30 Things Tourists Did Not Expect To See In The US, As Shared In This Viral Online Thread
It is entirely normal to feel slightly out of your depth when going abroad—one of the main points of travel is to expose yourself to different cultures, customs, and ways of living. Not only does this broaden our knowledge about the world, but it can also make us value what we have at home far more once we’re back from our adventures.
One redditor recently asked their fellow internet users from Europe to share the biggest culture shocks that they experienced while visiting the United States, and they delivered. Scroll down to check out what surprised them the most on their travels, from just how B I G everything is to the (over)work culture and how friendly everyone seems.
I know it's popular to dunk on Americans, but honestly, for me, it was how friendly everyone was.
Traveler Dennis told Bored Panda that he's been to the States a couple of times, visiting Miami. "The biggest shock was how big everything was and how little public transport there was. Even in the big city you needed a car," he said.
"The 'big' part really left me speechless. I have never seen such huge amounts of literally anything, the stores, the cars," Dennis stressed just how huge everything really is in the US, compared to Europe.
"I was also very surprised at how hard it was to find good inexpensive food. It seemed to be just chains or overpriced dining experiences. Everything tasted fake as well or too good to be true. I have never eaten such delicious donuts! Of course, they were full of artificial stuff, but they tasted great!" he told Bored Panda.
The homeless problem. I couldn't believe the extent of it, it made me really sad.
Entering a store in Germany: opening the door to silence or a brief hello. Entering a store in the US: 'Hello! How are you today? What can I do for you?' Aaargh, can't you just ignore me like at home? That was way too much communication.
"I went to the Caribbean and planned a stopover to get my first experiences of the US. I want to take my time and travel around the country for a couple of months, so this was a good opportunity to get a feel," Dennis shared how he decided to visit the States in the first place.
Something else that the traveler found shocking in Miami was the number of homeless and people with substance abuse problems "roaming the city." This is something that he's seen elsewhere during his travels, too, but never on this scale.
"It made my heart ache how much they seemed to be left without any help. I did get chased by three of them in the night trying to rob me, so my sympathy was gone very soon," the traveler shared.
My uncle from Ireland driving around Texas: "Is there some sort of national holiday going on that I don't know about? Why does everyone have a flag showing?" I had to explain about the flags.
Being from The Netherlands: severely bike unfriendly roads/urban layouts. Everything is designed for car traffic mostly.
Everyone calling me honey/love/sweetie. Those words/terms of endearment aren’t used that casually over here (Netherlands).
In our experience, probably the best thing that you can do while traveling is to develop an attitude where you embrace everything that comes your way. The good. The bad. And the ugly. Think of your trip as an adventure and a chance to see and experience many things that you otherwise might have stayed oblivious to.
And so, whether you’re traveling to the US or anywhere else in the world, remember to maintain a sense of wonder, instead of one of grumpy criticism. Travel isn’t supposed to be a competition about whose home country is ‘better.’ It’s about respecting each other’s differences while finding the small things that unite us, no matter what corner of the world we might call home.
It’s perfectly valid to marvel at mundane things as well. Not every culture shock needs to be something as grandiose as the redwoods. Things like how there seems to be air conditioning pretty much everywhere in the States, the massive range of Oreos at the local supermarket, or how you almost certainly need a car to get where you need to go can leave you thinking about how vastly different life in the States is from many parts in Europe on a day to day basis.
When paying in restaurants they took my debit card away from me and took it away with the waiter. I thought that was really weird.
The waiters were also like obsessive at the table every 2 minutes “everyone okay? Can we get you another drink?” And then before I had even asked for the bill they brought it at the end of the meal, I wanted a pudding but I didn’t know what to do after they brought me the bill without me asking.
Also the meals and drink sizes were huge, the McDonald’s and coke tastes weird and off. All the food had like weird after tastes.
In the supermarket you have like a 100000 different versions of each food, like I had never seen so many different types of Oreo’s in my life.
Having to tip someone 20% for simply doing their job was annoying, like I ordered a pizza and the person yelled at me for not giving him a tip and I had no clue we were even meant to do that
Military fetish. I knew it existed but just wasn't prepared for how pervasive it was. Any kind of public event there were announcements asking veterans to stand up and be applauded. Not special military events. The two that come to mind were the Grand Ol' Opry and a Labour Day thing in Washington DC, but there were other occasions.
I was in the (British) Army Reserve andso kept joking to my wife that I would stand up too and we had a laugh about it . Like "imagine actually lapping this stuff up, lol."
People wearing an army uniform in public. Weird. (And I was told I mustn't do that off-duty when I was a reservist.)
People wearing baseball caps with like "USS Eagle. Operation Iraqi Freedom." And medal ribbons on it or something. Never ever seen a British soldier or ex-soldier wearing something that indicated military service just while they're going about their civilian life. People who have been in or are in the American military seem to define their *life* by it, even in their civilian affairs/day-to-day life.
In a Bass Pro shop and other places there were all kinds of s****y themed wall "art" like clocks and random ornaments and s**t that said like "LAND OF THE FREE BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE."
A (chain of?) Military fetish themed BBQ restaurant with like uniforms and medals on the wall and stuff.
Compared to any place I've ever been that whole thing is what stands out as the MOST weird and uniquely American. Nowhere else does anything like that.
Toilets with not enough privacy.
What’s with the big gaps around the doors and rest of the cubicle?
Before you pack your bags, it’s incredibly helpful to do some background research about where you’re traveling. Google some facts, read some forums, talk to some friends who’ve visited the States before. Ideally, you want to start your trip without (m)any assumptions (positive or otherwise). You also want to steer clear of hype because it can leave a very sour taste in your mouth if your experience is nothing like what you’ve seen in the movies.
Paris Syndrome, when you’re disappointed by your trip because you had very high expectations for your trip, isn’t limited to just the French capital. It can happen everywhere you go. Usually, the more popular a destination is, the more hyped up the tourists can get, only to get let down.
For instance, as we’ve covered on Bored Panda previously, Los Angeles can be quite different from what people have seen on the silver screen and on Netflix. It’s a very crowded place, massive in size, and Hollywood itself can be a headache: it’s not as glamorous as on TV. Instead of waddling about, hoping you’ll run into a celebrity, you could go on a professional studio tour. Again, the advice of those who have traveled somewhere before you is absolutely invaluable! And it can help mitigate the worst that culture shocks have to offer.
THAT EVERYTHING IS SO BIG.
Cars, food portions, tips, roads, people, attitudes.
Always fun tho.
The food. This was 2001 and I'm from the UK/France. I'd never seen refillable drinks before. I couldn't believe you could just have as much soda as you wanted and no one was going to think you were stealing. When we ate dinner, entire loaves of bread and a ramakin of butter. Supermarkets packed so high and wide. Turkey drumsticks the size of a t-rex. I was bowled over.
Not necessarily related to the country, but more to the people itself. Americans are by far the most social people I have come across in my travels. It seems like they have mastered the art of small talk with strangers. This has been mostly positive for me as it is really easy to be featured in their social groups. Kind of the opposite is the case in my country (The Netherlands). It has helped me understand why American immigrants in my country struggle with being happy.
As someone who grew up there, returning now always gives me culture shock. The worst is probably when I go to Florida to visit my sister. The radio is nothing but pay day loan advertisements. Even my son listening to them says, "that sounds like a scam." Just the amount of blatant and obvious predation on consumers is jarring and it didn't used to be that bad.
56 flavours of donuts in a gas station in the middle of nowhere. 56! I counted!
The work till you drop culture.
There have been people who are proud of the fact they don't see their families or miss occassionas because they work for 'the company'..
I used to work for a grocery store and it was close to a cult.
I Lived in America for a year when I was around 8, and foolish me didn’t understand the tax system.
I remember my mother giving me money to go to the store to get ice cream, and being really confused/upset when the cashier told me my $3 was not enough despite that being its labelled price.
I remember thinking to myself how stupid the cashier must be that she couldn’t read the label properly.
It's been almost a decade so things might have changed, but I have a few:
Positive: it's very easy to connect to complete strangers, up to the point me and my wife got invited to a pick-up beach volleyball game after we met some people in a bar. Was great fun!
Negative: price on fresh vegetables in a grocery store was just staggering, I completely understood why poor families would buy take away instead of freshly cooked meals.
Negative: the amount of "normal" looking homeless people in San Francisco was just insane.
- pretty much zero public transport
- the bars are all so...clean? Every bar I went to was like a fully air-conditioned sports bar, with the tvs and everything. Where I live, the more lived-in, the better the pub.
- everything is sweet. The beer was sweet, the bread, the traditional, home-cooked meals, the f*****g cheese
On a first gas station in New York state after crossing border with Canada, I started pushing my car for fun. Just to check if I am able to move it. Imiedialetly some man in an old pick up truck stopped next to me and asked if I need help. It was mind blowing to me because in my country even if I would wave to people asking for help I would wait at least an hour for somebody who would willing to help me.
I hate, with a flaming passion, those fake hot dogs. I believe they're called water dogs. The ones that taste like plastic. When I went to New York City, we got one of those, and it was disgusting. It tastes like nothing. Why not just use pork sausages like the rest of the world? It has a weird chewy outer skin, and then the squishy 'meat' on the inside. And why is it a beige/pink color? Two bucks for a hot dog that tastes like my local landfill. I have eaten Lego bricks more tasty.
I was prepared for taxes not being included in price tags and the tipping stuff etc. I was not prepared for the "I love Jesus"/ "Jesus loves me" people with megaphones, banners, t-shirts and flyers walking around everywhere.
Everything is loud. All the time. The TV ads, the billboards, the radio, the air conditioning. Everyone is trying to get heard in a country where being #1 is the only acceptable goal. It's a loudness war to get to your brain, and it's exhausting.
Everybody smiling to one another, as a polish person i just can't understand that. Everybody is expected to smile to you even if they are sad.
Adverts (commercials). We generally don’t have medical or adversarial (mentioning competitors directly) adverts, at least in the UK
My kids picked up on this when we went to the cinema and there was a Samsung advert directly trashing Apple. They were like “what the hell was THAT?”
I moved to America for 3 years when I was 18. The first time I walked into Walmart there was a very tall man with a gun and a knife strapped to his belt. It definitely took me by surprise and at first made me feel a little uneasy.
Some of them would eat dessert for breakfast - things like pancakes, syrup, fruit, sweet waffles etc
Honestly two things that stuck me, lack of walkability and repetitive buildings or grid layouts
you guys have air conditioning in your house????? i was astonished
Mine is going to sound really dumb, but just the way I was treated when in a shop buying clothes. Hello on the way in, always someone trying to help, and then they actually asked me if someone helpe med when I went to pay for my stuff.
In Spain you walk in, buy what you want and most of the time you're lucky if the cashier is nice enough to say hello (in all fairness they get paid a s****y wage and have to deal with lot's of idiots).
The rest of the stuff (I was in New York) didn't shock me much. The tipping situation is certainly different, but I was expecting that.
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