Skip to Content

10 American Quirks That Americans Think Are Typical, But Aren’t

American culture is unique and diverse, with many habits and amenities specific to the United States. However, many of us assume that these quirks are universal when they are not.

Someone asked in a popular Reddit forum, “What is an American thing that Americans think everyone outside of America does it?” here are the best picks:


1. Coming Into Work Sick

A user shared “It took me a good year or two living outside the U.S. to stop coming into work when I was sick. I thought my German co-workers going home after lunch because they didn’t feel well was just slacking off. I really should have figured it out sooner, but the shame Americans have been conditioned to feel for missing work is buried deep in our pysche.

It’s a bit of a generational thing too. I’m really glad that younger people have got their heads on straight. I’m almost 50 and worked in a tech field. The pressure to show up was real. Though, it doesn’t help that my vacation and sick time pools were combined. The one thing I love about living overseas is the vacation time (usually about 25 days) and the pretty much unlimited sick time. Your company is usually legally obligated to make you take the vacation days.” said another.

Related: Top Weekend Jobs In America


2. Veterans Discount

When I worked in retail I would occasionally have to explain that being a past or active member of the American military doesn’t qualify you for a discount in Australia. It was usually family of the veteran who would be asking, sometimes demanding, the price reduction.” said one. 

They do it in Bermuda too! Never had anyone be rude about it but they are always genuinely surprised/disappointed that a country wouldn’t offer a service discount to a foreign military” shared another.

That is super weird. 

Related: From Saving Bread Bags to Reusing Tinfoil: 16 Bizarre Frugal Habits We Inherited From Our Parents


3. “African Americans”

“”African Americans” I remember seeing a news report in 2017 about the riots in Paris and a CNN anchor commenting about all the “African American” people involved. You might be surprised to hear that “African Americans” really aren’t a thing outside of America” said one.

I’ve had it expressed to me that black people prefer to be called black people. Many say they are no more African American than white people are European American, but we don’t use that term with white people.” added another.

Related: Steer Clear Of Trouble: 11 Things To NOT Do In The U.S.


4. Waiter Taking Your Credit Card

A user shared “Having the waiter take your credit card at a restaurant. Most other countries bring the machine to you so you can pay at the table and at least reduce the risk of having your credit card information stolen...”

I ‘m Dutch and currently in the US, today a waiter came up to me and said ” sir your creditcard needs a pin code, are you comfortable giving your pincode or do you wanna walk with me and type it in?” Uhmm what do you think? You think I’m gonna hand you my pincode? LOL” added another.

US here. When my wife and I went to France and Italy on our honeymoon in 2017, EVERY restaurant brought the card reader to our table. At first we were like, whaa? But after a few days, it made total sense. Even 5 years later, it is pretty rare in the States that a card reader is brought to the table…” added yet another. 


5. Garbage Disposal Under The Sink

Having garbage disposal unit installed under kitchen sink.” said one. 

Garbage disposals that discharge a slurry of waste into the sewage system are illegal in many parts of Germany. The water treatment plants are not equipped to deal with such a high amount of particulates and oil in the water. You can still buy them on Amazon and I know people who have them installed.” added another

Another person said “The funnier part of that is that in the US you’ll be somewhat used to what can and can’t go in there. My old neighbors came from Europe and weren’t used to it, so they shoved EVERYTHING (food related) in the garbage disposal. Managed to clog the entire building’s plumbing. That wasn’t fun.”

I had to have a talk with my friends years ago after people came over and I found a literal pizza crust sticking in the drain. Just because it has a garbage disposal doesn’t mean it’s a trash can. It is meant to keep the sink from clogging on incremental parts of foodstuff… not an alternative to the trashcan.” said one more. 


6. Free refills on sodas

My first time in London without my parents, twenty years ago or so, I stopped into a McDonalds for a quick bite and a Coke. I was tired and jet lagged and just wanted something I didn’t have to think about. The cashiers looked at me like I’d sprouted another head when I asked for a refill. I thought maybe it was a cultural word, like cookie and biscuit, so I took the lid off and offered the empty cup to fill again. The exchange went something like:

Them: You’d like a wha?

Me: just a refill on coke please

Umm..we can just give you a new cup

This one is fine, I’m just taking out with me.

Right, but you’re wanting to buy a new drink, ya?

sooo, you don’t refill drinks free? Like just one price for the whole time you’re here?, sorry.” shared a user. 

Related: How to get free Starbucks: Gift cards, free refill, drink and more!

7. Taxes Over The Purchase Price

UK here, the price you see in a shop is the price you actually pay” said one. 

In the US there are two states with no sales tax. I live in one of them and I constantly forget about it and am surprised at checkout when I visit other states…” shared an American.

Another shared “Wait till you try to buy that $999 tv. That’ll be $1078.xx in California. I’m not complaining, but it would be nice to have tax included in final sale price. With a breakdown beneath it.”

Related: How To Get Free Food With No Money?


8. Peanut Butter And Jelly

“Peanut butter and jelly… I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a worldwide thing.” said one

As a UK person I’ve adopted it as it’s delicious – though I was extremely confused by it as kid as this is what we call Jelly in the UK: UK Jelly” said another


9. Venmo

When I came to US from Canada to see a friend, after dinner when we were splitting the bill they asked if I could just venmo it over. And then I told them we don’t have venmo. And then I saw the shocked pikachu meme face around me.

So I’m gonna say venmo.” shared a user.

Related: Get Free Money Right Now In 2023


10. Entrée

Calling the main meal an entrée. Elsewhere (most of the world, including France from where the word comes), it’s the course preceding the main course. Synonyms are appetiser, starter or hors d’oeuvre.” said one.

I was always confused by this as a child as though I was raised in the US my mother taught me some French, in which “entrée” is a cognate of “entry” and means a “starter.” said another.

The smaller first course before the main meal can be called either the appetizer, entrée or starter here in Australia.” added another.

Standard in NZ as well. Entre>Mains>Dessert” added one more. 

We hope you enjoyed the best picks from this Reddit discussion. Do read this, Retiring Soon or Want To Retire Soon? You Better Live In One Of These 10 Places in the USA

This article originally appeared on Mrs Daaku Studio