Unusual cultural norms in other countries
“I didn’t realize how weird it was until I left the United States and spent time overseas.”
Society is governed by tons of little norms that often seem so entrenched that you probably don’t even think about them. But these standards differ by country, and what’s common where you’re from may seem totally weird to someone from another country. So editor u/Eliza Paukova asked. “what normal in your country, but strange in another? Here’s what people said.
“In the UK, children are legally allowed to drink once they have become five years as long as it’s on private property. Lots of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 throw house parties where they get drunk, and while it’s not recommended, it’s perfectly legal. This comes as a major shock to people coming from the United States where the legal drinking age is 21 with no exceptions..“
“In Portugal, our food culture is unique and confusing to the rest of the world. Food is an important part of our lives and most socializing and family times revolve around mealtimes. When you have someone over one for a meal, this should last all the time. I moved to the UK with my family, and the first time we had new friends over for a meal, they came exactly at the time we told them, ate quickly, then left, all in about an hour and a half. I was shocked, but apparently other places don’t treat mealtimes as such a quiet affair.”
“I come from South Africa, where we call our traffic lights ‘robots’. It can be very confusing for foreigners.”
“In the Netherlands, we are very used to speaking so calmly and discreetly that no one else can hear you except the person you are talking to directly. This is a skill that almost all Dutch people have, but it can be very annoying to other people as you can sit quite close to two people talking and have no idea what they are saying.Dutch people really value their privacy.
“Shoes are very optional in New Zealand in casual settings. You don’t usually wear shoes inside a house, so it’s okay to go out without shoes. Children spend a lot of time barefoot. I I’m a teacher and I don’t wear shoes in class because I find it more comfortable. When I was teaching abroad, the children thought it was so weird that I let them take their shoes off. However, here, around the half take off their shoes as soon as they get to school!”
“Drive-thru is truly unique in the United States and unusual in the rest of the world. America has it all: drive-thru cafes, drive-thru ATMs and even drive-thru liquor stores . It’s breathtaking.”
“In Venezuela, [the birthday kid will] scream when we cut their cake. It’s expected to be a blood-chilling scream, and people laugh and ridicule you if it’s not loud or scary enough. Also, our birthday song is about two minutes long.”
“Air conditioning in the United States. It’s not a luxury reserved for the ultra-rich. In fact, the majority of American homes have it. In the rest of the world, however, having air conditioning in your home is definitely not Standard.”
“Portion sizes in the US. These giant plates of food are not normal for the rest of the world. I am from the UK and have visited several places in the US. The biggest shock is the size portions of food and drink. A normal size meal in the US is easily enough for two people at home.”
“In Chinese culture, it is considered bizarre and offensive to use formal or polite language with the people closest to you. For example, it would be very strange to say the equivalent of ‘thank you’ to a member of the family who passed you a dish at a meal.You show your intimacy with others by using brief, informal speech.Using polite speech puts distance between you.
“In Germany, it is traditional to throw porcelain, ceramic pots and other fragile things in front of the bride’s house a day or two before the wedding. The aim is to smash them because it is said that these shards bring good luck. Anything that breaks can be thrown, except for mirrors, because superstition says that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck.”
“In the United States, it is completely normal – even the general public – to eat extremely sweet desserts for breakfast. Donuts, pancakes, most cereals, Pop-Tarts, etc. all contain huge amounts of sugar and few nutrients. There are literally Oreo cookie cereals that kids eat for breakfast.”
“American accents. I mean, everyone thinks their own accent is normal, but I’ve met Americans who think they don’t have an accent, like theirs is the base somehow .”
“In Japan, convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Lawson sell gourmet meals like fully-prepared bento boxes and freshly made onigiri. In the US, we have dodgy hot dogs and slices of pizza, but you would be really hard pressed to find a whole nutritious, fresh and delicious meal from a convenience store.”
“In Australia, getting your car run over by a kangaroo one day and then seeing a suspension destroyed by a wombat two weeks later. Wildlife in Australia is no joke.”
“In most Muslim countries and in Israel, we start working on Sundays, not Mondays. Our working week is staggered because Friday is the day of prayer.”
“In the Netherlands we have a popular breakfast called hagelslag it’s nothing more than chocolate chips on buttered bread.”
“The fact that Americans call a main course an entree when in almost every other part of the world, ‘entree’ refers to an appetizer.”
“In Norway, it’s completely normal to bring home leftover alcohol you brought to a party. It might be considered rude in other places, but in Norway everyone does it because that alcohol is so expensive here. A beer costs £3-£3. 5. Any decent hard liquor that doesn’t taste like hand sanitiser starts at over £50.”
“In India, arranged marriage is still the norm. I went to law school with a guy who already had an engineering degree. He told me he only enrolled in law school. by right only because his family expected him to return to India when he completes his education and has an arranged marriage.As a result, he continues to enroll in new higher education programs to postpone her engagement.
“In Norway and much of Scandinavia, we don’t talk to strangers unless we really have to. In fact, as a society, we’ve developed a kind body language to insinuate things without speaking. For example, if you are sitting on a bus and you get off, but you are blocked by another person: just lean forward and grab the handle of your bag. The other person will know that you are asking them to leave you. to go out.
“In the Netherlands, we celebrate birthdays sitting in a big circle in the living room, eating little blocks of cheese, little sausages and pickles. Then we all go home on our bikes.”
“Lunch in America. It probably has to do with our work-life balance and live-at-work mentality, but it’s totally okay to grab a quick lunch at your favorite fast-casual restaurant and then eat it alone at your I didn’t realize how weird this was until I spent a semester in Spain. In Europe, the American concept of a rushed office lunch is totally weird. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. in many European countries. Even those who work in offices often take an hour or more to sit together, talk and enjoy a quiet meal.”
“In many parts of Asia, it is normal to live with one’s parents until marriage. In fact, living in the same apartment building with one’s parents even after marriage is not uncommon.”
“Children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at school. I’m American, so I think it’s completely normal. But my relatives outside the United States think that children who sing those same words every days are really weird.”
“In parts of East Africa, it is very common to touch the feet of others as a sign of respect. In fact, the most formal greeting in Swahili literally translates to ‘I’m holding your feet’. You can say it as a respectful greeting even if you don’t do it literally.”
“Speaking only one language and never or rarely traveling outside the country. In the United States this is the norm, but in other countries, especially in Europe, people are fluent in several languages and traveling abroad is a nonchalant event.
“In Europe, the concept of being able to drive from one country to another within hours is wild in most other parts of the world. In the United States, it would take you at least 14 hours to cross the single state of Texas. To put that into perspective, in Europe you can drive from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Bruges, Belgium in about three hours, from Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary in two and a half hours, or from Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö, Sweden in just 45 minutes.
“Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In the United States, it’s a classic combination that we were introduced to when we were kids. I’ve lived in Finland and the United States. When I tried to doing a PB&J in Finland, one of my roommates asked me ‘are you really going to eat this?’ Everyone thought the idea of a PB&J was totally gross.”
“The lack of paid annual leave in the US. My uncle recently moved from the US to the UK and couldn’t believe his ears when his company told him he would have 35 days vacation a year In the rest of the world, a more generous PTO is standard.”
“In Japan, tipping in general is considered a kind of taboo, and some people feel insulted if you tip them. It’s a wholesale difference from other parts of the world like the United States, where tipping is essentially mandatory.”
“In Mexico, we never place our elderly in retirement or nursing homes. As a Mexican and I was raised to believe that your parents take care of you for the first part of your life, then it’s up to you to take care of them during their last game.”
“Eating pizza with your hands is an American concept that the rest of the world doesn’t understand. In most other places people eat pizza with utensils. Brazilian but I have lived most of my life in North America. in brazil and ate pizza with my hands, people around me gave me weird looks like i was uncivilized. “