Foreigners Explain Which Things Confuse Them Most About America
Image by Ronile from Pixabay

America can be very confusing. I'm American, and even I don't know what the hell is going on. Health care, schooling, etiquette- none of it seems to make even a tiny bit of sense. We certainly do our own thing over here.

But if you think the US is whack, imagine how people from other countries see us. MrNoName_ishere asked:

Non-Americans of Reddit, what confuses you the most about America?

​Let’s begin with the bathrooms, shall we?

​Kid had it coming, tbh.

“Why is there space under THE BATHROOM STALLS???”


“I was at a wedding once and my friend was taking a sh*t and some small child tried to crawl through the space under the stall wall and my friend was so shocked he reflexively kicked the child's face.”


Good question.


“Why everybody when talking about income calculates how much a person makes in a year instead of monthly like we do in my country?”


“Just convention. It's how we're used to hearing about it. Also, different jobs pay differently. So I get a check every month, but I think my dad gets one every other week. Some people get them weekly, others on other schedules. Discussing it by year makes it pretty easy to divide up by your own pay periods.”


We all sound like news reporters, apparently.

“From England here. I grew up in a county called West Yorkshire, a semi-rural, semi-urban, working-class county which, along with the rest of Yorkshire, seems completely unique when compared to the other English counties. There is so much slang, grouped and contracted contractions (wouldn't - 'wunt', shouldn't - 'shunt') and the accent here isn't always understandable. Yorkshire slang, especially that spoken by the older generations, sounds and looks like a completely different language, even more so when spelt phonetically.

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to understand the majority of Americans. They speak with so much clarity, non-specific slang and the accent just helps. It reminds me of the news reporters.”


​America, explain!

“Why is one Kansas, and the other not Ar- Kansas?

Edit: also, why is Worcester pronouced [Whooster], not Wor-cester? I studied in MA and this still baffles me.”


“Arkansas comes from the Osage people. Kansas comes from the Kaw, or Kansa, people. They are unrelated words.

A Google search shows that the last S is Arkansas is silent, as it's a plural word, and French explorers/settlers dropped the S on a plural—la fille vs. les filles, pronounced "la fee" and "lay fee" respectively.”


​You know, the weird thing about growing up here is how normalized all of these weird things become.

​Nothing wrong with living with your parents.

Carey Mulligan Snl GIF by Saturday Night LiveGiphy

“I don't know if this is just about America or most 1st world countries but why is living with your parents a bad thing or laughable.”


“In the US, it's seen as being a failure because you can't pay for your own housing.

I agree with you though, living with your parents isn't bad. I lived with my parents (mostly) until I was 24 and my parents housed my grandma for years, which I thought was sweet.

If you've got a good, supportive family, there should be no problem with helping each other.”


Sweden is much more sensible.

“How your blood/alcohol limit for what counts as drunk driving is so high. 4x as high as Sweden’s.”


“That's a bit of a simplification and it depends upon where you are. In my state of Washington, between .02 and .08 is 'officer's discretion' as to whether you're arrested for DUI.

Also, if you have a CDL (commercial license) the limit is .04 regardless of the vehicle you're driving.”


​It’s all about aesthetic here.

“It confuses me how come American-style homes are so tidy outside. I am always amazed when I use Google Streetview to "stroll" around some random road in the U.S. I wonder why and how the houses and backyards look so clean, with newly-mown bermuda grass and well-painted roofs and walls.

I can't help but compare this to my country (which is a developing one). I'm thinking what's wrong with our citizens such that when I use Streetview on our streets, they're usually filthy. "Ordinary" American-style homes can only be found in high-class villages and subdivisions here.”


Maybe all of these confusing things aren’t so bad.

So many life paths, so little time.

its always sunny in philadelphia job GIFGiphy

“As someone from India, the possibilities many Americans feel they have is both confusing to me and admirable. I'm 28 and I already feel the rest of my life is going to work on a rigid schedule. Most people here have very less risk taking ability."

"But I read of American stories like this guy's who worked as a masseur for a year, then as a swimming coach, then suddenly got into law school and become a lawyer. After hitting his 40s, he got interested in programming, so he became a programmer! Reading biographies of famous American businessmen brings out many such stories.”


​We get a bad rep sometimes, but we’re usually pretty chill.

“How nice and friendly most Americans are. I did a roadtrip all across United-States in 2011 with 3 friends. In any city we were visiting, the second we would unfold a map, 2-3 persons stopped and asked us if we needed help. In the end of the trip, we would fake unfolding the map to actually ask people for directions. It worked everytime.

Much love from Canada! Those news networks do not show how cool our southern neighbors are!”


​Leftovers aren’t really a thing in foreign restaurants.

“Why are the portion sizes so big??????”


“A lot of us take home leftovers from resturaunts. It's pretty rare to eat the whole meal at once. People generally complain less about having too much that too little.”



"The lack of electric kettles."


"Our electric outlets have lower voltage so it takes longer for the kettle to heat up than yours does, so the marginal benefit isn't as great. I have one though, just not as snappy as ones I've used overseas."


Space Chase

"Valet parking. Why would I want some stranger messing with my car? I can park my own car thank you very much."


"Since everyone here drives, finding parking in a dense area can be a massive pain in the a**, so people who can afford it will park valet because they can just drop it off at the curb right in front of where they're going. That said, I agree with you and never park valet, not just because I'm not rich but also because f**k you, stay out of my car!"


Socks Too?

tired maya rudolph GIF by The Academy AwardsGiphy

"Should I take off my shoes or not."


"Just ask. It’s 100% normal to simply say 'Do you want me to take my shoes off?'”


State by State

"Every state works so differently, they could've been different countries without needing a president. I have understood what you guys have been trying to teach me. But the laws are so different, the taxes are so different (but still confusing), the education system is more or less the same (mostly autonomous and free till high school). I mean states have most of the power."

"I live in India but here central government has most of the powers (which sucks) and the central government can make a state ruled by a different party look bad by misusing their powers, But that is hard to do in the US. I mean US is kinda good but confusing if you move between states."


From Canada...

"The news portrays Americans as a bunch of ignorant, gun-toting rednecks. But when I travel in the US, they are really nice, friendly and helpful. My car broke down while leaving the Mount Rushmore parking lot and I couldn't get it started again. I must have had 30 other people offer to help in any way possible."

"Either by letting me use their cell phones to call someone, or look under the hood for the trouble or offer me a ride. I was thankful to everyone. I came away with a good feeling about Americans and turned a bad problem into a not so bad problem. Thanks from a Canadian."


Age Matters

"You can get a gun licence at 18 but need to be 21 one to buy alcohol."


"You can also be drafted and die for your country at 18! But god forbid you have a drink."


Menu Options

"It's been a long time, but I remember thinking how weird the menu choices were in restaurants, especially in LA. Like the options were either super healthy or super unhealthy, you couldn't have a mid-range meal. One restaurant in particular, pretty much everything was deep fried unless you wanted a salad."



"Showing the most horrible violence is totally ok, but if someone accidentally show a nipple then everyone loses their g**damn minds. It's like people needs to be sheltered from seeing natural body parts for reasons nobody seems able to specify, and it's honestly confusing as f**k."


Real Kindness

Be Nice GIFGiphy

"How nice, friendly and welcoming the vast majority of Americans are. The 24/7 news portrait quite the opposite."


Working Life Away

"The work ethic. All the Americans I know are so successful and have made such good choices with their careers, and I guess maybe it's because there aren't the kind of safety nets in the US that I am privileged enough to have in Europe, but it exhausts me just thinking about it. I suppose I'm not confused, just kind of envious but also a bit sad because it seems stressful?"


So for all of y'all non-Americans reading this, wondering why our country is so weird--I couldn't tell you, because I don't know either.

Then again, there are plenty of UK things that I don't get. Like the fact that grilled cheeses don't exist there. It's very heartbreaking.

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