21 Quirky American Habits That Seem Totally Normal to Them

America, the land of the free and home of the brave, is also a place of unique cultural quirks. Some things Americans do without a second thought can leave visitors scratching their heads in confusion. Here’s 18 things Americans do without realizing how weird it is.

Endless Refills

Editorial credit: Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock.

In the U.S., when you order a drink at a restaurant, chances are you’ll get free refills. Whether it’s soda, iced tea, or even coffee, Americans have grown accustomed to never-ending beverages, a concept quite foreign in many parts of the world.

Tipping Culture

Editorial credit: lunopark / Shutterstock.

Speaking of restaurants, the tipping culture in America can be baffling to outsiders. While tipping exists in other countries, the American expectation to tip generously, often 15-20% of the bill, is seen as a social norm, not just a kind gesture.

Drive-Thru Everything

Editorial credit: Ministr-84 / Shutterstock.

Americans have drive-thru windows for almost everything, banks, pharmacies, and fast food. The convenience of not leaving your car for every day errands is something uniquely American and somewhat mystifying to visitors.

Supersizing Meals

Editorial credit: Jack7_7/ Shutterstock.

Portion sizes in America can be shockingly large. The idea of supersizing meals, where you get an enormous serving for a bit more money, leaves many non-Americans wondering how anyone could possibly eat that much in one sitting.

Walking Around the House in Shoes

Editorial Credit: siam.pukkato / Shutterstock.

In many cultures, it’s customary to remove shoes before entering a home. But many Americans keep their shoes on indoors, a habit that can surprise those from countries where this practice is considered unclean.

Extreme Air Conditioning

Editorial credit: Liz Tracy Photography / Shutterstock.

America’s love affair with air conditioning can be confusing. Many public places and homes are kept at icy temperatures, even during mild weather. Visitors often find themselves shivering indoors and wondering if they should have packed a sweater.

Sales Tax Surprises

Editorial credit: fatir29 / Shutterstock.

Unlike in many other countries, where the price you see is the price you pay, in the U.S., sales tax is added at the register. This can lead to a bit of sticker shock for those unaccustomed to calculating the final price of their purchases.

Smiling at Strangers

Editorial credit: Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.

Americans are known for their friendliness, which often includes smiling at strangers. This simple gesture of politeness can feel unusual to visitors from cultures where such overt friendliness is less common.

Celebrating School Achievements

Editorial credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/ Shutterstock.

Graduation ceremonies for kindergarten, middle school, and high school, complete with cap and gown, are a big deal in the U.S. This celebration of milestones, particularly high school graduation, can seem excessive to those unfamiliar with the tradition.

Wearing Pajamas in Public

Editorial credit: Camelia Aries / Shutterstock.

It’s not uncommon to see Americans, especially college students, wearing pajamas or loungewear in public places. While comfort is important, this casual approach to attire can be a bit shocking to those who are used to more formal public dress codes.

Talking to Strangers

Editorial credit: BearFotos / Shutterstock.

Whether it’s in line at the grocery store, at the bus stop, or while waiting for an appointment, Americans tend to strike up conversations with strangers. This friendliness can be surprising for those from cultures where such interactions are less common.

Bathroom Stalls with Gaps

Editorial credit: addkm / Shutterstock.

Public restroom stalls in the U.S. often have sizable gaps at the door seams and large gaps underneath. This lack of privacy can be quite unsettling for those used to more enclosed bathroom facilities.

Peanut Butter Obsession

Editorial credit: AtlasStudio / Shutterstock.

Americans have a deep love for peanut butter, adding it to a variety of foods, from sandwiches to desserts. This particular fondness is puzzling to those from countries where peanut butter is not a staple.

Flag Everywhere

Editorial credit: Bobkeenan Photography / Shutterstock.

The American flag is displayed everywhere, from homes and businesses to clothing and accessories. This patriotic display of the flag is far more prominent in the U.S. than in many other countries, where flag-waving is usually reserved for special occasions.

College Sports Mania

Editorial credit: Eugene Onischenko / Shutterstock.

The passion for college sports, particularly football and basketball, is unparalleled in the U.S. The massive stadiums, televised games, and intense rivalries are a cultural phenomenon that can be hard to grasp for those from countries where professional sports dominate.

Pledging Allegiance

Editorial credit: Dennis MacDonald / Shutterstock.

Starting the school day with the Pledge of Allegiance is a routine part of American education. The idea of pledging loyalty to the flag and country every morning is a practice that can seem odd to those unfamiliar with it.

Separate Bathroom Taps

Editorial credit: rayjunk / Shutterstock.

Many American homes and hotels have separate hot and cold water taps. This can be confusing for visitors used to mixer taps that blend hot and cold water for a comfortable temperature.

Using Inches and Feet

Editorial credit: Arno Staub/ Shutterstock.

The United States is one of the few countries that hasn’t adopted the metric system, sticking with inches, feet, and miles. This measurement system can be a source of confusion and amusement for those accustomed to meters and kilometers.

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Editorial credit: ESB Professional/ Shutterstock.

Thanksgiving, with its massive turkey dinners and focus on gratitude, is a uniquely American holiday. The idea of celebrating a harvest festival with such enthusiasm, complete with a parade and football games, is fascinating to those from countries without this tradition.

Eating Dinner Early

Editorial credit: Stock Rocket / Shutterstock.

In many parts of the world, dinner is a late-evening affair. However, in the U.S., it’s common to eat dinner as early as 5 or 6 PM. This early dining schedule can take some adjustment for international visitors.

Obsession with Ice

Editorial credit: Alter-ego / Shutterstock.

Americans love their drinks with lots of ice, whether it’s water, soda, or cocktails. This icy preference can be surprising to those from countries where beverages are typically served without ice or just lightly chilled.

About the author
Amy Watkins

Leave a Comment