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"I Felt Like A Prudish American, But It's The Norm In Europe": People Are Sharing Common Customs Abroad That They Want The US To Adopt

"It's embarrassing that it exists abroad — yet is not provided for free to all students."

Traveling abroad opens your eyes to so many customs, norms, and even official policies that are so different from the way things are done back home. And there are certainly some practices from other cultures and countries around the world that the US could seriously benefit from. So a redditor asked, "What is one thing the US should adopt from some other country?" Here's some of what people said.

1. "Higher-quality fast food. When I went to Japan and ordered food from any type of chain that also exists in the US (think: McDonald's, Denny's, or Burger King), my meal looked exactly like the picture on the menu. It was truly bizarre. In the US, if you get a Big Mac, it looks nothing like the commercials. When you get a Big Mac in looks like the one in the picture. It's like somebody back there was putting that burger together perfectly."

A person holding a McDonald's cheeseburger

2. "More pedestrian-friendly cities. When I was in Austria and Germany, I walked so much every day because I could. The streets were safe and designed with specific pedestrian areas. I ate tons of food and drank lots of beer, and I still lost weight on my trip because of all the walking I did. I really wish American cities were more pedestrian friendly."

Crowds of people walking through a busy crosswalk

3. "Universal school lunches. It's embarrassing that we do not have people cooking lunches for students from scratch. Even more embarrassing is the fact that school lunch is not provided for free to all students. Students should be entitled to a free hot lunch that is actually homemade — not pizza squares, canned veggies, and 3 ounces of milk. Families shouldn't be going into debt to pay for school lunch."

A student holding a school lunch tray

4. "In Japan, there is a service that you can call 24 hours a day that comes to you with two drivers and a car when you've been drinking. One driver will drive you and your car home, while the other follows in their car to pick up the driver at the end of the route. It minimizes DUIs and is actually really affordable."

A car parked on a snowy street

5. "The US could learn from Europe that having an alcoholic beverage during lunch is not a sign of degeneracy. When I visited, I was the prudish American who thought it was unprofessional and a faux pas to have a beer or glass of wine during lunch. But people in Europe do it all the time, even in work situations."

Salads and wine glasses on a table

6. "Guaranteed annual paid vacation days for everyone, period. The European Union guarantees its citizens four calendar weeks. Some other countries have even more. In the US, it's totally dependent on your employer, and nothing is guaranteed."

A tropical beach sunset

7. "I wish the US would follow in the path of other countries and eliminate the fees that foster parents must pay for general registration, classes, and social services related to fostering or adoption."

8. "A no-tipping system at restaurants, which would require ensuring that waiters get paid an actually livable salary (not to mention, health insurance and paid vacation)."

$20 bill under a glass in a restaurant

9. "Decent healthcare that isn't tied to your job. Other countries all over the world have figured out different ways to do this, so why can't we?"

10. "The US should be better about teaching foreign languages to young students in public schools. In kindergarten through fifth grade, a child has the quickest, best ability to learn a language, and our school system should take advantage of that."

Kids raising their hands in a classroom

11. "A prison system that focuses on rehabilitation instead of punishment. Many countries have been successful with this, saving literally billions of dollars and cutting down on crime in the process."

12. "A long, leisurely lunch hour. Europeans eat an actual meal for lunch, and their employers give them the time to do so. Restaurants often offer a plat du jour (such as steak and fries), which often comes with an appetizer, a glass of wine, and even a coffee afterward. And coworkers/bosses don't bat an eye at the slow pace of this midday meal."

Someone eating a big bowl of salad

13. "Volksmarches, a German tradition. These are organized events with hundreds of people who get together to walk 10 kilometers through beautiful surroundings in the countryside (the path is usually chosen to show off the best scenery), and they stop for snacks along the way."

People walking in a park under trees

14. "A more expansive street food culture. I live in New York City, where there's a fairly expansive street food scene (taco trucks, dosa stands, halal carts, etc.), but US street food doesn't hold a candle to that of other international cities, especially in Asia. I think of Singaporean hawker markets — giant, sprawling neighborhood food courts where you can find incredible and diverse food for cheap. And unlike in the US, where people usually rely on street food for a quick, solo meal, these hawker markets are centers for social life where people dine together."

Street food cart in NYC

15. "Fika, a common Swedish concept that is basically taking a break during the day for coffee and light socializing."

Two people sitting and drinking espresso

16. "In South Korean restaurants, the table service at restaurants is next-level. Each table has a call button. You press it when you're ready to order or you need anything. Other than that, the service staff leaves you alone. I'd love for this to exist in the States."

Tables in a restaurant

17. "A more expansive, efficient train system. I'm an American, and when I visited Germany, I was amazed that I could just drop everything I was doing and hop on a train to Moscow or Paris if I wanted to. Where I live, the closest public transportation is a three-hour drive away."

A large, busy train station

18. "Taking your shoes off when entering someone's home should become a universal American cultural norm the way it is elsewhere."

Shoes on a mat outside a home

19. "In Iranian culture, there's this concept called 'tarof.' It is essentially to make the most generous offer that you can afford in service of another person. For example, when you have a guest, you offer only the best: the best drinks, the best food, the couch you normally sit on, and the cleanest bathroom to use. It's an act of kindness to show that you'll go out of your way to make someone's day and make them feel comfortable and cared for. I think this attitude helps foster a society in which we are all better friends, relatives, and people."

A table set for dinner

20. "After living in Finland for four months, I can confidently say that every American home should have a sauna."

The interior of a sauna

21. "Siesta. Nothing seems more civilized than this Spanish custom, whereby everyone takes a nap in the afternoon, then continues working until 6 or 7 and eats dinner later in the evening, around 8 or 9."

Woman turning a "closed" sign in a shop window

22. "More thoughtful laws around drinking. In Sweden, for example, if I remember correctly, you can purchase alcoholic beverages below 5% alcohol by volume at age 18, and you can be served liquor in bars. This seems like a smarter way to introduce people to alcohol rather than open the floodgates once they turn 21."

Cropped hand of bartender filling beer from tap at bar

23. "When I went to Canada, I was amazed at the fact there were not only recycling bins but also compost bins everywhere I went. I almost didn't have to throw anything in the garbage the entire trip. Time to step up your game, America."

Recycling bins for all different materials

24. "Affordable house wine at restaurants. I love when I travel to Spain, France, Italy, or another European country and I sit down at a restaurant to discover I can order a liter of delicious house wine for some wildly affordable price like 6 euros. Drinking wine at restaurants in the US has become so incredibly expensive (you can hardly find a glass for under $10), and it's rare these days to even come across a place with an option for house wine."

House wine served in carafe in a restaurant

25. "I keep seeing and hearing of people in the US who are charged ridiculous fees to apply for rental properties and then don't even successfully get approved for said rental. The UK has banned these fees, and it seems like a much more fair method for the home rental process."

A brownstone with an "Apartment for rent" sign

26. "In Japan, schools demand that kids clean up after themselves and take care of their classrooms. They don't have janitors or lunch ladies. In fact, children serve their peers lunch. Meanwhile, here in America, schools are covered in trash. I love how the Japanese system gives responsibility to children and teaches them about respect for the environment."

A neat school classroom

27. "The biking culture that exists in Amsterdam. I knew people biked there, but I didn’t expect multilevel bike parking lots every mile. Jeez, I loved it there."

Tons of parked bicycles

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

What's something — whether it's a custom, societal norm, law, or tradition — you've witnessed or experienced in another country that you think the US should adopt? Tell us in the comments.