20 Tourists To The US Shared The Biggest Culture Shock They Experienced

Published 1 year ago

Travelling is an amazing experience where you get to explore the different ways that people choose to live. These choices ultimately create the culture of that particular society and can vastly differ from country to country and even state to state. 

While the customs of our own countries are naturally ingrained within us, when we travel, it can be a bit of a shock to realise how differently others might operate. One Redditor recently explored the topic of the biggest culture shocks that Europeans experienced when visiting the US and the responses were rather interesting and quite revealing indeed. 

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Image source: Pale-Assistant-9561, Gary Barnes

Everyone calling me honey/love/sweetie. Those words/terms of endearment aren’t used that casually over here (Netherlands).


Image source: Lexi_Phenex, Andrea Piacquadio

I know it’s popular to dunk on Americans, but honestly, for me, it was how friendly everyone was.


Image source: VicMag24

Everybody smiling to one another, as a polish person i just can’t understand that. Everybody is expected to smile to you even if they are sad.


Image source: daaniscool, Tim Douglas

Not necessarily related to the country, but more to the people itself. Americans are by far the most social people I have come across in my travels. It seems like they have mastered the art of small talk with strangers. This has been mostly positive for me as it is really easy to be featured in their social groups. Kind of the opposite is the case in my country (The Netherlands). It has helped me understand why American immigrants in my country struggle with being happy.


Image source: kuridono, Amine Ben Mohamed

Cars, food portions, tips, roads, people, attitudes.
Always fun tho.


Image source: TheJurri, Logan DeBorde

Being from The Netherlands: severely bike unfriendly roads/urban layouts. Everything is designed for car traffic mostly.


Image source: AnnaLiffey, Jon Tyson

The homeless problem. I couldn’t believe the extent of it, it made me really sad.


Image source: HeyHeyBitconeeeeect, Goodnight_Gromit

Toilets with not enough privacy.

What’s with the big gaps around the doors and rest of the cubicle?


Image source: Satures, Blake Wisz

Entering a store in Germany: opening the door to silence or a brief hello. Entering a store in the US: ‘Hello! How are you today? What can I do for you?’ Aaargh, can’t you just ignore me like at home? That was way too much communication.


Image source: The_Queef_of_England, Josephina Kolpachnikof

The food. This was 2001 and I’m from the UK/France. I’d never seen refillable drinks before. I couldn’t believe you could just have as much soda as you wanted and no one was going to think you were stealing. When we ate dinner, entire loaves of bread and a ramakin of butter. Supermarkets packed so high and wide. Turkey drumsticks the size of a t-rex. I was bowled over.


Image source: desertsail912, Ben Mater

My uncle from Ireland driving around Texas: “Is there some sort of national holiday going on that I don’t know about? Why does everyone have a flag showing?” I had to explain about the flags.


Image source: BoardingSchoolBoy, energepic.com

When paying in restaurants they took my debit card away from me and took it away with the waiter. I thought that was really weird.

The waiters were also like obsessive at the table every 2 minutes “everyone okay? Can we get you another drink?” And then before I had even asked for the bill they brought it at the end of the meal, I wanted a pudding but I didn’t know what to do after they brought me the bill without me asking.

Also the meals and drink sizes were huge, the McDonald’s and coke tastes weird and off. All the food had like weird after tastes.

In the supermarket you have like a 100000 different versions of each food, like I had never seen so many different types of Oreo’s in my life.

Having to tip someone 20% for simply doing their job was annoying, like I ordered a pizza and the person yelled at me for not giving him a tip and I had no clue we were even meant to do that


Image source: GrumpiestOldDude, Breakingpic

As someone who grew up there, returning now always gives me culture shock. The worst is probably when I go to Florida to visit my sister. The radio is nothing but pay day loan advertisements. Even my son listening to them says, “that sounds like a scam.” Just the amount of blatant and obvious predation on consumers is jarring and it didn’t used to be that bad.


Image source: Saxon2060, Thang Cao

Military fetish. I knew it existed but just wasn’t prepared for how pervasive it was. Any kind of public event there were announcements asking veterans to stand up and be applauded. Not special military events. The two that come to mind were the Grand Ol’ Opry and a Labour Day thing in Washington DC, but there were other occasions.

I was in the (British) Army Reserve andso kept joking to my wife that I would stand up too and we had a laugh about it . Like “imagine actually lapping this stuff up, lol.”

People wearing an army uniform in public. Weird. (And I was told I mustn’t do that off-duty when I was a reservist.)

People wearing baseball caps with like “USS Eagle. Operation Iraqi Freedom.” And medal ribbons on it or something. Never ever seen a British soldier or ex-soldier wearing something that indicated military service just while they’re going about their civilian life. People who have been in or are in the American military seem to define their *life* by it, even in their civilian affairs/day-to-day life.

In a Bass Pro shop and other places there were all kinds of s****y themed wall “art” like clocks and random ornaments and s**t that said like “LAND OF THE FREE BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE.”

A (chain of?) Military fetish themed BBQ restaurant with like uniforms and medals on the wall and stuff.

Compared to any place I’ve ever been that whole thing is what stands out as the MOST weird and uniquely American. Nowhere else does anything like that.


It’s been almost a decade so things might have changed, but I have a few:

Positive: it’s very easy to connect to complete strangers, up to the point me and my wife got invited to a pick-up beach volleyball game after we met some people in a bar. Was great fun!

Negative: price on fresh vegetables in a grocery store was just staggering, I completely understood why poor families would buy take away instead of freshly cooked meals.

Negative: the amount of “normal” looking homeless people in San Francisco was just insane.

Image source: ThrowRA_1234586


Image source: RenoRamone, Annie Spratt

56 flavours of donuts in a gas station in the middle of nowhere. 56! I counted!


Image source: ZealouslyJaded, Nicola Barts

The work till you drop culture.

There have been people who are proud of the fact they don’t see their families or miss occassionas because they work for ‘the company’..

I used to work for a grocery store and it was close to a cult.


Image source: shakypancakey, Fikri Rasyid

I Lived in America for a year when I was around 8, and foolish me didn’t understand the tax system.

I remember my mother giving me money to go to the store to get ice cream, and being really confused/upset when the cashier told me my $3 was not enough despite that being its labelled price.

I remember thinking to myself how stupid the cashier must be that she couldn’t read the label properly.


Image source: Russiadontgiveaf**k, Dorrell Tibbs

– pretty much zero public transport
– the bars are all so…clean? Every bar I went to was like a fully air-conditioned sports bar, with the tvs and everything. Where I live, the more lived-in, the better the pub.
– everything is sweet. The beer was sweet, the bread, the traditional, home-cooked meals, the f*****g cheese


Image source: MonkeeBoi123, cottonbro studio

I hate, with a flaming passion, those fake hot dogs. I believe they’re called water dogs. The ones that taste like plastic. When I went to New York City, we got one of those, and it was disgusting. It tastes like nothing. Why not just use pork sausages like the rest of the world? It has a weird chewy outer skin, and then the squishy ‘meat’ on the inside. And why is it a beige/pink color? Two bucks for a hot dog that tastes like my local landfill. I have eaten Lego bricks more tasty.

Shanilou Perera

Shanilou has always loved reading and learning about the world we live in. While she enjoys fictional books and stories just as much, since childhood she was especially fascinated by encyclopaedias and strangely enough, self-help books. As a kid, she spent most of her time consuming as much knowledge as she could get her hands on and could always be found at the library. Now, she still enjoys finding out about all the amazing things that surround us in our day-to-day lives and is blessed to be able to write about them to share with the whole world as a profession.

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america, culture shock, customs, foreign opinions, tourists, USA, USA tourists
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