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Europeans Explain Their Biggest Culture Shock Moments in America

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Culture shock is real. Just ask anyone who's driven on American roads their entire life and then find themselves on the nightmare highway free-for-all that are Egypt's streets. Lanes and traffic lights are mere suggestions, and drivers use their car horns more than they do their turn signals. It's wild, wild stuff. And as weird as some foreign practices seem to us, our neighbors around the globe are just as flabbergasted by some of the things that go down in the U-S-of-A. 

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I can still remember how confused a friend of mine from Bulgaria was when he saw commercials on cable TV. She just looked blankly at me and said, "But...you pay for it." I mean she has a point: If advertisers are funding our airtime on network television, then what are our cable subscription dollars going to?

I didn't really have an answer for her, because she's totally right. There are plenty of experiences that Europeans, like my friend, have when they first come to the U.S. and interact with a practice that seems crazy to them. This AskReddit thread has some pretty good ones.

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Credit card etiquette.

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I went to pay with card in a restaurant and the waiter just took it and walked off. 


Think about it: would you let someone just walk away with your wallet full of cash to pay for something? No. Then why would we let someone walk off with our credit card where they could record our numbers/info and order whatever they want online? It's insane.

Coffee orders.

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When I ordered a cappuccino at IHOP and it came in a bowl-sized mug with cream on top and was filled with sugar and vanilla.

Everything's bigger in America. Even our caffeine intake. Plus, adding whipped cream and tons of milk and sugar doesn't help matters either. At that point it's just an excuse to get diabetes instead of actually enjoying a coffee.

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Drink sizes.

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"Excuse me, I ordered a small."

I'll personally never forget the look on my cousin's from overseas faces when they ordered a "small" drink - it was actually a 20 oz. soda.

Casual alligator holder.

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In 2015 I went to Florida. We walked past a crazy golf place and a guy was holding an alligator in his arms, he also told me he had an 8-foot alligator in the back.
I’m from England, so I don’t think I’ll ever quite get over just how casual he was having a f--king alligator in his arms.

I would like to say that Floridians are a special breed of Americans and I think most other people from different states would freak out at the sight of a man handling a gator with such nonchalance.

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Price not as advertised.

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All the prices are pre-tax.

It is kind of crazy, when you think about it, to pay for something, only to find out you owe a little bit more money because they didn't factor in tax on the tag.

Cups on cups on cups.

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I was extremely surprised that in fast food restaurants you will find unlimited soft drinks from time to time (like a refill cup). Yet people pay extra for a bigger cup. So they don’t have to walk to often I guess?

Are you that lazy that you can't walk up to the fountain machine to get a soda?

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Churches and morning commutes.

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European gone to Texas, the difference in religion is astounding. It's so much more prevalent in people's lives here. There are some beautiful churches in Europe, but they don't seem to have the same spirit as [in] Texas.
Also holy f--k, the driving distances are immense. An hour commute in the morning is normal for people.

America's a pretty big country and especially in areas where things are more spread out, it doesn't make sense to some of our friends across the pond to simply not live closer to where they work.

TV drug commercials.

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Your commercials on TV for prescription drugs. We found the disclaimers for the side effects hilarious. 

The side effects are oftentimes worse than the symptoms you're trying to treat. But we do love our drugs here in the U-S-of-A.

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Boston is basically Europe.

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Boston: didn’t notice I had left Europe.
Houston: the people were as friendly as they were huge. And loud. Hugely loud. And loudly huge, I guess.
Nashville and other places I went kinda blend together in my head, except for the delicious food.
Oh, and the person who asked if my country had coins and traffic lights. I.. what.. yes? I mean.. what?

Boston does have a more intimate appeal than other cities.

Flag density.

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There's f--king flags everywhere. The American flag density per square km is so much higher than any other place I've been. It's like every other house has a flag. 

- (deleted)

My wife's cousin from Egypt said the same thing when he arrived here, "why does every house have an American flag on it?" I thought it's just because he wasn't used to seeing American flags, but then I went back and thought of all the countries I visited and noticed that people don't rep their country's colors as much as we do here stateside.

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Car size.

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I really wasn't prepared for the size of the cars! I'm used to getting into cars by opening the door and sitting down, not climbing up. And we had a rental car, a Dodge of some sort, that was pretty much a tank, with tiny windows so you could barely see where you were going.

Crossovers SUVs are still the biggest sellers in the US, despite the fact that they're almost all ugly and worse than sedans in every way.

Texas is yuge.

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I left my hotel in Texas at 7:00 am - stopped at McDonalds and got enough breakfast sandwiches to last me through lunch. I then stopped at a gas station to get gas and cigs and 2 cokes. I gunned it through Texas sometimes going over 90 miles an hour. I stopped one more time to go to the toilet and get gas and snacks. At 7:30 pm I stopped at the hotel to spend the night. I was still in Texas.

Even as an American, I was struck with how big everything in Texas was when I first visited two years ago. I could only imagine how the state seems to Europeans. Here's a handy little size comparison piece that shows you how Texas stacks up to other land masses. Another state that doesn't get enough credit? Montana.

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Florida doesn't understand English-English.

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While in Florida, we went through a drive-thru and the lady couldn't understand what I was ordering regardless of how slowly and carefully I spoke, so I decided to go inside instead where the lady behind the counter couldn't understand me either. I am a Northern Brit, but not too too broad an accent.
My little sister had to put on her Florida accent to order for us, the manager who eventually took the order said she was sorry as the staff were only used to "normal" English lol.

I think this might have to do with the fact that drive-thru speakers are absolutely terrible.

Chips aren't fries.

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Back in 1987 and asking for a burger and chips, then sat wondering why the hotel waitress looked at me funny. Then my food turned up...

Definitely not the first nor the last Englishman who has experienced this mix-up in the states.

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Lots of water in the toilet.

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So much water in your toilet bowls! It's like you're taking your turd for a swim.

I am going to go out on a limb and say I'd much rather have more than less water in my toilet. Suck it, Europe.

Casual "hellos" from strangers.

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While walking around Austin, random people would just give me a "Hey, how's it going" as they walked past. In the UK, if someone even looks like they might glance in your direction, it probably means they're about to try selling you something. I probably offended a couple of them with how defensive I seemed...

This is most definitely a Southern thing. There's no way you're getting random hellos in NY and NJ.

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Walmart is very much Walmart.

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Not European (am Australian) but went to a Walmart in Arkansas. It was just like stepping into the People of Walmart page.

One can only imagine the horror show that this poor European felt when venturing into a Walmart for the first time. With prices that low, you're bound to get all types of peeps perusing the aisles of America's retail store.

The legends were true.

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