When it comes to one’s perspective on individualism, free expression, government, religion, and morality, Europeans and Americans are worlds apart, according to Pew Center. But to really grasp some of these cultural differences, you don’t need to look far.

Think of red Solo cups, free refills, air conditioning, and something as simple as bulk shopping. Now think of Europe, for example, France, where daily trips to local grocers for fresh produce are common, and Italy, where air conditioning is a rare sight unless it’s in hotels meant for tourists.

So when someone put up a question “Europeans who’ve visited the US, what made you go 'What The Heck'?” on Reddit, people had a lot to share about their experiences. 33.8k comments later, the answers are in right below, and it will surely put some much-loved all-American things into a very different European perspective.

#1

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Was staying with the nicest family ever. They worked extremely long hours and lived in the suburbs. I wanted to cook for them as a surprise and set out to the store on foot, with an empty backpack for the groceries. Had to walk along the curb of, and then cross, an 8 lane highway to get to the store. Had to stop a really really old man from bagging the groceries. Then was stopped by police on the way back. They were very friendly, just wanted to know where my car had broken down. Ended up explaining to me that there was basically zero infrastructure for walking out in the burbs. They took me home. On the way, I saw a sign "gas 99 cents a gallon, Bud's Xmas Gift to the Community", blew my dad's mind when I told him later. Got home, thanked the nice officers, made a vegetable casserole. When my wonderful host family came home, they were blown away but also extremely worried. All in all, I would say that no matter how crazy America may be or seem, Americans make up for all of it. They are some of the friendliest, most welcoming people I have ever met.

suckcorner4nutrients , flickr Report

N G
Community Member
5 months ago

We stayed in the US and were gobsmacked that you couldn't just walk to the convenience store. Neither of us could drive at the time - it cost a fortune in taxis just for a handful of groceries.

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#2

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America The cheerful, smiling faces on a medication TV add while the voice over mentioned that death is a possible side effect.

Idilthil , Yuya Tamai Report

Jozie
Community Member
5 months ago

lol this one right here

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#3

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Roadside billboards scattered along the interstates in the South.

Billboard # 1: JESUS

Billboard # 2: PORN AND BOOZE, NEXT EXIT

Billboard # 3: GUNS! GUNS! GUNS!

StandardResort , Quinn Dombrowski Report

Tabitha L
Community Member
5 months ago

This is so accurate. Billboard #4 Biscuits. (US biscuits, not cookies.)

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To find out more about what it’s really like for a European to move to the US for studies and life, Bored Panda reached out to New York-based filmmaker and video producer at NYL Studio 51 Ieva Lukauskaite. Ieva, who spent her school days in Lithuania before immigrating to the US, said that as a European living in the US, she has noticed a lot of cultural differences, some good and some bad.

“The thing that perplexes me the most is the lack of selectiveness and authenticity when it comes to creative education. Everybody knows the United States as the land of Hollywood and legendary cinema; however, when it comes to teaching cinematic art, it falls short.”

Having obtained her BFA at a respectable American art college, Ieva said she was surprised by the curriculum and the mix of students. “A creative portfolio or any proof of your creative process is optional to get in, all you need is decent grades from high school. Of course, that attracts a colorful assortment of students, like the guy in my Intro to Film class who told me that he chose to study film because he was 'bad at math.'"

#4

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Especially as a bloody introverted Finnish person (stereotypes kicking in) it was terrifying how people had a ton of chitchat and were really talkative. Wished me a good day and asked about useless stuff

DON'T TALK TO ME PLEASE I AM NOT QUALIFIED FOR THIS

mizzuus , Kris Radder Report

A Cat Named Dragon
Community Member
5 months ago

I really want to comment on your post, but I’m afraid to!

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#5

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America The political ads on TV that do not promote but instead demonize candidates!

“So and so is a devil from hell that will eat your newborn for breakfast if you vote for them! Don’t do it if you love America!” Scary music and black and white footage included. Weird, very weird.

MagsClouds , Kelley Minars Report

Paizleypie
Community Member
5 months ago

. . . And we HATE those ads SO much but they don't stop until the election.

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#6

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Was on an exchange. 2 most memorable questions were "Can you see the moon in Europe" and "Do you have Pizza in Europe". Something else I'll never forget was the map of Europe in the school I went to which still showed the country of Yugoslavia (which doesnt exist anymore) and all the borders were messed up. A map IN THE SCHOOL.

TAS_Snoop , Blondinrikard Fröberg Report

Rose the Cook
Community Member
5 months ago

Well they still teach that Columbus "discovered" America.

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However, Ieva believes that some higher education establishments may have low standards on purpose. “With the ridiculously high tuition costs, they gain quite a bit of profit cycling through misguided students who go through the years switching majors, repeating classes, or dropping out altogether,” she commented.

Another big difference that surprised the NY-based producer was that in US film education, you are taught more technical trade than an art subject. “The focus is on what kind of software you can use and which equipment you can name and operate. This is not necessarily a negative difference because most students will never get to be very creative in their future careers anyway.”

With all that being said, Ieva concluded that American film education is more focused on future employability through technical skills instead of abstract concepts like inspiration or unique story building. “The approach does usually result in a better-paying job than in Europe,” Ieva concluded.

#7

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America The amount of obese people. Obese people riding electric scooters at shopping places. Being handicapped because you are obese.

explision , Sandra Cohen-Rose Report

LizzyD
Community Member
5 months ago

You don’t really see the type of morbid obesity in a lot of other parts of the world that you do here. Those other countries have the same illnesses and diseases we do so it’s really down to a matter of lifestyle, including eating habits, not diseases that’s causing the obesity.

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#8

-Everyone drives everywhere
-Toilet bowl has a lot of water
-Toilet stalls have large gaps
-Portion sizes in restaurants are huge
-Advertising anti-depressants etc. drugs on tv and billboards
-Bumper sticker politics
-Liquor stores everywhere
-Jesus everywhere
-Lot of homeless people
-Most people have manners and are friendly

Alchemysecrets Report

A Cat Named Dragon
Community Member
5 months ago

This is a pretty comprehensive list!

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#9

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Went there as a german soldier on a semi work related trip, wearing uniform. The sheer number and the way people thanked me for my service (apparently as a german I qualify for this by extension), gave me discounts or even stuff for free (Starbucks) was astonishing. In germany, the public treats its servicemen with what one federal president called "a friendly non-interest". The US showed me a different world... But I also gotta admit that it was frightening to a certain degree. It feels like... a bit too much of everything. Too much admiration, too much trust in what the uniform stands for, too much "automatic repetition" of the phrases and as a result too little normality. Still a memorable and enjoyable one-time experience

-Z0nK- , SC National Guard Report

Troux
Community Member
5 months ago

There are huge amounts of patriotism behind this. Americans are normally told that we need soldiers and constant military action, otherwise we would be speaking Chinese and slaving away to an emperor/dictator. Frankly speaking, police and judges do more every day to protect our livelihood, but it's just not as "heroic" as our image of soldiers.

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#10

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Almost all food tastes sweet, including bread.

back-in-black , John Greenaway Report

Pan Narrans
Community Member
5 months ago

Yup. Subway sells bread in the Netherlands but due to the sugar content it is taxed as cake! And therefore has a higher tax. Bread is considered staple food, cake luxury food.

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#11

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas absolutely blew my mind. The fact that outside it they have what looks like a scale for use on a farm, but for weighing people, and if they weigh over 350lbs they eat for free, was horrendous and it took me ages to get my English mind around it.

6footbunny , daryl_mitchell Report

troufaki13
Community Member
5 months ago

So... they're promoting obesity??

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#12

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America I ate a blue slurpee ice-drink thing in a theme park and three hours later, I kid you not, I did a VIBRANTLY BLUE [POOP].

No food in Europe has ever contained an ingredient that made my [poop] come out blue.

That made me go go "WTF" - I was WTFing so hard that eleven years later I still remember that blue [poop].

Thanks America! Fond memories...

SubjectsNotObjects , Lauren Siegert Report

River Webb
Community Member
5 months ago

Imagine what would happen if you drank a rainbow slurpee...

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#13

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Went to L.A. a week last year for work.

Things like portion sizes, the average weight of people, quality of food and commercials etc. are just what I thought they would be. But the surprises for me:

1. I do know the modeled Los Santos in GTA from L.A. but I didn't realise how well they did it. People talk and behave basically the same way. The sound, the light, the landscape, the frickin RADIO! I thought a big part of it was just exaggeration. Nope! This was actually kind of fun, driving around looking at things going "oh wow this is where that thing happened in the game". Awesome!

2. There are a lot of homeless people and you can tell a lot of them are sick and/or have psychological problems. This sure doesn't remove any of my prejudice about american healthcare and social security...

3. The extreme differences between neighbourhoods that are right next to each other. Sure, I understand why one street might have houses that look nice and are well taken care of and another not so much. But why is there a difference in how well paved the road is? Why is the "poor" street in such decay with lots of potholes and the "rich" street so clean and free from pot holes? Aren't things like fixing the roads the responsibility of the city? Mind boggling that they care more about rich neighbourhoods and the poor ones. If they did that so blatantly back here there'd be some things and a big fan involved.

Generally the social class differences are of a magnitude I've never seen before. Honestly I thought the things I heard before where somewhat exaggerated. I was wrong. And it is right in front of you basically all of the time! Really really sad to see.

Pinky9 , Antonio Fucito Report

Troux
Community Member
5 months ago

Generally speaking, this is why city folk tend towards liberal/welfare views: They see it every day. Even if you keep your head forward and just continue your role in your social standing, you'll still see it. Living in rural areas separates people from the variety, diversity and disparity of individuals in our country.

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#14

French married to a US citizen here. The one thing that surprised me most, apart from the portion sizes and the overload of sugar eveywhere that everyone mentions, is the convenience culture.
As long as you have a car, you can go buy anything and everything at virtually any time of day or night. And, oh, the amount of stuff you can have delivered at your place in less than an hour ! The workers do not seem to enjoy such a huge quality of life. Who would, if they had to work the 2am-12pm shift in a fast food place for minimum wage ?

On top of that, one other thing is how people are proud of working themselves to death, picking up all the overtime they can and not sleeping. Some of them have to to make ends meet, but most I know do not need the overtime and could use it to catch up on sleep, but don't. Instead, they drink coffee... It seems like companies managed to make the people link personal worth and pride to how much one works. Not the quality of it or the enjoyment of the job, but simply the amount of hours.

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Alexis draskinis
Community Member
5 months ago

DING DING DING!!! Johnny, tell him what he's won!!!

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#15

On the first day of our US roadtrip we stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant south of San Francisco. When we tried to pay the waiter told us that another customer that just had left paid for our meals and whished us a nice trip.

WTF, who does that. So nice! Totally made my day and honestly the whole vacation.

GuantanaMo Report

A Cat Named Dragon
Community Member
5 months ago

I live in San Francisco and I am so pleased to know that. Most of us here really do love visitors from other places and I am so proud to know that my neighbors welcomed you and treated you so well!

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#16

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Tax not included in the price tag. It's...weird!

avlas , Kzoo Cowboy Report

Troux
Community Member
5 months ago

It's bad enough for normal retail items. Then there are dozens of industries which have carved out their own special "fees". Hotels will add a "room tax" and "city tax" on top of "sales tax"; Restaurants require a tip as if the service is an optional extra; car dealerships will add maintenance and destination fees, etc. The bottom line is: there is no way to pay the advertised price and get the advertised item.

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#17

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America It’ a minor thing, but everyone asking “how are you” without wanting to know the answer.

Huhlaka , Free-Photos Report

Paul K. Johnson
Community Member
5 months ago

The worst part is when you ask someone, 'How's it going?' and then the start to tell you.

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#18

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Flags everywhere. Not just in front of people's homes, but in front of everything. I even saw a US flag in front of a supermarket. WTF.

EnoughMaintenance , Brian Cantoni Report

Claire B
Community Member
5 months ago

It wasn't like that before 9-11. Just a normal amount of flags and proper flag displays. Now people stick them in trees and on cars and all kinds of places.

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#19

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Ads for prescription medicines. Like what the actual hell.

qbnaith , Clean Wal-Mart Report

wandile dludlu
Community Member
5 months ago

This is where anti vaxxer were born... The Americans all think they know better because ads have made it seem so. They start telling doctors which medication they want since they saw it on tv

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#20

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Extreme air conditioning — like fridge temperature inside.

Grumpy_Yuppie , Open Grid Scheduler Report

Troux
Community Member
5 months ago

Agreed. 65F/18C in my office blows my mind! Are sweaters and air conditioners made by the same company?

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#21

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Portion sizes, vehicle sizes, road sizes, house sizes.

UsernameCensored , n.karim Report

Mewton’s Third Paw
Community Member
5 months ago

We got a lot of space here.

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#22

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America I thought the gap in bathroom stall doors was a myth until I visited the US. Didn’t get privacy for my five-day stay. How do you s**t when someone can look you in the eye?!

watercolorinc , iwishmynamewasbrian Report

rgr8
Community Member
5 months ago

You don't.

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#23

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Seeing an 80 year old woman working behind the register at a supermarket

Dominusatrox , Preserving Retail & More Report

Marc
Community Member
5 months ago

Overall, I don't think you can generalize that either. It certainly also depends on the attitude to work. Some people don't see work as work, but as a purpose in life and even necessary for life. Especially in old age, for many people it means staying alive if they still have a purpose in life. If someone feels fit enough and enjoys it, then I don't see the problem there. I think we also have to get away from the idea that old age has to mean retirement. For example, I would also like to work into old age. It's a different matter when someone is frail and ill, but has to work because otherwise they have no basis for living. As I said, you can't and shouldn't generalize.

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#24

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America The general weirdness surrounding alcohol. Us Brits went for a drink at lunchtime once and our American friends were referring us to AA

Jagermeister_UK , Daniel Spiess Report

elia 84631
Community Member
5 months ago

I mean in my home country the alchool is allowed to 18+ costumers and America to 21+

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#25

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America The choices of cereal at the breakfast in the hotel all had at least 20% sugar.

kwowo , Ian Ransley Report

elia 84631
Community Member
5 months ago

Was there a law that almost banned food companies to use cartoon characters in snacks for advertisment to children?

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#26

Australian here.

I did a lot of hiking in America around Cali and the south west. My first comment is how amazing your national parks are, backed up by an organised park service. I haven’t seen camp sites in Australia half as organised as yours.

Second was how cheap food is! as i was road tripping I originally planned to cook for myself out the back of my van. But honestly it was cheaper to eat at Denny’s, where I only had to hit breakfast and dinner and I was set for the day - the portion sizes were huge.

Third. Wtf is with your toilets! They are filled to the brim with water, and your poo just sorta floats around until you flush where it then goes around in circles until it goes down the drain. My first few poops in your great nation was really unsettling. But I got used to it by the end.

Fourth. The disparity between rich and poor. Like you see it in Australia a between suburbs bit - but it was just so pronounced in America.

unknown Report

Tabitha L
Community Member
5 months ago

The poop comment made me laugh. But why would poop float anyway? Doesn't it sink to the bottom?

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#27

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America When in Boston someone realised we were British and came over to have a conversation:

"Oh my god, I have a friend in England. She lives in London. Do you know her?"



Hmm, there are 9 million people who live in London, and 65 million in the UK. The chance of me knowing one individual is quite remote!

rb357 , Elliott Brown Report

A Cat Named Dragon
Community Member
5 months ago

Yeah, but we’re hopeless optimists!

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#28

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America The amount of homeless people. People straight-up walking past an elderly woman living on the streets to get to the 7-Eleven.

bighow , Carl Campbell Report

Marc
Community Member
5 months ago

When I was in the U.S. for the first time, I was also very surprised by the incredible number of homeless people. But what I saw much... fascinating (in a sad way) is that many of these homeless people are actually veterans. A country that pretends to be so patriotic that no house facade can be left without a flag, and where soldiers are clearly revered. Apparently, this veneration only lasts until the soldiers are back home or no longer in service. In conversations I then had to learn that these people often return home with e.g. PTSD or physical problems, and they are only rudimentarily supported, if at all. For me, none of this fits together. Estimates range from 300,000 to 500,000 homeless veterans. I still can't wrap my head around that discrepancy today.

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#29

I saw a woman put sugar in her coke at Ihop for breakfast. I've been told that's gross even for other Americans.

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Vic
Community Member
5 months ago

Once I saw a family on the Greyhound, with a cute kid (about 1 -1.5 year old) I was shocked to see the parents put coke cola in the feeding bottle and feed the kid! Please tell me this is not normal.

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#30

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Indoors feels colder than being naked in the winter

RefreshingAC , Nicolas Henderson Report

Rene Berendsen
Community Member
5 months ago

Yeah I never got this. Why set the temp to like 18 degrees celcius if it's 35 outside. Set it to 25 or something. That's still a 10 degree difference. which is huge!

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#31

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Went to Mc Donalds and ordered what i always order. But it tasted completely different. And fanta was just weird orange juice Syrup.

Bugbreach , Takahiro Yamagiwa Report

Becky Samuel
Community Member
5 months ago

McDonald's fries in the UK have 3 ingredients - potato, oil, salt (sometimes a tiny amount of dextrose). McDonald's fries in the USA have 14 ingredients.

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#32

The sheer size of the place is amazing. Each state is its own little country. I lived there for 7 years and visited some different places, and each time I crossed a state line it was like crossing a border in Europe — everything was different again.

pcglightyear Report

Mewton’s Third Paw
Community Member
5 months ago (edited)

Part of why we’re “uncultured.” You can vacation here forever and see tons of different things but still be in America. Of course it’s not nearly the same as international travel, and of course as the years go by, things in the US have become more homogeneous and lame.

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#33

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America How low down the toilets are compared to here in the UK. Went to sit on one, dropped as I thought I'd missed the darned thing then felt like I'd broken my ass on impact. It's like missing the bottom step of the stairs, but even worse.

Karazhan , Pat Guiney Report

Robert Bailey
Community Member
5 months ago

I never noticed a big difference when I was in Europe. But, I think the holes in the floor in Korea would freak this person out.

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#34

During my first visit, I was astonished at the number of small airports and incredible number of small aircraft. So much freedom to fly across a vast country. Amazing.

islandpilot44 Report

A Cat Named Dragon
Community Member
5 months ago

That’s a really interesting perspective that I have never heard anyone say before. Thank you for that!

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#35

Tipping being obligatory, whether it was good service or not.

lauretta12345 Report

Miss Cellania
Community Member
5 months ago

The federally-mandated minimum wage for servers is maybe 15% of a living wage -often just enough to cover income taxes. This allows the restaurant industry to effectively outsource labor costs. The diner pays the restaurant for the food, and pays the server separately for the service. It's a horrible system, and income varies widely from business to business according to the clientele. But until the system is changed, tip your server!

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#36

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Movies set in New York prepare you for everything except the smell of [poop].

carbonar0 , Helen Alfvegren Report

Nela Rothenbach
Community Member
5 months ago

It doesn't even smell that bad....I mean here and there but it's not like you have to walk around holding your breath

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#37

I was going to count the number of American flags I saw on my two weeks in Florida.

I gave up on the ride from Miami Airport to South Beach.

unknown Report

Micah Patchen
Community Member
5 months ago

There is a difference between patriotism and being a zealot. I always felt flags were used to unify A people, but here, flags are revered in a way that is borderline sacrilegious.

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#38

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Jay walking and the lack of pavement/sidewalk on many roads. I found it so hard to just get from one place to another.

DaveLakowski , Elvert Barnes Report

Alan Green
Community Member
5 months ago

As I Brit watching US tv/movies I always wondered what "Jay walking" meant. We have no such thing over here. When I found out I was like "You can get arrested for crossing a road??" Mind blown. How are you supposed to walk anywhere? I guess you can't. Another reason they have an obesity problem.

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#39

1. You guys do not seem to have have touch and go card payment systems. A lot of places still rely on signatures.

2. Almost all food tastes sweet, including bread.

3. Credit history anywhere outside of the US isn’t considered “real” and will not hep prove you’re a real person when you want to open a bank account.

back-in-black Report

ProfessionalTimeWaster
Community Member
5 months ago

I've heard some crazy stories in Suze Orman show about "my mom opened a credit card in my name and didn't pay".........isn't there checks and balances in place?

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#40

Europeans-Reveal-Weirdest-Things-Visiting-America Perfect strangers asking me how I am doing.

FakeRealist , Boganm9p Report

Troux
Community Member
5 months ago

How are my fellow Pandas doing today?

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