Grabbing coffee to-go, laughing so loud the windows tremble, and keeping your shoes on when walking into someone’s home don’t raise a single American brow. But it’s a whole different story if we are talking non-Americans who moved to the land of the free and are just getting used to things the American way.

So when one Reddit user put up a question “Non-Americans who moved to the US, what are some social customs that have been the hardest for you to get used to?” on r/AskReddit, people who left their native lands had a whole bunch of stuff to comment on.

From showing thumbs up, which is considered rude in foreign countries, to finding potluck dinners super odd, and realizing bidets are off the map, these are some of the most illuminating answers people shared.

#1

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Still blows my mind that healthcare isn't free, and people actually go bankrupt, legitimately bankrupt, from medical bills.

graygreen , Images Money Report

BorPand8
Community Member
3 months ago

Medical bills are the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the US. Google says it's at around 2/3 and rising.

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#2

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans The work culture! You get so few vacation days and most people didn't use them all for fear of what it looks like. In the UK, if we don't use all our days, HR will normally ask us if everything is okay

ObjectiveTumbleweed2 , Karl Bedingfield Report

YupItsMe1234
Community Member
3 months ago (edited)

Being an American that works for a European company I'm still jealous that my employees who sit in Switzerland and Germany get almost double the days off that I do.

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#3

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Strangers asking you what church you go to. Or the rather competitive nature of religion here. It seems less important to actually believe and more important to let people know how much you believe.

RCKJD , Guilherme Colombo Report

WilvanderHeijden
Community Member
3 months ago

Best part is that you can have your own church, find some gullible people and live like a king on the expense of the poor fools that believe in you and you can even apply for tax exemptions. Being a televangelist is very profitable in the US.

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#4

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Saying "I'm Irish" but they haven't been to Ireland and neither have their parents.

Big_Appointment1200 , wikipedia Report

Daniel Lewis
Community Member
3 months ago

I’m Garden of Edenean. But that was about 230 generations ago.

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#5

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans The pride people have in being unhealthy, ignoring serious symptoms, proudly eating like crap, proudly not exercising. And yet having the most expensive health care system in the world and refusing to accept alternatives. "that's whack man"

Barry_Boots , D.L. Report

Daria Z
Community Member
3 months ago

This is just sad 😢

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#6

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans The crazy giant gaps in bathroom stalls. It drives me insane. My partner told me that it's there to prevent people from doing drugs/having sex. But I still don't understand why I need to see everyone while I poop.

I'm from Israel.

adometze , ttarasiuk Report

Tovah Roche
Community Member
3 months ago

I'm American and it drives me insane too.

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#7

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Keeping my shoes on when walking into someone's home. I feel like a barbarian

fidelkastro , Heather Report

troufaki13
Community Member
3 months ago

Same here!! I find it so weird in movies that they're in the house with their shoes still on. I'm like, give your feet a break ffs!!

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#8

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans There is a toot-your-own-horn culture here in my experience that I find hard to deal with, especially in the workplace. It's not usually a typical someone saying they're good at something, it's more about making themselves out to be better and top-dog.

I'm from the UK and I'd say we are kind of modest.

Also, writing the date, I just can't get used to writing it with the month first.

Spiralstatic32 Report

varwenea
Community Member
3 months ago

My logic - YYYY-MM-DD. Using this method, all my files in the same folder are always in the right order even if I edit older ones.

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#9

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Tipping culture is so alien to me as an Australian. I always over-tipped because I was never sure — some people would react like I'd made their day for what I thought wasn't a big tip. Coincidentally, I forgot to tip a bartender once and I was made to feel like the worst person ever

isometricbacon , wikipedia Report

B Dus
Community Member
3 months ago

If an employer would pay his employees a decent salary, this wouldn't be a problem. I'm from Europe and only tip when the service or food was beyond expectations.

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#10

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Pledge of allegiance. There's literally no other country that I've ever been to that does this! This is so strange and I feel so uncomfortable whether or not I do it.

Using the word "patriotic" in a good way. Seriously, I'd always thought it meant "blindly loving your country and think it's the best", which that definition would fit a lot of Americans better.

thoughtsmachine , Michigan Municipal League Report

Eglė Bukauskaitė
Community Member
3 months ago

we used to do that in Soviet times..

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#11

Not a social custom, but when i returned from my study abroad in Europe back to the US, I realized how enormous everything is here. The houses, cars, stores, drinks, food portions, and unfortunately many of the people.

soulsista12 Report

Joeshar
Community Member
3 months ago

Big Gulp: 1Lt of beverage in a cup. And people are drinking it while driving.

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#12

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Saying "hi how are you?" to strangers and nobody actually answering the question.

The size of food serving when going out to eat.

Thanksgiving and black friday.

And lastly, the fact that every form I have to fill out, they ask my race.

I guess these are not technically social customs, or maybe they are, but I find all of the above very strange. Ugh, I'll never get used to living here.

sick_sadlittleworld , wikipedia Report

Tiari
Community Member
3 months ago (edited)

I always wonder about that race thingy. If a person has three Caucasian grandparents and one African-American - are they supposed to check the African-American box? Why? The Caucasian box? Both? These would be logical for me. Or is it depending on their looks? But then, everyone in the family could be different.

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#13

The politicization of everything

Hugo28Boss Report

Music Mania
Community Member
3 months ago

Drives a lot of people from here nuts too. I can't tell you how many times I've yelled at someone that wearing a mask isn't a political issue.

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#14

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans That Fahrenheit nonsense. I just never bothered to learn, always converted to Celsius, and then I ended up moving to Canada. I knew it would pay off to never learn.

THIR13EN , wikipedia Report

Joeshar
Community Member
3 months ago (edited)

Feet-Inch-Yard are the worst. The label at the back of the truck says "keep 30 feet distance" your math should be good while driving.

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#15

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans A friend of mine is Russian. Her parents came to Russia and were still getting used to America. In Russia when you are pulled over by the police you get of the car and walk over to them. Her dad got pulled over and so he got out and started walking towards them. He didn’t know you are supposed to stay in the car. He learned that lesson very quickly.
He didn’t die they didn’t even shoot at him. He did get arrested though.

meh2557 , wikipedia Report

Pamela24
Community Member
3 months ago

"They didn't even shoot at him." - That sounds like that wouldn't be surprising if that happened. That's so scary - if he was not running at them, being aggressive or had a gun on him - why should that be an option?

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#16

Sounding like someone cares about you or your answers when they talk, when all they really care is following their scripts, for tip, sales revenue, door sales etc. The tipping culture. Why tell a burger costs $9.99 when with tax you are supposed to pay $11.25 and are supposed to tip at least 20% to not seem like a cheapskate? When the waitstaff works for under $3 a hour... just make it $15 and pay adequately, please

donottouchthatbrl Report

Bill
Community Member
3 months ago

How does one calculate what they pay in sales tax in VAT counntries?

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#17

My wife is an immigrant so I'll pass on that she struggled with.
The way many American families raise their children until age 18, then send them out the door to make it or beak it in the world. In many other countries, you never stop helping your children by paying for more education (Vo-Tech or college/university) and trying to avoid student loans, they always have a place to live free of rent, and are quite involved in everyday life of the parents, even if just by phone.

Paddington3773 Report

Kisses4Katie
Community Member
3 months ago

I can't imagine not helping my child when he's over 18. I'm his mother. He can be 60 (and I'll be 77 lol) and I'll still help him.

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#18

I moved to Minnesota two years ago. At first I thought I would make friends super easy because people where really friendly but I soon learnt that nobody wanted to make friends. I was mistaking people’s inquisitive nature and need to overshare for genuine friendship foundation laying. I’m from the UK and usually if someone asks you for a beer and chat they want to get to know you, here in the US I’m just an interesting story to tell their real friends about. I found this upsetting at first, but I stopped caring and I did actually make a few good friends in the end.

BusyBeatle Report

Joeshar
Community Member
3 months ago

And fake excitements in the chat. "Woow, it's amazing, you're kidding" But most of them are fake and just to make you feel they found your story interesting which will be forgotten couple of minutes later.

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#19

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans The alcohol laws, in the UK you can drink in private from a very young age as long as you have parental consent and can have one beer/cider/glass of wine in a restaurant as long as you have a meal with it. In America, I tried to hand a pint to my Dad from a bar and the barman started shouting at me telling me to put it down because I wasn’t 21

Finlay1308 , Smabs Sputzer (1956-2017) Report

WilvanderHeijden
Community Member
3 months ago

But you could join the army and "liberate" some country and in the process kill as many people as you want.

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#20

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans How hard it is to make friends in the USA. It seemed pretty easy from where I came (Europe), but after 20 years in the USA, I still don't have friends here.

Snaggy4 , imdb Report

Louloubelle
Community Member
3 months ago

I've lived here my entire life, and other than my sister, I have no real friends. Acquaintances, but no friends.

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#21

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans I still don't know how to get invited to parties, so there's that.

Also the drug TV ads with the long disclaimers while showing video of happy people living their lives. Really weird.

Snoo_47873 , Sarah-Rose Report

jamie1707
Community Member
3 months ago

Don't feel bad. I don't know how to get invited to parties either. As for the drug ad: sick sick sick.

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#22

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans I'm from New Zealand.

Lack of vacation days.

Weird health system tied to employment.

Food portions.

Otherwise it is a pretty easy adjustment.

SteveBored , Paul Townsend Report

Vorknkx
Community Member
3 months ago

Some Americans get shocked when I tell them I have nearly 40 paid days off per year... and I end up using them all ;)

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#23

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Pounds. Ounces. Feet. Miles. I could never get the hang of it.

Pin-Weekly , Peat Bakke Report

T Simmons
Community Member
3 months ago

TRY THE UK. We have miles, meters and yards on our road network

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#24

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans That fake condescending voice people use. I'm not a toddler looking for his mama; talk like a normal person.

SirBitcher , Chip Griffin Report

WilvanderHeijden
Community Member
3 months ago

Not only an American problem. In my country it's a way of speaking that a lot of people in the medical profession use. "You may now take off your shirt so I can examine you." I always answer like: "Well thank you, your majesty, should I kneel and bow down to your mighty stethoscope? "

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#25

The lack of irony in general. And the way most people take themselves very very seriously. Don’t get me wrong, life is hard (especially in the US), but I’ve met VERY few people in the US who can make fun at their own expense - which is considered the norm where I’m from. Not saying one is better that the other - just the biggest difference for me

smedeby11 Report

Joeshar
Community Member
3 months ago

I believe UK is the best place for humour.

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#26

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Town and school spirit are a very big thing here. No one takes high school sports this seriously back in my old school in India

nannydee08 , wikipedia Report

WilvanderHeijden
Community Member
3 months ago

No one takes high school sports this seriously in the entire world. Being a professional cheerleader? Only in the US.

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#27

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Sales tax not being included in the price (got pretty used to it after 4 years, but it still occasionally caught me off guard).

Healthcare bills.

Tailgating on highway (even people complaining about tailgaters were themselves often tailgating).

Porch sitting, people sitting on their porch and watching passers by.

Distances (drove coast to coast, I thought it would never end).

Most men being pretty knowledgable about cars.

Drive thru ATMs, never stopped being funny to me for some reason.

bolyai , Pictures of Money Report

Evil Little Thing
Community Member
3 months ago

What's weird about porch sitting and knowing about cars? One is relaxing and the other is super helpful.

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#28

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans People saying they will pray for me. Either in aggression to insult me by saying I need to be prayed for (as sometimes I can be an a-hole or a victim of prejudice). Or, they are trying to be empathetic when told of a sad/unfortunate situation. Of course, I don't ever doubt that they'll remember.

Zooty007 , Paul David Report

Tiffany Marie
Community Member
3 months ago

Lol. . I hate this almost more then our healthcare system.

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#29

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans Younger Ppl calling adults by (just) their first name. I'm from the Caribbean so can't help but referring to ppl as Mr or Ms. Even if Im familiar with them.

R8em , Luigi Tiriticco Report

Music Mania
Community Member
3 months ago

This just depends on where you are. Where I am everyone is Sir or Ma'am, regardless of age. Calling people you are familiar with by Mr. or Ms. "their name" is up to that person, some people feel it makes them sound older than they want to feel so prefer to be called by just their first name.

RaroaRaroa
Community Member
3 months ago

Times have changed. My friends parents were always "Mrs X" when I was a kid. Now my own kid's friends, kids on her sports team, etc call me by my first name. I don't like being called Mrs anyway. Sounds old. School teachers are the only Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms in my kid's life. If we don't know someone's name, we don't use anything. No Sir or Ma'am in NZ.

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Mike Beck
Community Member
3 months ago

My name is Mike. Not sir or uncle or mister. My nickname is FrootLoop (long story). You wanna piss me off? Call me something that isn't my name.

Meyer Weinstock
Community Member
3 months ago

Me, too. Hi, I'm Mike. Don't drop me.

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MiniMaus
Community Member
3 months ago

It's worse when your parents make you call every other adult "Aunt" or "Uncle" so and so. Worst tradition ever.

BusLady
Community Member
3 months ago

One tradition that is unique to the American South, is to address an older lady as "Miss (first name)." Its considered to be a sign of respect.

Janette Smith
Community Member
3 months ago

That’s a new thing, my generation used Mr. and Mrs., to this day if someone is older than me I use Mr. and Mrs., I’m 61

Ellen Daniels
Community Member
3 months ago

I'm 66 & my mom's best friend & her husband were to be called Aunt & uncle.

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TiaCalenture
Community Member
3 months ago

In my family we use the title then the name: Gramma so so, aunt so so

Hańka
Community Member
3 months ago

And calling teachers by their last name...

Meyer Weinstock
Community Member
3 months ago

I never expected my students to call me Doctor or Professor, but don't use my first name. If they pissed me off, then it's Reverend Doctor for the remainder of the semester.

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Onion rings like to make your breath smelly
Community Member
3 months ago (edited)

Same, I feel really uncomfortable when having to call older people by their first names. Only person i do is a really close friends mom

Azziza
Community Member
3 months ago

Some of us still find that rude.

Lorraine R
Community Member
3 months ago

Now that I'm, um, retirement age, some younger folks call me by my first name preceded by "Miss" (shades of Gone With the Wind). But I don't mind if that's more comfortable for them.

CharliAnn Olney
Community Member
3 months ago

Southern girl plus Military = EVERYONE is Sir or Ma'am

Viv Hart
Community Member
3 months ago

We have a tradition in South Africa as children, of calling friends of your parents Uncle or Auntie, and also neighbours of long standing, others would be Mr or Mrs. When you turn 21, you ask if you may use their first name. It's all about courtesy and manners.

Gilda Farrell
Community Member
3 months ago

Socially, being called Mr. or Mrs. is a barrier. It means you have to be extra polite and deferential to these people. If they are at a social event most Americans don't want barriers between them and others. It can be misleading at a place of employment though. You may work someplace where everyone calls the boss "Elon" or "Mark" but they, and you, must never presume that you are on an equal level. But if I ever meet Donald he'll be "Donald" to me.

Mer☕️🧭☕️
Community Member
3 months ago

That mostly just varies by location and depends even then on the people involved.

Cheryl Fontaine
Community Member
3 months ago

I agree and I've lived in U.S. all my life...kids calling teachers by their first names really turns me off.... no matter what grade the kids are in... that's no way to teach respect.

Ellen Daniels
Community Member
3 months ago

Disagree. Introduces & reinforces the uneven power structure, but doesn't teach respect.

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TwJh
Community Member
3 months ago

Alot of people want to be called by their name. I'm a grown man so I dont call another grown man sir. When I was a kid a called adults sir but when I hit around 20 I stoped.

Mimi M
Community Member
3 months ago

I hate it when customer service or tech support people do this over the phone.

Julie Rosenwinkel
Community Member
3 months ago

This comment has been deleted.

Louloubelle
Community Member
3 months ago

I'm from the US. But I was brought up (and brought up my children) to never call an adult by anything other than Mr. or Mrs. (there was no Ms. when I was a kid). I'm 60, and still have one of the adults that was a neighbor when I was a kid, and she always tells me to call her by her name, and I just can't.

lara
Community Member
3 months ago

That drives me nuts, too. I never call people by their first name unless they are much younger than me or they ask me to call them by their first name. And I am 73 years old. And yes, that did include the black people who worked for my mom and dad or who worked at the stores or who I met in a social setting. Respect is respect.

DogMatic
Community Member
2 months ago (edited)

I'm not sure I understand, Lara. Respect is respect, unless someone is much younger than you? And why would skin colour be a consideration?

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#30

Us-Weird-Social-Customs-Non-Americans According to my parents, it was people giving them thumbs up.

In their country of origin, thumbs up = middle finger in the US. So they kept jumping thinking they were being flipped off by random people. Took years for them to get used to it and understand no one was trying to insult them.

Master-Manipulation , Sarah Reid Report

Daniel Lewis
Community Member
3 months ago

I give a thumbs down to this tradition.

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