Europeans And North Americans Share: The Normal Things People Do In The States That Would Be Totally Weird In Europe

Europeans And North Americans Share: The Normal Things People Do In The States That Would Be Totally Weird In Europe

Maybe we all pronounce "to-may-toe" and "toe-mah-toe" differently, but that's normal, right? What can seem downright weird to Europeans traveling in America (and vice versa) tends to have little to do with language and lots to do with habit.

Who knew you couldn't tote your latte around in the Tube without getting scoffed at? Or that you can't really expect an American bar to serve you (ick) warm beer?

Some of the differences are fun, a few make tourists and residents a little surly. But learning about them, that's pure entertainment.


35. School Is Not Candyland In Other Countries

What is a snack? Here it is some fruit or maybe a biscuit with the tea, having candy or chocolate multiple times a day no.

I also heard that schools sometimes give their kids candy in the US, here that isn't done, even if an intern is on their last day and want to treat the class, it can't be a lolly it has to be fruit. Sodas aren't allowed to be taken to school ect.


34. Loo Habits Seem To Differ Lots

Slippery round door knobs, toilet bowls filled all the way with water, huge gaps between the door and the wall in a toilet stall, a dude that hands you towels and perfume in a bathroom at a venue.


33. Sugar And Spice (And Hot Sauce) Really Are Pretty Nice, You Know

Sugar or corn syrup in/on everything. This isn't a fat joke, American food is considerably sweeter.

Similarly, salt, pepper, hot sauce, and other condiments on every table, liberally used with just about every meal. Americans are used to doing everything to taste. I don't know that this is done in Europe except for very specific dishes. If something is meant to have salt, oil, lemon, etc., it is probably served with it.


32. Every Now And Then America Gets To Be The Healthiest

Not smoking. I'm a Londoner who's lived in France and moved to CA for a year or so. I lived with two French guys and a German, so we all did it. Americans couldn't believe it. And you can't do it anywhere! You have to walk around trying to find a quiet place. So different from Europe.



31. Most All The Kids Ride School Buses, Not Just The Ones On Sit-Coms

Those yellow school buses you guys have in America. I visited this year and felt like I was in a tv show seeing one of those go by!

In the UK we don’t have dedicated school buses, usually, it’s just normal public buses that are repurposed for the morning school run


30. Next, They'll Be Saying Popcorn In American Theaters Costs Too Much

In England, they do not put butter on popcorn. I can't imagine going to the movies without my popcorn floating in sweet sweet butter


29. It Can Be Hard to Explain The Expression 'Not In Kansas Any More' To A Spaniard

Had an out of country coworker tell me I couldn't be homesick when working in the Midwest when I'm from the west coast cause "at least I was still in my own country." (Translation from Spanish). I was actually farther away from my home than she was hers in terms of distance... but growing up in a country that could probably fit within each of 5-6 states here meant that she didn't understand the concept of still being in "your own country" but not having any idea about the culture or surroundings or whatnot. The ONLY thing that was easier for me, obviously, was that there was no language barrier. But even she was proficient in English and, worst case scenario, all of our coworkers spoke Spanish and most of us were from the US and could easily translate for her. Stop telling me not to be homesick! I'm still 2k miles plus away from my home, doesn't matter if I haven't left the country...


28. Moses Would Like The U.S. For Its Soda Selection

Not European, but Canadian. One thing I noticed and appreciate is the selection of soft drinks they offer at restaurants. Up here they normally just say "coke, Pepsi, Diet Coke, Sprite." But I like root beer. Anywhere I go in the states they list off a Red Sea scroll of drinks, I like that.


27. And This Doesn't Even Count Time Spent At The DMV Or Emergency Room

The constant waiting! Why does no one ever bring this up? Americans seemingly spend half their waking life waiting: standing in lines, waiting to be seated at restaurants, waiting for traffic to move, waiting waiting waiting... Every time I spend some time in the US, I am amazed by the amount of resignation and willingness to wait for an hour or more for the tiniest things. How do y'all ever get anything done?


26. In Europe, Moonlighting Means Something Much More Fun

Having two jobs. I've never known anyone that has two jobs unless you count highschool students that have a weekly paperroute and work in a grocery store. Closest I know of two jobs was a teacher she worked a few days on one school and the other days on another school.



25. So Much For The Most Important Meal Of The Day, Spain

I'm from NYC and lived in Spain for a few months. I remember grabbing a small breakfast (croissant/fruit and water) and eating on the metro on my way to class every day. Everyone was disturbed to see someone eating on the train, and I eventually realized that no one does that there.


24. Did You Mean Paris, Texas Or What?

Adding the name of the country or state after the name of a city. I always wondered why Americans would refer to "London, England" or "Paris, France." We all know where London is. We all know where Paris is.

It wasn't until I spent time in the US that I understood. Place names in Europe evolved over thousands of years, in dozens of languages, so there are virtually no duplicates. Whereas most settlements in the United States were named in the space of probably less a hundred years and there is tonnes of replication. Lots were named after the same US president, or the same European city. There are 88 Washingtons, 41 Springfields, 29 Bristols etc. So it makes sense to do this in the US. It still sounds weird in Europe. "I'm just back from Rome, Italy." Like, I think we know where Rome is...


23. Buy Blankets And Socks At The Drug Store

The big pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are considered weird. In Europe, pharmacies only sell medicinal products, and you just wait in line to speak with an expert about your problem where he or she tells you what the best remedy is. They take the product down from the shelf, accept your payment, and it's done!

In America, pharmacies are essentially big-box stores staffed by retail workers who don't know anything about the medicinal products they're selling, so most of the time you need to know already what you want to buy. And, they also sell things like groceries and toys, not only medicine. Pharmacists are usually only meant to handle picking up and dropping off prescriptions from a primary care doctor. If you want the different medical products on the shelves explained to you, tough luck, unless you go all the way to the back of the store to speak to a pharmacist who just looks at you funny for even asking. It's pretty bad to be honest, because I've seen products on the shelves that could cause permanent damage if you use it too much, like hydrocortisone marketed as an anti-itch cream. In Europe, the experts tell you it's only for acute skin problems and you can't use it for more than a week before your skin reacts.


22. Stop Waving Like We're In The American South!

Waving or saying hello to people passing... maybe in other parts of Europe it's okay, but not in Paris.

Said hello to some people staying near our place and they looked at us like we were out to get them. Asked a friend who lives there and he said it was not normal for people to be friendly in this way.


21. Even If You Mean It, Just Don't Bring Up That 'Nice Day' Thing

Saying “have a nice day” at the end of a store transaction.

I did this once at a newsstand and my British father in law said it’s just not done there. Presumably (based on my memory of our conversation at the time) because it’s not sincere, or maybe because it sounds fake. Although I do feel sincere when I say it, in England I do though now limit myself to a short “thanks,” since I’d rather not be perceived as fake.


20. Wait Till They Hear About Wearing Curlers And Pajama Pants To The Store

Wearing sweatpants, basketball shorts, or sweatshirts out in public when you're not going to the gym.

That was the hardest part of living in Europe for me. So glad to be back in the US where I can dress like a slob!



19. Who Really Needs Two Names Anyhow?

My american friend had a hard time believing that we mostly don't even have middle names in Europe the other day.

Seriously, out of all the local people I know only like 2 have middle names.


18. Your Parents' Stories About Walking Really Far To School Are Lame In Italy

Telling my Italian relatives my hometown (in Canada) it's convenient because it's 3 hours from Toronto and 2 hours from Ottawa. They can't believe anything over a 15 minute walk/drive is convenient.


17. Frigid Beverages Not Appreciated

My husband and I were flying to CA with his English relatives, and we were all having a great time on the Southwest Airlines seats that face each other in front of the plane. His cousin’s husband ordered a beverage, and then asked the flight attendant to get 2 more out of the cart so they could warm up before he drank them.

Same cousin had a blow out birthday party. They had ice delivered, but they were these little tiny bags-(I don’t think they were even 5 lbs) and they only got maybe a dozen or so. There were loads of friends and family at the party. I was playing drink maker, as it was a way for me to be able to chat up people without having to chat up people. I was putting like 3 ice cubes in everyone’s drink, the way I like it. We ran out of ice pretty quickly. Learned later I should have only been putting in one ice cube per drink. Oops.


16. In The Land Of Jolly Holidays, Long Weekends Are Never Enough

the manner in which holidays are taken also seems to be different. All my US friends and colleagues take short trips, often infrequently outside the US or its immediate holiday destinations, whereas in Europe people often take weeks of vacation time in one go and travel further afield.


15. Not Only Are They Too Long, They Have The Same Name As Giant Suitcases

My boyfriend says the weird long shorts men here (US/ Canada) wear swimming are odd. Where he's from they wear these little shorts. I get such a kick out of pictures of him in them though haha.


14. How European Servers Make The Best Tips

I get the impression that tipping in the US is ingrained in the culture and expected, whereas in Europe tipping is still very much linked to the quality of service, ie. good service is tipped, normal or mediocre service is frequently not.



13. Only In America: Two Credit Cards Are Better Than One

Getting into debt with the intention of paying it off to build a credit history. Most Europeans will only get into debt for necessities, such as a car, house or education. Credit cards are pretty much exclusively used by well-off people, who will usually only have one. It can be difficult for someone who's not well off to get one at all.


12. German Restaurants Are Loyal Outposts For The Clean Plate Club

The fact that it seems normal that nobody finishes their food, but takes it with them. In Europe, or at least in Germany, that is something new to me. We all eat what we order right there.


11. The Sales Tax? That's Our Little Secret

Having a sales tax not be part of the price. Going to the US I felt like I never knew how much something would cost me. Buying a candy bar for $2? Nah just wait and see it'll be like $2.24 or something. Your meals cost a total of $20? Make that $25.


10. It's Hard For An Introvert To Eat Out In The States

It’s normal in the US for the waitress/waiter to keep coming by the table to check of “everything is ok”. While I lived in Europe it’s customary for most waiters/waitresses to leave you alone. It was hard to come back to the states and eat at restaurants where someone came by the table almost every 15 minutes. I got used to it again eventually.


9. In Europe, Stampedes Happen On Commutes, Not Ranches

Standing in lines, most Americans are very respectful of the I was here first I will stand here in the line, thats not something that’s ingrained in Europeans from childhood. It’s hard to get used to at first when everyone is rushing to get to a train, it’s normal in Europe.


8. The Speed Dating Concept May Be Responsible For This

When you meet people in America one of the first questions people ask is what you do for a living. In Europe, people will first ask you questions about your hobbies, musical tastes, books and so forth. In America what you do is who you are to a larger degree than in Europe.


7. To Be Fair 90 Percent Of America Doesn't Consider This A Food Either

Not knocking grits, we just don't make them over here. We have porridge instead.


6. They May Frown On Texting At The Dinner Table, Too

Having people over for a visit and leaving the tv on. Also, people just feeling at home in anyone's house and grabbing a refreshment or whatever. Not okay in Europe.


5. Iceland, France: Two Different Places, Y'all

  • The common assumption that behavior/cultures/ethnicity is generally the same throughout the entirety of Europe, just like the question suggests.

The amount of times I've heard some girl say: "Yeah, I'm familiar with Europe, I've been to Paris"... That's like saying: "Yeah, I know North-america, I've been to Toronto."


4. This Is The Wrong Question If You Want An Austrian To Lie And Say "Fine"

I am in Austria but from the U.S. I said "How are you?" in German to this guy who lives in my building, and he said, "Where are you from?" I said the U.S. Apparently saying "How are you?" as a greeting here is odd, especially if you don't know the person very well.


3. They Take All The Fun Out Of Watching TV When Your Parents Aren't Home

In the UK swearing is edited out or censored before 9PM. After that, certain words that may be seen as deeply offensive are often still bleeped, however, most words are allowed.


2. Speaking In Many Tongues

I volunteered in a youth program as a teen, and had a six year old Swiss girl just starting first grade one year who’d just immigrated. I asked her once how first grade was going and she said she liked it, but could I keep a secret- “most kids in my class can only speak one language!”

Totally cute trilingual child whose mind was blown, not a brat, if that wasn’t clear. :)


1. Other Places Play Go Fetch With Packages

When I was living in the US for a couple of months I was surprised that a lot of packages just get left in front of the door. Here you either get a notice to wait at home on a certain day to get the package delivered again OR you can go pick it up yourself.

But it's never just left in front of the door. Especially in the city. I just feel like people would steal packages...