25 Surprising Things Foreigners Encountered During Their Visit to the US

Published 2 weeks ago

Visiting the United States can be a cultural eye-opener for many international travelers. The sheer scale and diversity of the country mean that experiences can vary widely from one state to another.

Recently, a Reddit user posed the question, “Non-Americans of Reddit who’ve visited America, what was the most ‘American’ moment of the visit?” The responses ranged from humorous to heartwarming, offering a fascinating glimpse into what makes the U.S. unique through the eyes of visitors. Here are some of the standout answers.

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Image source: zerbey, Mike Mozart / flickr

I’ve lived here 25 years so I’m used to all the fun Americanisms. I’ll answer for my British Mother when she visited for the first time. She went to the grocery store and saw Easy Cheese, which is cheese in a spray bottle. She talked about that the rest of the trip, and still brings it up now and then as the most weirdly American thing she ever saw.


Image source: Parthorax, Barbara Olsen / pexels

An old couple running a family run horse ranch, talking about their history, how their great grandparents acquired that bit of land, while their two daughters and son taught us horseback riding.

The way they talked about nature, freedom, their dreams and aspirations, so different to our home country and our own culture, while still sounding faintly familiar, as if he was talking about a really old dream I used to have. It’s hard for me to put into words, but that scene, the surroundings, the air, every sensation, never left me, and but for a brief moment, allowed me to kind of understand the Americans a little more. I truly hope they all are doing well and that America never loses this special way of striving for a new frontier.

Sounds probably ridiculous, but it was very special to me.


Image source: milespoints, Ketut Subiyanto / pexels

American immigrant from Europe…

On my first week in the US, i walked into one of those chain coffee shops and ordered a coffee. When prompted for a size, i pondered that I had not slept that much (jet lag) and selected an extra large.

You know what we call those extra large coffee mugs in the old country? Buckets. What I got was a bucket of coffee.


Image source: yycokwithme, jeffreyw / flickr

Montana after driving across the Canadian border:

Eating in a breakfast diner that actually had stacks of pancakes with the little square of butter on top, just like I had always seen in movies. The waitress was pouring coffee into everyone’s cups, talking about the “potata salad” and saying “sir” and “ma’am” after every sentence. It was so quaint.

Then I noticed a guy with a gun on his belt, wearing a shirt that read, “I’d rather be a Mormon than a Moron”.

The amount of Jesus and Stars and Stripes on that one little drive was peak America, from my outsider perspective.


Image source: 17balls, C. Stone / pexels

I am a European and the most American thing I saw was a guy riding on a motorcycle with an eagle flying beside him which he could call back by whistling. His bike also had American flags all over it.


Image source: eezgorriseadback, dcpamom / flickr

As if going to the NASCAR wasn’t ‘Merican enough, before going into the stadium, my mate and I had a walk around the fan park they had built outside it. Within 5 minutes of being there, I heard an engine being revved up to within an inch of its life, and the smell of petrol filled the air.

Turned around, and this engine was on board a Harley Davidson three wheeler, on which there was this big f**k off drum kit built onto it, driven by a bloke in full leathers, bandana, shades, the lot. All of a sudden “Born To Be Wild” blasted out of the speakers also attached to it, and the bloke started playing the drums along to the tune, and started badly singing the lyrics, revving the engine every so often in random places.

I felt like I was American myself by the end of it.


Visited Arizona for first time last year. Took a photograph of a fishing lake whilst in Papago Park outside Phoenix, as I thought it made a cool mock photo of an “oasis” in the desert. My picture was photo bombed by what I am reliably informed was a bald eagle. Felt like a genuinely very American moment in a “wow! That seems lucky and pretty cool” sort of way

Image source: LongTimeFaller


My wife and I (Canadians) wanted to visit Detroit on a weekend because we love art-deco architecture and beautiful old record stores. We didn’t realize there was a Lion’s game on and we said f**k it…let’s go to the Market area (Sorry I forget the actual name) where there were thousands of people tailgating. Might not seem like a big deal, but to a non-American, the metric f**kton of good vibes, fried food and sheer *passion* people had for football was awesome. We had a great time :)

Image source: Stepside79


Image source: lLikeCats, Brett Sayles / pexels

I was shocked at the number of American flags just everywhere. I would be hard pressed to find a Canadian flag outside of schools and government buildings. There were American flags at the mall, random streets, stores, backyards, front yards, convenience stores etc.


Image source: keepstaring, waferboard / flickr

The morning after a late night landing in Atlanta, we discovered a diner almost next to the hotel. We decided to go there for breakfast. Our first, European, instinct was to walk but it was impossible to reach by foot even though it was less then 100 meters aways. When we walked in, there were 3 cops sitting at the counter, drinking coffee and eating doughnuts while shooting the s**t with the server. We felt like we walked onto a movie set, it was so cliché.


Image source: genghiskhan_1, Jack Sparrow / pexels

Formerly a non-american, i noticed was how grocery store employees at the cash register are not allowed to sit.


Image source: kororon, George Pak / pexels

I think for me was noticing that strangers can randomly strike up a conversation with you. I’ve been in this country for more than 20 years now so I’m used to it. But I remember being weirded out by it before.


Image source: JustLoitering, Kseniya Buraya / pexels

On a bus trip to the Everglades our English accents must have been overheard, and a minute later we were asked several questions about princess Diana by 3 different people.

They couldn’t understand that- 1. We couldn’t remember where we were, when we she died. (Given it was about 15 years earlier. 2. We didn’t really have much to say about it, except from “yeah was sad wasn’t it”


Image source: tudorwhiteley, Kanko* / flickr

Was visiting the Smokey Mountains for some hiking.

I was excited to visit a pancake house. My wife ordered waffles and couldn’t finish her meal. She still had three 7cm (2 inch) across balls of vanilla ice cream on her plate.

She offers to let me have it… bliss ensues… until I take my first bite and realize it was butter…WHO THE HELL needs THREE balls of butter that big for some waffles… it never even crossed my mind that it was butter.



Image source: DismalClaire30, ELEVATE / pexels

People being super friendly in bars.

I loved the bar vibe. In London people can be friendly but reserved first, and that wastes time. In the US people make the effort.

I thought that’d be nice to share in a thread where people probably tend to badmouth American stuff.


Image source: woogychuck, Pete Jelliffe / flickr

I’m posting on behalf of an older friend.

Several years ago one of my friends reached out because there was a new international student joining a local college and their parents were hoping to find somebody in the US to help them out. The first day they came to visit us had a couple of major coincidences that created a weirdly over the top American experience.

Based on talks before they arrived, the two biggest things they wanted to do was walk around the downtown area to make sure it was safe and get some American BBQ.

We went to a local BBQ restaurant that serves a huge family style meal on a giant shovel (it’s called KCs Rib Shack in Manchester, NH). The dad was absolutely blown away and took like 30 photos before we could eat. We then went downtown but didn’t realize that there was both a classic car show downtown and a Elvis impersonator competition going on. this family that had never been outside of Japan ate brisket out of a shovel then immediately walked around looking at classic muscle cars while dozens of dudes dressed like Elvis walked around. We kept trying to explain that it was an abnormally “American” day, but the family was just so blown away and overwhelmed the whole time. The last time I talked to the student, she said her dad still talks about the BBQ shovel, car, Elvis day all the time.


Image source: kasparzellar, Vlada Karpovich / pexels

It sounds so dumb.. yellow school buses.

I’m Australian, so we only see yellow buses in movies so to see an actual yellow school bus was a dream come true for my 20 year old self.


Image source: shiroboi, Rene Schwietzke / flickr

I asked a Japanese friend this. This is what he replied.

“The first bit of culture shock that I experienced was watching a woman drink coke directly out of a two litre bottle. The second bit of culture shock I experienced was noticing that the woman was shaped like the bottle”


Image source: parallel_jay, cara fealy choate / flickr

Had chicken-fried bacon at some breakfast BBQ place on the I5 between Seattle and Portland.

Was it delicious? Yes

Did it probably take at least a few days off my life? Also yes.

And it was just the starter to my biscuits and gravy. Damn I wish I could remember the name of that place. I would 100% go back there.


Image source: smallcoder, Alaina McDavid / flickr

Probably visiting Austin, Texas back in 2000 and asking the cab driver to take me and my friends to a store to buy a cowboy hat (hey, when in Rome… :)) and Steve, our cab driver for the week we were there (he gave us his cell number) too us to some shopping park and a store called “Hats, Boots & Guns”. I have never been to such a brilliant, pure USA hell yeah place in all my other trips to the USA from the UK. Ended up with a great black stetson and gawped at all the guns behind the counter in amazement. If I’d had more money would have loved a pair of boots as they had every style imaginable. Then a few days into the trip, Steve the driver invited us to come to his place out of town on the weekend to shoot some guns. Sadly – or luckily, I will never know – we had to fly back that weekend. He was great and friendly as were all the people we met. USA may be a crazy colourful and strange place to us Brits, but you sure are friendly and welcoming.


Image source: Fakezaga, Quinn Dombrowski / flickr

Five guys dressed as the Statue of Liberty arguing in Spanish over turf in Times Square.


Image source: mjc1027, Luke Jones / flickr

I’ve lived in America for 25 years, became an American citizen last year. My first time here was during Halloween, I stayed with friends, who had bought an ungodly amount of candy for the holiday.

They lived in a Denver suburb, lots of kids in the neighborhood. It was like a scene out of ET, even l when they go trick or treating, sidewalks were just full of kids.

That’s the most American thing I’ve seen, apart from free refills.


Image source: TheRealCeeBeeGee, WhatTheHosenHey / reddit

Went to a conference in 2023. I had been in Florida less than 3 hours when I saw a car with one of those stick figure family stickers in the back, except it was guns as the figures. It was jarring to say the least.


Image source: honeycomb286, Patrick Grace / flickr

Went to watch Monster Trucks at the Georgia Dome (RIP) with family during the winter. We were a group of 6 brown people in coats and beanies and gloves amongst 59,994 rednecks wearing trucker caps, shorts, and sleeveless flannel shirts. Had my first Bud Light and funnel cake. What a time.


Image source: Pickwick-the-Dodo, Elle Hughes / pexels

Going into a Savalot supermarket and discovering the meat counter had an option for you to drop off a deer carcass to get it prepared by the butcher.

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, American things, americans, travel, travelers, USA
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