In our diverse world, it’s no surprise that cultural differences can be a source of bewilderment. Join us as traveling Americans share unique practices and local customs that fascinated and confused them.
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#1 DIY Apartments: Bringing Your Own Kitchen Sink
“When you rent an apartment in Germany, in most cases it doesn’t come with light fixtures, kitchen cabinets and counters, appliances, etc. You either have to purchase and install these yourself, or hope that the previous tenant is willing to sell theirs to you. In my last apartment search, there were even a few apartments where I would have had to supply and install my own flooring. It’s insane.”
The idea of renting an apartment without essential fixtures and appliances might seem unusual to many Americans. In the U.S., it’s customary for rental properties to come with all the basics, from light fixtures to kitchen cabinets. However, the German approach is quite the opposite, often requiring tenants to take on the role of DIY enthusiasts. While it might baffle Americans, this practice reflects cultural differences in homeownership and the level of customization that tenants prefer.
#2 Where Are the Screens, Europe?
“I don’t know if it’s everywhere , but I noticed a conspicuous lack of screens in windows while I was in Europe. It’s so simple, and it prevents bugs. I was woken up by bugs in 4 separate European countries. Why?! You don’t need to live like that.”
The absence of window screens in some parts of Europe left these travelers perplexed. Americans are accustomed to using screens to keep insects out of their homes, especially during warm summer nights. When confronted with bugs in European bedrooms, these travelers were left wondering why such a simple solution wasn’t more widely adopted.
#3 Expensive Water
“Pay money for water in restaurants.”
In the United States, water is usually provided for free at restaurants, making it a common courtesy to offer diners a glass of water. However, in many other countries, patrons are expected to pay for water. This financial approach to hydration puzzled Americans, who couldn’t fathom why something so fundamental came with a price tag.
#4 The AC Enigma
“How are y’all living without AC?”
Many parts of Europe and Asia experience scorching summer heat. Yet, Air Conditioners are not so common. For Americans who are accustomed to being comfortably cool in homes, restaurants, offices and cars, sweating it out in 100 degree heat isn’t exactly fun.
#5 The Toilet Paper Conundrum
“Some countries throw toilet paper in the trash can, and that is f***** horrifying.”
Americans are used to flushing used toilet paper down the drain without a second thought. The practice of placing toilet paper in a trash can (because drains can not handle paper), rather than flushing it, left these travelers bewildered. They found the idea of discarding used toilet paper in this manner quite unusual and, in some cases, unsettling.
#6 Milk in a Bag, Anyone?
“Milk in a bag.”
Americans are no strangers to milk cartons and jugs, but bagged milk is a concept that might make them raise an eyebrow. This packaging choice, even found in our neighboring country of Canada, might seem unusual to Americans, prompting questions about its convenience and purpose.
#7 The Stubborn Smoking Habit
“That smoking is still so common. This goes for Europe, Asia, South America. Probably other places too.”
As smoking rates decline in the United States, travelers from the U.S. can be surprised to find that smoking is still very much a part of daily life in some other parts of the world. They often wonder why this unhealthy habit remains so widespread and socially acceptable in many regions.
#8 Sunday Shutdown: The Mystery of Closed Stores
“I wouldn’t call this ‘absurd’, but when I lived in Norway finding out nearly every store closed all day on Sundays was crazy.”
The idea of stores closing all day on Sundays is a departure from the seven-day shopping week Americans are accustomed to. The concept of a weekly day of rest, even for businesses, seemed curious to these travelers. They couldn’t help but wonder how people manage their shopping and errands with this practice in place.
#9 Media Stereotypes vs. Reality
“Believing media-stereotypes about the USA without ever having been here.”
The frustration of having stereotypes attributed to one’s country without understanding the full picture can be perplexing. Many Americans abroad often find themselves explaining that their homeland is diverse and complex, and that media portrayals don’t always capture its true essence.
#10 Criticism Of Racism In America
“Specific to Europeans but y’all have no business judging Americans for our issues with racism given how y’all talk about and treat the Romani.”
Travelers from the U.S. occasionally face criticism from people in other countries regarding this country’s issues with racism. This can be perplexing for Americans who observe that the same critics may hold prejudiced views or mistreat marginalized groups within their own society. The commentary highlights the need for consistent reflection on issues of discrimination and bias across the globe.
#11 The Culture Conundrum
“Criticizing Americans lack of “culture”, all the while wearing American style clothes, listening to American music, watching American movies/tv shows, following American politics and basically copying American popular culture at every turn.”
American popular culture, from clothing to music, often has a global reach. Americans sometimes find it ironic that people in other countries may criticize them for their “lack of culture” while enthusiastically embracing elements of American culture. This observation prompts reflection on cultural exchange and the role of American influences in shaping global trends.
#12 The Arranged Marriage Enigma
“Not the rest of the world, but I will never understand arranged marriages. I can’t imagine being forced to have children with someone you may not like.”
The idea of arranged marriages can be difficult for many Americans to comprehend, as we value personal choice and emotional connection in their relationships. Arranged marriages, which involve familial influence in partner selection, may seem restrictive and challenging to fathom for those from cultures with different marital traditions. This commentary invites consideration of the diversity in human relationship dynamics.
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