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Peculiarities are a part of human nature, and no other bond is quite as bizarrely endearing as the one shared between Europeans and their cousins across the pond. It is a love-hate affair characterized by selfies with supersized food and shared bewilderment at baffling healthcare bills. 

Stepping foot in America is like entering a movie set for Europeans—a script filled with thrilling and puzzling oddities. Here’s a hilarious rundown of 17 peculiarities that often leave Europeans scratching their heads in wonderment (and sometimes amusement!) about America:

Gigantic Portions 

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo credit: Canva

Have you ever seen a European face-to-face with an American-sized portion? It’s like David meeting Goliath; the underdog is usually the diner’s appetite. 

Michael, a European tourist from Germany, says on Quora, “This is my constant bugbear eating out in the US. Pizza the size of coffee tables, salad buckets, soft drinks containers you could swim in. Then you see the mountains of food left at the end of the meal. Why?

Gun Galore 

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo Credit: Canva

Europeans popping over for a visit often do a double-take at the sight of firearms being as common as umbrellas. “You mean you can actually buy these at a store while picking up milk?” Cue a collective European gasp.

However, Kevin Noel, an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor and Chief Range Safety Officer argues on Quora, “Americans are not gun crazy. There is no gun culture. The truth is very few, approximately 0.3%, Americans choose to go about armed, even though they could legally do so.

Healthcare Hurdles 

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
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The famous American Dream has a small print that reads ‘health insurance not included.‘ The bafflement over medical bills that look more like phone numbers is absolute – ‘You charged me how much for this band-aid?‘ This is because the healthcare system in America is primarily privatized, leading to high costs and complex billing systems.

According to BCBS Progress Health, healthcare spending in the U.S. is over $3 trillion annually, squeezing families, businesses, and taxpayers. Surprisingly, medical care is the top reason for high healthcare costs, making up a whopping 90% of spending.

Patriotism Parade

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo by Lemon Magnolia via Flickr

If there’s one thing America doesn’t shy away from, it’s showing love for the motherland. Between the stars and stripes flapping proudly at every turn and the national anthem echoing throughout stadiums, Europeans can’t help but feel they’ve stumbled into the world’s largest pep rally. This deep-rooted patriotism can be traced back to the country’s history and the values it was founded upon.

For me, it’s Pride and Respect. I feel so extremely fortunate to live in the USA. I see the flag as the symbol of the US, and I respect it as such,” says Darlene in Quora. 

Super Friendliness

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
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When I moved to the US, I found Americans very polite, respectful and friendly. Before that, I had never seen random people smiling at me, wishing me good day, opening doors for me and saying Thank you and Sorry for even the tiniest things,” comments Medha Mehta on Quora. 

Air Conditioning Everywhere 

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo by Evgenios Evgenidis via Flickr

Americans love air conditioning, like Hollywood loves a reboot. For the unacclimated Europeans, walking into a pleasantly mild day from an icebox building leaves them wondering if climate control is America’s way of prepping for the next Ice Age.

According to Time Magazine, American households are much more likely to have ACs than their European counterparts because cool air has always been a must-have in places like the humid South and the desert Southwest in the U.S.

The Supersized Sips

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo by Dan Alvey via Flickr

Go big or go home must be the motto because drink cup sizes in the States could house small fish! “Was I supposed to swim in this soda?

One Redditor comments, “In the US, we tend to use more ice than Brits, so one reason the cups are larger is to hold the ice.

Keep Your Quarters

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo by Kenneth Lu via Flickr

I have 99 problems, but a vending machine isn’t one, except for Europeans who can’t fathom the existential dependence on quarters

But Sarollas, a Redditor, argues, “The quarter is in effect the largest coin we have. The dollar coin and half dollar exist but are very rare, I don’t remember the last time I saw a half dollar and if I need a dollar, a bill is easier to carry.

Sales Tax Tales 

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo by Alpha Photo via Flickr

Shopping in America and getting duped by tax not included in the price tag – a European’s shocker. 

Unlike Europe, where the price you see is what you pay, in most US states, you’ll end up shelling out a bit more at the register because sales tax gets tacked on top. The US has a decentralized tax system, with each state setting its sales tax rate.

Over-the-Counter Overload

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo credit: Canva

Painkillers that require prescriptions elsewhere casually hang out next to candy. “Is no one else seeing this? Is this real life, or is this just fantasy?

However, according to the National Institutes of Health, shifting medications from prescription to OTC can reduce doctor visits for prescriptions, freeing up healthcare providers to see more patients with severe conditions needing intensive care. This system also empowers individuals to manage their health to a certain extent.

Wearing Shoes Indoors

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo by asicsneakers via Flickr

It’s normal for folks in the U.S. to wander around their homes wearing shoes… and not everyone bothers with taking them off at the door. But, you know, it’s not like a rule or anything. This habit is often attributed to the American emphasis on convenience and time efficiency. 

A good chunk of Americans are about kicking off their shoes every time. And some are super serious about it. It’s expected for visitors to either slip off their boots automatically or at least check if they should.

Obsession With The NFL and Super Bowl

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo by 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment via Flickr

Jeremy Duru, a sports law professor at American University in Washington, points out that the obsession with the Super Bowl and American football boils down to how profitable, visible on TV, and simple the sport is. For instance, the Super Bowl is not just a game, it’s a cultural event that brings people together for parties and celebrations.

Work Culture

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo credit: Canva

Blair tells Quora, “Being Scottish, I’m just puzzled by the work culture here. Americans seem to be always working or ready to work. They hardly take time off, be it for vacation or parental leave. And the way companies can easily let go of employees – it’s just disheartening, isn’t it?

City Sprawls 

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo credit: Canva

Europeans who love their cosy cities find America’s expansive geography daunting. ‘You mean I have to drive? How many hours do I have to get there?‘ This is because urban planning in America is often centred around the car, leading to sprawling cities and long commutes.

American Public Restrooms

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo Credit: Canva

You might notice gaps between the sides of restroom stall doors – that’s to discourage any funny business inside. Plus, it makes it easier for cops to find bad guys if they’re hiding in a public restroom.

Ad Break Adventures 

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
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American TV has more ad breaks than showtime, leaving Europeans time to start a hobby between scenes. “By the time the show returns, I could’ve learned knitting.

One Irish tourist says on Quora, “Any time I’m in America, I’m always astounded by the sheer level of ads on regular TV.

Tipping Tightrope 

17 Unusual Things That Europeans Find Peculiar About America
Photo Credit: Canva

The mystery of how much to tip is akin to solving an algebraic equation. “To tip or not to tip, that is the question!” Typically, folks outside the U.S. leave about 10% as a tip, like $2.00 on a $20 meal. But Americans tip a bit more, around 16% on average, which is like $3.20 for that same $20 meal.

In the heart of it all, these peculiarities that Europeans encounter in America aren’t just quirks—they’re conversation starters and stories to tell. Just as our accents stand out in a bustling American city, these observations blend into the beautiful tapestry that enriches cross-cultural exchanges. To all travellers, keep your sense of humour handy and your minds open; the peculiar road often leads to unforgettable adventures. 🌍✈️

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