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13 Things that Europeans Don’t Know About America

13 Things that Europeans Don’t Know About America

American vs European Culture

After the Natives, no group of people has influenced the United States of America greater than the many different cultures of Europe.  Europeans were and have been instrumental in the foundation of the Country.  Although, the demographic outlook of the United States is far more mixed today than ever, Europeans were still the primary instigators in this thing called America.  Even though many Americans can claim heritage and connections to somewhere in Europe most will say that they are no longer European.  It’s true. Most of the European-Americans, are vastly different today culturally than their European counterparts.  Strangely, although from common origins, we just drifted apart… no pun intended.

I have come up with this quick list of things that Europeans need to know about America and Americans.  These are things that I have found to be in contrast to Europe in particular, but this article could also be applied to other foreigners besides Europeans who are experiencing the US for the first time.

  1. Finals Prices – When you see a price next to something that you want to buy, it is NOT the final price.  American marketers constantly scheme at ways to make something look cheap or like a “better deal” in the end the price will inevitably increase.  For example, something that costs $99.99 dollars will be at least $8-10 more because taxes are not included.
    1. As one reader, Eric, pointed out “It is actually illegal in most states and in most cases (exceptions I know of are gasoline and tickets and concessions at theaters and stadiums and airline tickets upon searching – but not actually paying for – fares) for the price to be quoted with the tax included. The purpose is so that we are constantly aware of the tax burden we place on ourselves and to do something about it if we don’t like it. Here is an example of the law from New York https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/sales/pub34.pdf. Also, the vendor is actually only collecting the tax on behalf of the government(s). From an accounting perspective it’s correct to do it this way. It’s called a Sales and Use Tax, so if an item is purchased in another state and the vendor has no presence in the consumer’s state and therefore doesn’t file sales tax with the consumer’s home state, the onus is on the consumer to pay the equivalent use tax in his or her home state where the product is used.”
  2. Tipping– If you have ever eaten at a restaurant in America and then been run off or been to a bar and not received good service, then there is a chance that your tips weren’t cutting it.  Tipping is an expected service in America.  Waitresses/waiters, Bartenders,Bellhops, and more all work for tips.  They are not paid normal salaries because itis expected that their tips will exceed minimum wage.

    At bars and some restaurants you will usually see a tip jar like this. Waiters/waitresses and bartenders work hard for the tips, make sure to treat them well!

  3. Not all Americans are the same – This is a pet-peeve of mine, but then again I realize where foreigners get it from.  Americans are not the same.  America is a very diverse nation, people can be quite different from state to state and even within a city.  It is true that there are states that typically lean one way politically, but people are still people and have their individuality.  Please do not assume that just because you have watched a few American movies or read something that all Americans fit into one category.
  4. Gas Prices – Gas prices in the United States are relatively inexpensive in comparison to other developed nations.  Sure, gas prices in the United States might not be as cheap as Venezuela (~$.45), but they are quite cheap in comparison to Europe.
  5. Gallons vs Liters – America had to be different.  Imagine that. America had to create another measuring system that few others understand just to keep the world interesting.  Remember that if you start telling people how far something is in meters or how fast you were going in kilometers, you are probably going to get some blank stares.  Especially if you start talking about weight in kilograms.
  6. Public transport isn’t that good – Outside of the major cities, public transportation in the United States is just not that good.  New York, Boston, Washington D.C., and a few others have nice subway/metro systems where one can get around.  Most other places though have nothing.  Perhaps city buses, but few use them.  Be sure to plan for your outings and realize that you may have to drive, or find a ride at some point.
  7. You can use the bathroom without paying – This point specifically points out Europeans (More specifically western Europe; most specifically Italy, France, Spain, etc).  In Europe, you have to pay in many places just to use the bathroom.  The prices range, but you can expect no less than $1 in most Western European destinations.  Obviously, I am referring to public restroom services and not any hotel or private arrangements that you may have.  In every place that I have been to in America, I can say that I have never heard of someone having to pay to use the restroom.  Not even in NYC.  There are some places that are not big fans of non-customers using the restroom, but a determined soul can always find a place.
  8. We drive… everywhere – Unlike many European cities, the United States is not very walker friendly.  You may live in one city, but you cannot easily walk to the things that you need.  In most cases, you will need to drive at some point.  
  9. Most Americans don’t have passports – I am not sure of the actual figures, but a small percentage of Americans have passports.  The majority of the passport holders tend to be in the more cosmopolitan states and cities such as New York or Miami.  States like Mississippi have an extremely low percentage of passport holders.  Traveling abroad is just not an embraced concept in American culture.
  10. There are other cool things to see besides the big stops – In my opinion, there are some really cool things to see and do in the United States, that are not on anyone’s list.  I completely understand the draw to see place like New York City, which is amazing, or Chicago and Miami. Those places are really nice to see, but real heartland America has some amazing places as well.  You can also really get the feel for America by traveling to its interior.
  11. English is not the universal language – This is one of those random facts about America.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no official language of the United States.  Without a doubt, English is the most widely spoken and accepted business language in America.  That being said, I have actually met people who have lived in the United States for many years that cannot speak English and function just fine.  Moreover, in some places in the United States it would be better to know Spanish, Russian, or even French to get by.Bilingual Education
  12. Fast food is not the cool thing to eat – Not all Americans love fast food.  Yes, fast food is easy and everywhere, but fast food is not the cool food that everyone thinks it is.
  13. American universities are quite different – The university experience in America is quite different from others that I have experienced.  In Europe, the universities are spread out within a city.  In America, universities are like a city. Most Americans show great pride in the universities (referred to as their Alma mater once a graduate).  It is not uncommon for them to wear shirts, shorts, shoes, hats, rings, and even have bumper stickers on their cars all representing their university.

 

Tell me what you think!

Did I miss anything?  Have you had experiences with any of these things?

 

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9 comments

  1. I lived in the US for a year (Philadelphia) but the price thing still gets me!! I’m always ready with my exact money only to have forgotten to add the tax! I enjoyed reading this though – what about using knives and forks?! Most Americans cut, then eat with a fork whereas Europeans use both the knife and fork throughout the meal…

    Globalmouse

    • I know! Just when I get accustomed to European price scales I return to the United States and have to factor tax and tips. I think that we are taught that way with forks and knives though? I wonder… I seem to remember when I was little I was always told that I am supposed to cut a piece then use my fork to eat it. I have a friend from Iran who uses a fork and spoon throughout the meal. I guess we all have our ways.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Good article! I am French and lived a couple years in Portugal and Spain too; My dream is to travel the world and I really wish to live in America a few years; But I realize that I’ll need time to adapt to the American way of life which is soooooo different from the European!
    I really enjoyed reading this and I think all the highlights are actually well thought!
    I got to know many things about America and the American lifestyle, I had no ideia before…

    And I didn’t know that Americans eat that way, it’s funny! We (Europeans) are taught to always use booth knife and fork throughout every meal… And if we’re actually eating with someone who cuts everything first and then eats it’s really awkward 🙂

    Congrats for this travel blog!

    Cindy DS

    • Living in America is certainly much different than Europe Cindy. You’ll notice some subtle differences and some with more time. People just have developed different ways of doing things, but it becomes more ingrained in culture at different levels.

  3. Hello, everyone!
    I’ve lived in the US my entire life, but I spend a lot of time traveling abroad (since my parents are both from the Caribbean), and thought I could add something to the conversation. First off, all these are very good points. There are a few other things that I would include, such as the American approach to friendship. In school, I learned that France and the US actually have opposite approaches to friendship. In France, connecting with a stranger is hard, because speaking to strangers is considered weird or dangerous, or just showing you’re interested in a close relationship with them. When two people are stuck in an elevator, for example, you’re supposed to stay silent – it is said to simulate distance and keeps things from getting awkward. In the US, the opposite is true – silence means you’re planning something, so saying a simple “hello” shows that you mean no harm. Likewise, it means you can usually approach anyone on the street (who isn’t in a hurry) and strike up a conversation with them. Usually saying “Hello, I’m from [insert country],” and follow up with a question about a local monument or place to eat, and most Americans would be more than happy to talk to you for a moment. Because of this, in France, it may feel a bit harder to find friends to go out shopping with, or go out to a bar with, but in America, it’s relatively easy (if you’ve talked to someone twice or three times, it’s usually okay to ask if they would like to hang out, especially if they know you are from out of country).
    Though, in the US, that does depend on if you’re in the city – and which part of a city you are in.

  4. Hey gas in Rwanda is about 6 or 7 dollars, just fyi!

  5. You touched on this a little in #10 but the United States is more than just its big cities. The image portrayed in movies and television is usually of big cities but there are so many vast open spaces with unbelievable quiet and serenity.

  6. #12. I know Exactly where that fast-food picture was taken.

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