand up to say the US and Texas pledge made me so scared that I hid under my desk."
25."As a European, I'm confused by how car-centric the whole country is. Europe is far more reliant on public transportation."
26."The way that Americans show extremely violent shows on daytime TV, but at the same time, they highly sensor nudity. It's like seeing a boob can harm you, but it's totally fine to show stabbing and blood splashing."
27."How Americans brag about the fact they work long hours or over the weekends. American work culture is so odd."
Non-Americans, I'd love to hear from you. What do you think is a baffling part of American culture — something that feels vastly different from life in your home country? Tell us in the comments.