People Are Revealing The Incredibly American Things Americans Don’t Realize Are American

Every country has its unique traits when it comes to culture, cuisine, and social norms. America has always kind of done its own thing, and if you aren’t from here, it may be a bit of a culture shock when you visit. (I promise we’re nice, though!)

I always love hearing what other countries think about the way we live because it can give some new perspective on things.

Here’s how non-Americans (and Americans) responded to the following AskReddit question:

“What’s an incredibly American thing Americans don’t realize is American?”

— u/Professional-Ad-2850

1. “Drinks with ice.”

Four Clear Glass Drinking Cups Filled With Orange and Clear Liquids on Black Surface
Photo byMin An on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “Many, many years ago, I was visiting the south of France with a friend. It was a hot summer day, so we stopped at a little bistro and, in broken French, asked for water with ice. The waiter replied in English, ‘Ah, American Champagne.'” u/Cilicious

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “The first time I bought a Coke in Germany, it came with no ice. I then asked for ice, and it came back with one ice cube. I asked for more ice, and it came back with two ice cubes. I finally asked for a lot of ice, and the waitress said, ‘Oh, you mean like McDonald’s?'” u/wanted_to_upvote

AMERICAN TAKE 3: “I discovered that ice in drinks is an American thing when I scheduled a trip to London during the one week there was a heat wave. I was desperate for some ice in my water, or at the very least some not-room-temperature water, but rarely ever found either.” u/RainingRawPasta

2. “Ranch [dressing].”

Photo by Clark Douglas on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “On my first day in Germany, after 24 hours of traveling, I stopped at a Subway and asked for ranch on my sandwich. The guy said, ‘You’re not in America anymore, honey.’ Whoops, my bad. I had no idea ranch was an American thing.” u/nessao616

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “Back when I worked at Panera Bread, a customer asked for ranch dressing. We didn’t carry it back then, and when we informed him, he said, ‘Are y’all, communists?!'” u/TheArowanaDude

AMERICAN TAKE 3: “A few years ago, I went to an American-themed restaurant in the Dominican Republic. They had a decent assortment of BBQ sauces, and one of the sauces was advertised as ‘White BBQ Sauce.’ I know my BBQ, and I have never heard of a white BBQ sauce, so I decided to ask for some. It was Ranch…I was speechless!” u/solracarevir

3. “American here. When I studied abroad, I was smiling and friendly to strangers. In London, they looked like I wanted to steal something from them!”

Group of People Beside Gray Building
Photo by Ashley Williams on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “When I was in college, I studied in France and lived with a family for a year. They were awesome people, but the dad made no secret of his disdain for Americans. I guess it was the mom that convinced him to have Americans board with them. Anyway, one of my favorite quotes from Jacques was, ‘You stupid Americans, always walking around smiling, like a bunch of goddamn idiots.’

The mom started SCREAMING at him for being rude when he said that to us, but we thought it was hilarious and made it a point to walk around the house smiling and greeting him with an effusive, ‘BONJOUR, MONSIEUR,’ every day. I think we did win him over, eventually.” u/SuchLovelyLilacs

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “I saw this with my American friends when I lived in Moscow. They walked around with this pleasant, anticipatory smile on their face, and people thought they were weird.” u/jew-biscuits

4. “Free refills at restaurants.”

time lapse photography of person pouring can of Coca-Cola in wine glass
Photo byLeighann Blackwood on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “Imagine my reaction as an American the first time I sat down at a UK Nando’s and they explained their most popular drink option was the free refill soda.” u/cant_watch_violence

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “If it’s a fountain that uses bags of syrup and carbonated water, the restaurant can give several refills for about $2 and still make a good profit. It places that use two-liter bottles to give people soda that can’t afford to do that. As someone who has to drink while eating or else food gets stuck, I really didn’t like paying for 3–6 two-liter bottles worth of money for 1.5 liters of soda when I was in England and France.” u/jiveabillion

5. “Handing your credit card to a stranger, having them walk away, swipe it, and then bring it back to like they didn’t just put a down payment on a new house with it…”

A Person Paying Cashless
Photo byIvan Samkov on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “Almost nobody here thinks this is weird or is the slightest bit concerned about it. Being concerned about it would come across as paranoid to most people, myself included…even though I know for a fact it’s one of the most common originations of credit card fraud. (I used to work on fraud identification software.) What can I say? Culture is weird.” u/cogspace

6. “Drive-thru ATMs and drive-thru everything else.”

Contemporary car parked near drive thru at night
Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “Growing up in small-town Florida, there are at least two drive-thru liquor stores per town.” u/animatrix37

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “Okay, this was the one that surprised me for a moment to think that not everywhere else had, but then I remember just how automobile-reliant we are as a country. Of course, there wouldn’t be a need for drive-thru ATMs/banks elsewhere, there are so many fewer vehicles.” u/idreamofdinos

7. “Prescription drug commercials.”

Woman With Face Mask Holding An Alcohol Bottle
Photo byAnna Tarazevich on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “This was the one thing that I noticed the most on my first trip to England. I was watching the Winter Olympics and couldn’t figure out what was weird. Then, it finally hit me that there were no medical ads. My family was just like, ‘Yeah, they’re illegal here,’ which, I think is the right model.” u/fauxpenguin

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “Happy dancing while side effects are being listed.” u/Bluefortress

8. “The cult of high school or college sports.”

Football Players Wearing Jersey Outfits on Field
Photo byPixabay on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “Yeah, I get it this is unique, but being a fan of your college team makes way more sense than just picking a pro team to root for. I have a friend who is a die-hard Tottenham Hotspur fan. He’s never been outside the US. Why is he a fan of Tottenham and not Arsenal or Liverpool or Man City? He just randomly picked a team that he has no association with and whose success never will influence his life.

My university is a big part of my life. I go back occasionally, and I spent years and thousands of dollars studying there. The football team being successful can actually increase the profile of the school itself, etc. You may think it’s weird for college sports to be a big deal, but I can’t imagine caring about a sports team not associated with my school.” u/HHcougar

9. “When you ask Americans where they’re from, they reply with either a state or city instead of their country. It doesn’t cause any confusion since most people know most American states and major cities. For example, you don’t often see an Indonesian person say they’re from West Java — just that they’re from Indonesia.”

Aerial Shot Of Buildings
Photo byChait Goli on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “I’m an American who moved to Germany, and people always say this like it’s some weird thing we do. But whenever I get asked where I’m from and only say the US, the next question is ALWAYS which state and city, without fail.” u/sparksbet

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “When I visited Tokyo, there was a Japanese student group with clipboards asking questions to foreigners. A girl asked me where I was from, and without thinking, I said, ‘Chicago.’ She just looked confused, and her instructor said, ‘…just put down the United States.’ I then felt like a jerk for just assuming a student in Japan would know where Chicago was.” u/merricatvance

10. “I find that Americans often include where they were born. For example, ‘I’m from Philly but originally from Jersey.’ I understand that the US is big and has many different regions. However, I’m Canadian and find that Canadians typically don’t answer that way, despite Canada being very large.”

Philadelphia Art Museum - Parkway View
Photo by Trev Adams on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “Small nuance: I don’t think it’s where you’re born, rather where you were raised. It makes a lot of sense actually. I grew up in Miami but have been living in NYC for a few years now. If I travel to Texas, and someone asks me where I’m from, it feels wrong to say Miami because I haven’t lived there in seven years, and it’s changed a lot since I’ve been a resident. At the same time, I can’t really say I’m from NYC because I’m not a native New Yorker, and saying you’re from NYC pretty much means you grew up there. So, it makes sense to say both.” u/grumined

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “Most of the time you get asked where you’re from due to your accent or if you don’t sound like you live in the state you’re in. For example, if I currently live in NY but don’t have a NY accent, I would say, ‘I’m from NY, but I was raised in XYZ,’ just to avoid the ‘but you don’t have a NY accent’ question that would follow up.” u/Hephaestus_God

11. “Daily driving pickup trucks.”

A Ford F-150 Raptor on the Road
Photo by Matt Weissinger on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “In my case, I bought my midsize pickup because I have a large property, and we take great care of it — lots of mulch, gravel, pavers, lots of material to the compost drop-off. Plus, I live in the mountains, and the four-wheel drive is great, too. I’ve used it for pulling people out of ditches several times. I also mountain bike and often do extended trips where it is convenient to carry camp gear in the bed. All that said, my wife has a smaller, normal car, and we ‘daily drive’ that.” u/crob_evamp

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “Don’t worry, a lot of people hate it here, too. All those assholes driving trucks just for aesthetics have driven up the market for people who actually need them for work. Not to mention how many of them drive like they have absolutely no clue how long it’s going to take their vehicle to stop. Then you got people putting huge, illegal exhausts on them and making them loud as fuck.” u/NativeMasshole

AMERICAN TAKE 3: “Do you have a second car? We aren’t rich. Some idiots buy a pickup and don’t need one, but my dad owns a Ram 2500 because he needs to haul stuff for work semi-frequently. He doesn’t have another vehicle, so for everything non-work-related, he’s still driving the truck.” u/PM-Me-Some-Kink

12. “Not including the tax on prices displayed in stores.”

woman in black and red shirt standing near glass wall
Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “That feeling when you want to spend your very last dollar on a can of Arizona Ice Tea (famously: “The price is on the can!”), and the cashier asks for $1.07.” u/raph_84

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “I recently visited Niagara Falls, and I was super confused when we went out to dinner and the prices were oddly specific. For instance, a salad or whatever would be $19.73. My friend told me they actually include the tax in the price you see.” u/shortpersonohara

AMERICAN TAKE 3: “This seems crazy to non-Americans, but I think a lot of it has to do with how sales tax works here. In my state, it’s easy to buy the exact same thing from the exact same chain of stores, but depending on what city you’re in, they may or may not have to charge additional tax.” u/FaptainAwesome

13. “Paying $10,000 for a live birth and thinking that’s okay.”

Baby Lying On White Fur With Brown Blanket
Photo by kelvin octa on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “Where are these Americans getting a $10,000 birth at? My daughter was $40,000 (pre-insurance, vaginal birth)!” u/wallflower103

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “In a more general sense, going bankrupt because of medical bills even when you have insurance. So many people in America rail against socialized healthcare and seem to be completely unaware how much we’re paying and how little we’re getting out of it compared to other countries.” u/Temmere

AMERICAN TAKE 3: “And the old crusty farts here in America just KEEP ASKING why the birth rate is falling among young people. Well, it’s because I had my child over a year ago, and I’m still paying for the birth (among other reasons, of course, like the cost of child care, low wages, the cost of housing, etc.).” u/swankyburritos714

14. “Air conditioning. I’m very surprised no one has said this yet. It’s not that other countries don’t have heating and AC, they do. However, American use of them, especially during the summer, is astronomically high.”

gray Nest thermostat displaying at 63
Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “I hear you, but some places in the US would be damn near uninhabitable without AC.” u/Dr4g0nSqare

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “I moved from a state where AC is basically mandatory due to the climate to a state up north, and I was both astounded and very suspicious of the lack of central AC in most housing. I almost couldn’t find an apartment. I was told, ‘We don’t need it up here.’ I suspect that was true 20 years ago when there weren’t 100+ degree heatwaves. Now, everyone owns a window unit.” u/SliferTheExecProducer

15. “Pledging allegiance to the flag, or singing the national anthem outside of special events. I went to see a kids’ talent show in a small rural town with around eight acts, and the 30 people watching all stood, pledged allegiance to the flag, and sang the national anthem beforehand. It was extremely strange.”

people watching a band on a concert
Photo by Frankie Lopez on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “I once got ‘silent lunch’ (a punishment where you have to sit alone at lunch) for not standing for the pledge one morning. This was in 2014 at a public school. It’s ridiculous!” u/Bubblekinss

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “I haven’t had to say it since I was a kid, but I was at a conference in Texas recently (I’m from the north), and they had the whole room of hundreds of people stand and say it. It made my skin crawl.” u/thraelen

16. “Making pancakes from the box.”

nature valley sweet and salty nut granola bars
Photo by Nong V on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “Everyone else is making pancakes from scratch? You’re right, I didn’t know this.” u/waterbird_

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “A friend of mine from Romania was so excited for ‘American’ pancakes, so I brought her a box of pancake mix and imperial measuring cups. It was fun to see how thrilled she was for something that had previously seemed so unremarkable to me before that.” u/thraelen

17. “Not owning a passport. I don’t know if that is a myth, but I hear that a huge percentage of Americans have never been out of the country and don’t even have a passport. I understand that the US is huge, with a massive range of landscapes and climate, but it still seems a little odd to me.”

Anonymous tourists showing US passports on street on sunny day
Photo by Spencer Davis on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “American here. Now that I live in Europe, I see why a passport is so necessary, but there’s so much in the US that you don’t need one. In California, you can ski and surf on the same day if you start early enough.” u/Locating_Subset

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “Well, it’s only in the last twenty years or so that passports were required to cross the Canada/US border by air, and I think it took another five years or so before they were needed to drive across, as well.

Outside of Canada and Mexico, it’s difficult to casually travel out of the US since everything involves a trans-oceanic flight. It’s not like the EU, where a three-hour drive could get you to four different countries depending on the direction.” u/pepperbar

18. “Not having to ask for the bill.”

people sitting on chairs near glass window during daytime
Photo by Euan Cameron on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “This was me today at a restaurant in Oslo. It felt rude to call the waitress over to ask for the bill, and I’m American.” u/frgs72

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “The first time we were in the UK, my wife and I had been done with dinner for probably 30 minutes before realizing this. I surrendered and asked if I paid upfront (only restaurants where you pay upfront in the US don’t bring you the bill). The waiter looked very confused, pulled out the little card machine, and printed the bill right there. He then stood and waited for it to be paid (also different).” u/Firewalker1969x

AMERICAN TAKE 3: “My wife, who is American, couldn’t understand why in Turkey, we just sit at the restaurant table after the meal is done. In the US, you generally eat and you leave. In Mediterranean countries, it’s an event. You stay very long, have coffee/tea, and sometimes continue drinking and eating some nuts, etc. The restaurant will never bring the check or ask you to leave, that’s just not done. It’s a different mentality than the US, where it’s usually all about turnover.” u/sxt173

19. “While I admit the Brits are pretty close with their full English breakfast, the American greasy diner breakfast of eggs, bacon, waffles or pancakes, and hash browns is pretty uniquely American. My Italian mother has said in the past that it’s the only thing she’s enjoyed about American food culture. My nonna would be horrified if she heard we were eating fried eggs for breakfast.”

Street signboard of modern cafeteria on roadside
Photo by Kelley on Pexels


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “You need a breakfast burrito: Fried hash browns, ham, sausage, bacon, chorizo, eggs, sour cream, guacamole with some pico de Gallo, and Tapatio, all wrapped in a monster tortilla. 💞😆” u/Ebolax6

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “I just got back from a two-week trip in Europe, and god, did I miss hot American breakfast. The first meal I had when I got back was Waffle House, lol.” u/davecm0101

20. “Giving tips at restaurants and even for barbers, food delivery services, massages, etc.”

clear glass jar
Photo bySam Dan Truong on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “A self-checkout asked me about a tip two weeks ago at Newark Liberty International Airport.” u/ThoriGilmore

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “I was chased by a Japanese waiter when I left a ¥1,000 tip ($8). He served me and gave me recommendations for what to eat even though we did not understand each other, and, since the restaurant was busy, I thought it was nice to leave a tip. When I left, he chased me down to return the tip.” u/IndoGuber

21. “Driving everywhere. Americans drive a lot, far more than residents in most other countries.”

cars passing through north and south
Photo byAlexander Popov on Unsplash


AMERICAN TAKE 1: “American cities were built around the concept of driving. It’s very difficult to walk anywhere.” u/IthurielSpear

AMERICAN TAKE 2: “To walk to my nearest grocery store (about 1.5 miles), I would have to walk on the side of a road where cars are flying up a blind hill at 60 mph. That road has no sidewalks or areas to safely cross the road, and it’s 100°F/38°C outside. Unfortunately, it really is just insane to expect to be able to walk anywhere except for inner cities. At my old house, the nearest grocery store was a 25-minute drive.” u/_tinyphoenix