America is often touted as the greatest nation on Earth – and there are plenty of great things about it. But as a foreigner who has lived here for over four years, I have picked up on a few things that seem a little out of the ordinary.
Actually some of them are just plain weird.
1. Weird Pumpkin Obsession
As an Aussie I love pumpkins as much as the next person! Pumpkins with my roast, pumpkin soup and even pumpkin scones but in the US they take pumpkins to a whole other level. Especially this time of year – in Fall.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin shakes and pumpkin ice cream. But I just don’t understand the complete obsession with pumpkins and Autumn. I am married to an American (and she’s really awesome) but the first year we were together, when Autumn rolled around, she got so excited about going to a pumpkin patch and finding some pumpkins.
In the US, pumpkin patches are as common as Christmas tree farms, and pumpkin paraphernalia fills the supermarket shelves as much as valentines trinkets. Americans get these pumpkins, and put them on their doorstep’s and on their tables, as well as carve them for Halloween.
I’ve asked everybody where this tradition came from and no one could give me a definitive answer. I mean imagine if you arrived in Australia and were told, “It’s springtime, let’s go to the celery patch – we keep little celery sticks on our table and place it on our doorsteps.”
2. What Annual Leave?
Americans are hard workers. There’s no doubt about it. Unfortunately, it seems to go to the degree that there is little work life balance. Coming from Australia where we get four weeks annual leave per year if you’re full time, it can be tough adjusting to the US culture. Here you might get 2-3 weeks annual leave when you first start your job.
In many workplaces it can be hard to take that leave even if you do have it stored up. I’m all for hard work, but what’s the point if you can’t make time to relax and spend time with family or travel abroad?
3. Their Weird Driving Habits
We previously talked about how interesting it can be transitioning from Aussie to US driving habits. The US right turn on a red light is genius, but there are a couple of rules that leave foreigners baffled. Take for instance the four way stop sign. It makes no sense! Why not just have a two way stop sign and give the other direction right of way?
4. The Price Is Actually Not The Price
One thing that drives me insane and makes budgeting impossible is the fact that nowhere you go in America shows you the actual price. It is common in the US to leave out sales tax from a listed price.
On top of that they will often add fees as well. This may be inconvenient when you do your grocery shopping but becomes outrageous when you book a holiday. I recently saw a great deal – $99 for a 5 night cruise. Add to that fees, taxes and gratuity and we were up to over $350 by the end of it… still not a bad deal but definitely not $99! Look beyond the price tag.
5. Random Events
We all know that Americans love to live over the top. This extends to their way of celebrating. I love that many of the restaurants in the US will still give you a free dessert on your birthday. But it seems like they add special events upon events.
Take for example the wedding. Most countries have some form of bachelor (buck’s) party or bridal (hen’s night) shower. But in the US often there will be an additional party or event for trying on the bridal dress, and then a rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding.
When it comes to growing the family, most countries are familiar with some form of baby shower, but in the US they also have a gender reveal.
6. Gaps Between Toilet Doors
Probably the most weirdest thing in the US, is the large gaps that exist between public toilet doors. I don’t only mean the gap underneath the door, although that is larger in the US, but they have gaps on either side of the door – usually more than a centimetre. Don’t expect your privacy when you do your business! I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. It has even made its way to BuzzFeed. But I haven’t seen a plausible answer.
My best guess is that it’s to prevent undesirable activity from occurring (more undesirable than the intended activity I guess). I have noticed that there does seem to be less graffiti in US toilets. They can be cleaner than those back in Australia. At any rate it will ensure you don’t sit there too long with your pants down! Too bad if you struggle with stage fright!
Although these things may be a bit weird at first, I have grown to love at least some of them. Not the gaps in the toilet door – that’s weird in anyone’s book! Also, not the pricing thing…but everything else is growing on me.
What do you find weird about America and what do you love?