25 Culture Shocks Americans Get In Europe, As Shared By People In This Online Thread

Published 4 weeks ago

When it comes to cultural differences, the world is a rich tapestry of unique customs, traditions, and quirks. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene landscapes of Scandinavia, each region has its own set of norms that may seem perfectly ordinary to locals but can leave outsiders scratching their heads in confusion.

One such exploration into cultural disparities emerged from a Reddit thread discussing what’s considered normal in Europe and elsewhere, yet might appear downright peculiar to the average American.

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Image source: LongrodVonHugedong86, Mateusz Dach/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Holidays/Vacation/Paid Time Off – Call it what you like – but Americans simply don’t understand it.

Not to mention workers rights that don’t require you to be part of a Union to have. We just have them as standard.

From dating an American who came to the U.K. to study, she was shocked by how much holidays we get and how secure our rights are as employees.


Image source: MTFinAnalyst2021, Hannah Gibbs/Pexels (not the actual photo)

I am American, living in Germany. I never realized so many American-artist songs have the work F**K in them until I moved here lol…all the “bad” words are edited out in the U.S. on the radio. Here, nope, uncensored. Americans are numb to gunned down children, but bring out the F word and oh we cannot have that! Idiocy.


Image source: ninjomat, RDNE Stock project/Pexels (not the actual photo)

England: The number of people including politicians who are publically atheist. Not saying all Americans are crazy religious I’m sure for most it’s just something you put on a census and go to church maybe once a year. But I’ve heard it’s very taboo in the US to nonchalantly say you don’t believe in god, which is sort of the default here if you get chatting about religion.


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From the UK, where there is no gun culture. There are no gun shops. You cannot defend yourself with a gun, largely because the other guy won’t have a gun either.


Image source: bullet_bitten, Max Vakhtbovycn/Pexels (not the actual photo)

I’m a Finn, we go to sauna, naked. It’s normal you’ve seen your friends and family members naked. It’s not sexual nor is it embarrassing.


Image source: Confident_Yam3132, Elijah O’Donnell/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Germany: Standing at a red light in the middle of the night on an empty street waiting for the light to turn green. We do not question the meaning of rules.


Image source: AminoKing, cottonbro studio/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Swedish elevator etiquette:

1. if I can hear you breathe, your presence is too intrusive

2. if you look directly at me, I will mentally stab you

3. if you engage me in small-talk, you are no longer welcome in the country.


Image source: Kikkervelf, Mizzu Cho/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Belgium: My brother In law once held a bottle of wine in an American supermarket (“Can you put it in the cart, son?”) and all of the Americans looked shocked. The idea of a child holding a bottle of alcohol…

They were much more lenient regarding guns though.


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In the Netherlands we have something called a ‘dropping’, which is where we pull our kids out of bed in the middle of the night, dump them in the woods without phones and make them find their own way back. This is very common to do at school camps and with the scouts. Its is completely normal and dutch kids find it rather exciting and not traumatizing at all.

Considering many Americans consider letting your kids play in the front lawn unattended, or letting them cycle around the suburbs by themselves, negligent parenting this is probably quite shocking to them too.

I have to note however, we have no large predators, only a couple wolves, but in very confined areas. Also, the optimal route is commonly only about 30 mins walking, which never happens ofc, and it is hard to not hit a road with signs or a village by walking in an arbitrary direction for half an hour in the Netherlands.


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Germany: Children in primary/grade school walk to school by themselves or in groups each morning, unsupervised.

We have ~~naked~~ nude areas at lakes and beaches. Or in parks, very rarely. .


Image source: peggyzyy, Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels (not the actual photo)

I’m non-European but once studied & lived in both US and Europe. Based on my observations of a few European countries (disclaimer ahead: not all
European countries are like this):

– Home schooling being illegal except in very narrow and absolutely necessary cases.
– Surrogacy being illegal
– Good public transportation, which leads to
– Very young kids take buses, trams, underground, or ride bicycles to school and go home
– drinking alcohol at 18 or even younger
– wearing school uniforms
– No AC in the house
– not allowed to talk loudly in public
– parents allow their kids to stay overnight at their partners’ houses & vice versa
– Religion being a personal thing that doesn’t shove down other people’s throats; openly saying you are non-religious/agnostic/atheist
– Comprehensive sex ed > abstinence-only

All I can think so far.


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PDA and a lack of prudism. I saw a tiktok of a guy freaking out because a girl was sitting on his boyfriend’s lap at the train. If he ever came to Spain he’d leave traumatized due to the huge amount of people that shamelessly make out on the streets, sunbathe naked, etc.


Image source: 1agomorph, Efrem Efre/Pexels (not the actual photo)


* The ability to immigrate to a non-Swedish citizen who lives in Sweden, as a partner in a same-sex, unwed couple.

* No screens on the windows and no AC in homes, businesses or public transit (and yes, it does get hot here).

* In Stockholm, it takes an average of 9 years of waiting in a rental queue to be able to rent an apartment (or you can sublet for hugely inflated prices). Once you sign a rental contract, your waiting time starts over again. People trade rental contracts in order to be able to move apartments, and rental contracts are sold on the black market.

* University is free.

* TV dramas about teenagers having lots of great sex, shows about sex are shown on national public television.

* Servers/waitstaff are paid a living wage. Tips are not required or necessarily expected.

* A visit to the doctor costs about $25. All healthcare is free for a year after you’ve paid $140/year in fees. Giving birth is free. Cancer treatment is free (once you’ve paid $140/year).

* Everyone eats mushrooms and berries they find in the woods. Wild foraging is a very common pastime

* Taking a dip in a hole in the ice of a frozen lake is a relatively common winter weekend activity.

* Your running water/warm water/heating is usually paid for by the rental company.

* Salty, ammonia-flavored licorice is considered delicious

* Carrying pepper spray requires a permit

* Carrying any size of knife or sharp object in public is illegal, except when required by work, or some other justifiable purpose (like mushroom hunting).

* Only 6% of the Swedish population has a license to own a firearm


Image source: GeronimoDK, Yan Krukau/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Denmark: Babies sleeping outside. In particular babies sleeping alone in public outside restaurants or shops for example.


Image source: Matttthhhhhhhhhhh, Jer Chung/Pexels (not the actual photo)

France. Eating proper meals at school and not snacks. I wouldn’t have imagined eating a pack of chips, pizza or industrial slices bread. Lunches were cooked on site and consisted of proper dishes like a restaurant.

Also, non overly friendly staff in shops or restaurants that don’t treat clients like royalty. You won’t have a waiter come to you ask if everything is fine every 2 minutes. Or very polite staff in shops, quite the opposite. There’s a reason French people have the reputation of being rude. ;).


Image source: Tubafex, Allan Mas/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Netherlands: Children from around the age of six being able to play outside on the streets and in the woods and meadows with other children on their own, unsupervised. At least in the villages. As long as they are home before supper and the parents have a general idea of where they are.


Image source: Honest-School5616, Isabella Mendes/Pexels (not the actual photo)

The Netherlands: Drinking alcohol around children is very normal. On a nice day you see families sitting comfortably in the park with a glass of wine in their hand and the children playing around them.


Image source: ordealofmedusa, Said/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Austria: As an assistant manager I regularly had to calm American customers down because the staff in our souvenir shop told them that they are busy at the moment (not with other customers) and can’t help them with finding certain items. Never any other nation had a problem with that.

(But Americans are usually the only ones anyway asking for the manager. Only once in my career one Chinese woman asked for one but that was it).


I attended university in 3 different European countries, got my masters, and just paid about 50 euros in total fees for 10 years of studying (I wasn’t in a hurry to finish, as classes were interesting, I learned a lot and had fun)

And all these universities were better than expensive private colleges in USA (I work as IT in expensive private college in NYC so I know).

Image source: t3chguy1


Image source: Ostruzina, Lukas Hartmann/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Living comfortably without a car or a driving licence. Even if someone has a car, they only use it for transporting something heavy or going for journeys outside of town, not for daily commuting.

Daily commuting by trains and train stops in every other village.

Parents and other family members letting little children drink alcohol. I’m pretty sure I was a toddler when I had beer for the first time. On the weekends we all had a glass of beer after lunch, and at the family gatherings everyone got a glass of alcohol for a toast. (I hope most young parents nowadays wouldn’t do that. I’m 30.).


Image source: kompocik99, Luke Miller/Pexels (not the actual photo)


Married couples often refer to their parents in-law as just “mom” and “dad”.

Everyone is sir/madam until you both decide otherwise. Calling adult person you just met “you” or their name is a big no-no.

Pasta or rice with strawberries and cream is a summer dessert.

Majority of people here would hate the idea of store staff smiling at them and offering help all the time.

Eating inside with your hat on is considered rude af.


Image source: dutchyardeen, Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels (not the actual photo)

I’m am American living in Portugal and one thing that surprised me is you just take off your clothes in front of the doctor.

In the US, they give you privacy and you take off your clothes and put on a gown. Then the doctor or nurse knocks and comes in. Here, you go the gynecologist and you just take off your pants and undies and hop right up into the stirrups. A friend said she was shocked to not be given a robe for her mammogram. Just shirt and bra right off and letting it all hang out.

Makes sense! They’re going to see your bits and bobs anyway! It’s more efficient to not have that extra step in between.


Image source: WyvernsRest, Anete Lusina/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Irish people swear and curse creatively, it’s like punctuation and emphasis in normal speech. And our religious comments are also not appreciated.

“Christ on a bike”
“Jesus, Mary and St. Joe”
“F**k him and the horse he rode in on”.


Image source: cragglerock93

We have Right to Roam in Scotland and whenever I’ve seen this discussed on Reddit, what I assumed to be a near-universally popular policy has been torn to shreds by Americans. It’s anathema to them, it fries their brains.

“So a homeless person can just pitch a tent in your yard and you can’t get rid of them???!!!!”

“So people can just come onto a farmer’s land and destroy his crops????!!!!”

“So people can just get access to military installations and airports??!!!”

No amount of explaining that’s not how it works will calm them.


Image source: WyllKwick, Rodolfo Clix/Pexels (not the actual photo)

Religion not being a thing that comes up, ever, unless there is a very specific reason for it. It doesn’t matter if you’re atheist, christian, Catholic or muslim. Finns don’t care about what anyone else believes, and even those of us who do care, consider it a private issue that you shouldn’t pry into unless the person you are talking to offers that information voluntarily.

Saumya Ratan

Saumya is an explorer of all things beautiful, quirky, and heartwarming. With her knack for art, design, photography, fun trivia, and internet humor, she takes you on a journey through the lighter side of pop culture.

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america vs europe, American vs European, americans, culture shocks, European things that shock Americans
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