20 American Oddities That Completely Baffle Foreigners

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For better or for worse, Americans are known for many things people from other countries find odd. Odd doesn’t necessarily mean bad, it just means, well, a bit hard to believe. A member of an online community wrote, “What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? He continues, “I’m from Bangladesh, and there are a few things I find hard to explain to peeps back home.”

America, You Won’t Believe It Till You See It

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His long list of things he finds hard to explain has garnered thousands of upvotes and hundreds of comments since he posted it. Here are a few ideas that he says his friends back home find unbelievable.

1. Fruits and Vegetables Are Way More Expensive Than Meat and Poultry

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“Fruits and vegetables are way more expensive than meat and poultry.”

This might be a bit of a shocker, especially if you’ve grown up in a country where plant-based foods dominate the dinner table. The reasons for this are complex and can be traced back to agricultural subsidies, farming practices, and even transportation costs. In the United States, meat and poultry production is often heavily subsidized, making these items more affordable to the average consumer.

Fun Fact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spends about $20 billion a year on agricultural subsidies. Most of this money goes to supporting the production of commodities like corn and soybeans, which are often used to feed livestock.

2. That, Generally Speaking, the Poor Are More Obese Than the Rich

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“That, generally speaking, the poor are more obese than the rich.”

It’s a paradoxical twist on the old adage “you are what you eat.” You might think that those with less money to spend would naturally be thinner, but the truth is quite the opposite. Cheap food in America often equates to processed, high-calorie items, leading to higher obesity rates among the less affluent.

Fun Fact: Mississippi, one of the poorest states in America, also has the highest rate of obesity.

3. That Americans, in General, Are Incredibly Confused About the Use of the Apostrophe

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“That Americans, in general, are incredibly confused about the use of the apostrophe. Like seriously bad.”

It’s a punctuation predicament that continues to baffle both natives and foreigners alike. From its use in contractions to possessive forms, the poor apostrophe is often misused or forgotten completely. “It’s” or “its”? “You’re” or “your”? The apostrophe conundrum continues.

Fun Fact: The Apostrophe Protection Society was actually a thing. It was founded in the UK in 2001 by a retired journalist, John Richards, to preserve the correct use of this currently endangered punctuation mark. Sadly, it was disbanded in 2019 due to the “ignorance and laziness present in modern times.”

4. A Lot of Couples Adopt Children, Sometimes in Spite of Having Their Own

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“A lot of couples adopt children, sometimes in spite of having their own, and treat them exactly like their own. (To me, this alone is a marker of a great people.)”

And why not? After all, love doesn’t discriminate on the basis of biology. The heartening trend of adoption in America reflects a deep societal commitment to providing loving homes for those in need.

Fun Fact: November is recognized as National Adoption Month in the United States, a month dedicated to raising awareness about the adoption of children from foster care.

5. By and Large, People Do Not Carry Cash

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“By and large, people do not carry cash.”

It’s true! In the age of Apple Pay, Venmo, and credit cards, the almighty dollar bill has been relegated to the status of a relic. The convenience of digital transactions has largely phased out the need for physical currency, and many places are now accepting cashless payments exclusively.

Fun Fact: The U.S. Mint once made a $20 coin called the “Double Eagle.” It was first minted in 1850 but didn’t really catch on – probably because carrying around a bunch of heavy gold coins isn’t nearly as convenient as a credit card!

6. That You Address Your Boss (And Some of Your Professors) By Some Abbreviated Variation of Their First Name

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“That you address your boss (and some of your professors) by some abbreviated variation of their first name. And that applies to pretty much everyone, regardless of how much older they are than you.”

Welcome to the land of informality, where titles take a backseat to first names. It’s all a part of the American ethos of equality and approachability, where walls are broken down (at least linguistically) between different hierarchical levels.

Fun Fact: In Silicon Valley, it’s common for everyone to be on a first-name basis to promote a flat organizational structure, including the CEOs of mega-corporations like Google and Facebook.

7. Parents Can Get Arrested for Physically Punishing Their Children

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“Parents can get arrested for physically punishing their children.”

In many parts of the world, “spare the rod, spoil the child” is still a guiding principle. Not so in America, where child protection laws hold sway, and corporal punishment can lead to legal trouble. It’s all part of a broader societal commitment to protecting the rights and welfare of children.

Fun Fact: The first U.S. state to ban corporal punishment in schools was New Jersey in 1867.

8. Severe Poverty, Homelessness, Etc., No Matter How Limited, Actually Exist

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“Severe poverty, homelessness, etc., no matter how limited, actually exist. Even in America.”

It’s an unfortunate truth that belies the glitz and glamour often associated with the United States. Despite its position as one of the world’s wealthiest nations, income disparity and homelessness remain significant challenges. These issues, while not unique to America, are a stark reminder that economic prosperity isn’t evenly distributed.

Fun Fact: The state of New York has the highest number of homeless people in the U.S., with Los Angeles County following close behind.

9. A Name as Common and as Easy to Pronounce as Mine Is Almost Invariably Incomprehensible to Most Americans

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“A name as common and as easy to pronounce as mine is almost invariably incomprehensible to most Americans.”

It’s a humorous, if somewhat frustrating, reality of the global melting pot that is the United States. With such a rich tapestry of cultures and languages, it’s inevitable that the American tongue might trip over a few foreign syllables. But hey, that’s what makes it all the more interesting, right?

Fun Fact: The most common first name in the world is Muhammad, but in the U.S., it’s James for boys and Mary for girls.

10. America Is Literally Huge

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“America is literally HUGE. My home country is roughly the size of Florida, one of the fifty states.”

The sheer size and geographic diversity of the United States is staggering. From the frozen tundra of Alaska to the sun-soaked beaches of Florida, the landscapes are as varied as they are vast. It’s no wonder that road trips are such a beloved American pastime.

Fun Fact: Alaska is the largest U.S. state by land area. If it were its own country, it would be the 17th largest in the world!

11. The Social Norms and Standards Still Have Very Strong Conservative Religious Influences

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“In spite of society being openly hedonistic and liberal, the social norms and standards still have very strong conservative religious influences.”

America, land of contradictions, where the pursuit of individual freedom often goes hand in hand with deep-rooted religious beliefs. This mix of liberalism and conservatism creates a fascinating cultural landscape that continues to evolve and surprise.

Fun Fact: The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, making the U.S. one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world.

12. People Don’t Really Care About the FIFA World Cup Even Though USA Qualifies

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“People don’t really care about the FIFA World Cup even though USA qualifies.”

It’s a curious fact, considering America’s love for sports. But soccer, or football as the rest of the world calls it, hasn’t quite found the same level of fervor here as baseball, basketball, or American football. Nevertheless, Major League Soccer (MLS) has been gaining ground, and who knows? Maybe the World Cup will one day be as big as the Super Bowl.

Fun Fact: The 1994 FIFA World Cup, held in the United States, still holds the record for the highest average attendance per game in World Cup history.

13. The Importance of Credit Rating/Credit Score

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“The importance of credit rating/credit score.”

In the land of consumerism, your credit score is like your financial report card. From buying a house to getting a cellphone plan, this three-digit number holds immense sway. It’s a system that can seem a bit mystifying to outsiders, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be playing the credit game like a pro.

Fun Fact: The highest possible credit score under the FICO scoring model is 850. However, less than 1.5% of Americans actually achieve this perfect score.

14. Return Policy: You Can Buy Something, Then Return It for a Full Refund

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“Return policy. You can buy something, take it home and even use it, then return it for a full refund.” It’s one of the cornerstones of American consumerism – the buyer is always right. This generous return policy is a testament to the country’s customer-centric approach, where businesses often go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction.

Fun Fact: Retailer Costco is famous for its incredibly generous return policy, which allows customers to return almost any item at any time for a full refund, with very few exceptions.

15. The History Behind Thanksgiving

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“The history behind Thanksgiving.”

This quintessentially American holiday, filled with turkey, stuffing, and family gatherings, has a history that stretches back to the earliest days of the nation. But it’s more than just an excuse to overindulge. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the blessings of the past year and to remember the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims survive their first harsh winter.

Fun Fact: The tradition of pardoning a turkey at Thanksgiving was formalized by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, but the practice dates back to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

16. Black Friday and the Frenzy Associated With It

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“Black Friday and the frenzy associated with it.”

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, is the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season. It’s a whirlwind of deals, discounts, and, sometimes, downright madness. But hey, who can resist a bargain?

Fun Fact: The term “Black Friday” originally referred to a financial crisis in 1869. The current meaning didn’t become widespread until the 1980s.

17. Amazingly Friendly, Hospitable and Helpful People. Yet, a Very Conveniently Private Lifestyle

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“Amazingly friendly, hospitable and helpful people. Yet, a very conveniently private lifestyle.”

The American spirit is a blend of warm hospitality and respect for personal boundaries. It’s not uncommon to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but Americans also value their personal space and alone time.

Fun Fact: The concept of an “American Dream” is deeply ingrained in the country’s culture, emphasizing individualism and the pursuit of personal happiness.

18. American Foreign Policy Is a Very Inaccurate Reflector of Public Consensus

“American foreign policy is a very inaccurate reflector of public consensus.”

The intricacies of diplomacy and international relations often don’t align with public opinion. While the average Joe might not be gung-ho about every international decision, the gears of government continue to turn, often following long-established geopolitical strategies.

Fun Fact: The U.S. Department of State, responsible for carrying out the country’s foreign policy, has diplomatic relations with approximately 180 countries and maintains embassies in nearly 140.

19. Grinding — The Dance Form

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“Grinding. The dance form.”

It’s a dance style that might raise a few eyebrows (and possibly blushes) among the uninitiated. A staple in clubs and dance parties, grinding is a testament to America’s eclectic mix of cultural influences and its openness to different forms of self-expression.

Fun Fact: Grinding, or freak dancing, gained mainstream attention in the U.S. in the mid-2000s, but its roots can be traced back to the West African dance style known as “mapouka.”

20. That You Cannot Purchase Alcohol Unless You Are 21 but Can Purchase a Gun if You Are 18

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“That you cannot purchase alcohol unless you are 21 but can purchase a gun if you are 18.”

It’s one of those paradoxes that makes America, well, America. While the drinking age is set at 21, the age to purchase a firearm is lower in many states. This contrast often baffles foreigners and even some Americans.

Fun Fact: The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which compelled states to set the drinking age at 21 by withholding ten percent of federal highway funding from states that kept the age at 18, was signed into law in 1984.

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Featured Image Credit: Deposit Photos. This post was produced by Our Woven Journey. Source

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Demi Michele is a seasoned traveler, turned freelance writer. Having explored most states and ventured internationally, her love for outdoor cafes, new cuisines, and cultural immersion shines through her wide range of articles. Based in Texas with her family and two Scottish Terriers, Demi turns her adventures into captivating travel narratives to share with readers.