10 Things Americans Do Which Totally Confuses People in Other Countries? I Must Not Be a Typical American — Part 3

Although I will admit that there are times where it is easy to spot an American tourist in the crowd while traveling, I found that I generally do not fit the stereotype of most of the 10 things Americans do which totally confuses people in other countries — just as I generally did not fit the stereotype of the 13 ways to spot an American anywhere in the world; nor do I consider myself to be an “ugly” American — as according to this article written by Kathy Benjamin for Grunge.

10 Things Americans Do Which Totally Confuses People in Other Countries? I Must Not Be a Typical American — Part 3

A number of ways exist in which the United States is different from much of the rest of the world — such as the usage of the imperial system of measurement instead of using the metric system as one of the most obvious examples…

…but curiously, that was not included in the list written in the aforementioned article, from which only the subheadings were extracted.

1. We Put Ice in All Our Drinks

United Airlines

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

“When was the last time you had a drink without ice in it?” asked Benjamin. “If you’re an American, it’s probably been a while. We love ice. We take our liquor on the rocks, we ice our coffee and our tea, and we fill our fountain drinks to bursting before adding a dash of soda. If a waiter brought us water with no ice in it we’d wonder what kind of apocalypse was happening in the kitchen.”

The only time I ever ask for ice in my drink is if a carbonated beverage is truly warm or hot — and even then, I will only request one or two ice cubes. Otherwise, I always drink beverages without ice because drinks are usually served cold enough for me; and I do not like the way ice eventually dilutes a beverage when close to finishing it.

I do not consume alcoholic beverages; so I never order any drinks “on the rocks.”

2. We’re Complete Prudes

Elbow butt crack

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

While Americans may be more uptight about sex and nudity than other parts of the world, I would hardly say that Americans are complete prudes. Television and movie productions in the United States — as well as music videos by American musical artists — already dispel that theory.

When I was growing up in New York, I would go the to beach via bicycle to the Rockaways in Queens. I used to go to the beach in Neponsit because it was far less crowded than the beach at Jacob Riis Park just next door to the west — that might have been one of the best kept secrets in New York. The part of Jacob Riis Park which bordered the beach at Neponsit was known as Bay 1; and it was where people bathed and tanned in the nude. I had no issue with that at all…

…but I personally prefer not to be naked in public — and I believe that the world is better off that way. Does that mean that I am a prude?

By the way, if you were wondering about the photograph used for this item, the answer is at the end of this article.

3. We Love Our Small Talk

Secret ssh

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

“If you venture outside in America today, chances are you’ll have numerous conversations, even if you’re just getting groceries. That’s because we’re expected to chat with anyone we come into contact with. ‘How’s your day going?’ ‘Did you find everything all right?’ ‘I love your top.’ Americans are the world champions of small talk.”

Although I sometimes engage in it, I cannot stand small talk. I am not trying to be rude — I simply do not like talking for the sake of talking; so I would rather be quiet.

I am rather introverted — even when personality instruments claim otherwise; and they are correct to a degree — so talking to strangers is not something I particularly enjoy doing. As I wrote in this article pertaining to 25 pick-up lines to use aboard an airplane and 12 more which might be better which I posted on Tuesday, December 30, 2014, I am one of those people who usually does not like to be disturbed by fellow passengers.

I have been known to engage in discussions with people who initiate them with me; and even then, I do not always participate — especially when seated aboard an airplane…

…but I do not usually proactively initiate a conversation with people whom I do not know. Rare exceptions include during unusual events or circumstances — such as during the recent total solar eclipse.

4. We Take Our Extra Food Home With Us

Leftover food

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Guilty as charged, I must admit.

I do not believe in wasting food — especially when I enjoyed it. I have no problem asking for a bag or container to take leftovers back to my room to enjoy later — especially if a refrigerator and microwave oven are available in the room or in the lobby area where breakfast occurs each morning. Sometimes the flavor of food can actually improve when it is left over.

It is also a snack which can potentially save money on a meal — or perhaps tide me over until the next meal.

I have taken extra food with me in many countries — and I have never had a problem or issue.

5. We Expect You to Tip

Dollar bills and coins for tip or gratuity

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Not all countries around the world are listed in the infographic featured in this article; but the United States is arguably the worst of the list in terms of expected gratuities, with as much as 25 percent of the bill advised to leave to a server in a restaurant…

…but remember that in the United States, the gratuity should be a percentage of the bill before tax is added.

You should also not have to leave the person who delivers food to your room via room service in a hotel or resort property a gratuity in addition to the service charge — typically 18 percent of your bill — which had already been added to your bill.

More countries are represented in this discussion posted almost ten years ago on FlyerTalk, which offers a guide to tipping — but it is still relevant today, as it offers pertinent suggestions which have been updated over the years.

I will tip when I darn well feel like it; and I have never expected anyone to tip me.

Other articles at The Gate which have over the years covered tipping and gratuities include:

6. We Can’t Get Enough of Our Flag

Flags Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The design of the flag of the United States of America is one of the best designs in the world, in my opinion — the design of the flag for Malaysia is strikingly similar — and although I am proud to be an American, I have no intention of slapping flag stickers on my windows or attaching a flag to the antenna of my car.

I personally do not care for when someone overdoes the usage of the American flag — but that person is free to do so anyway. After all, that is what freedom of expression in the United States is supposed to be all about — right?

7. We Don’t Include Tax in Our Prices

Advertised prices would ideally include all taxes and fees, in my opinion — as well as a detailed breakdown of those taxes and fees. It is the best of both worlds, as keeping track of different taxes and fees in different jurisdictions on what is supposed to be the same advertised price can be rather daunting and confusing.

The United States is full of deceptive marketing practices with regards to advertised pricing. In addition to airlines and lodging companies — as well as many other businesses — typically not including taxes and fees in their advertised prices, mandatory resort fees and facilities fees, carrier-imposed fees, the aforementioned tips and gratuities, and even gasoline with which the price of each gallon sold is nine-tenths of a penny is typically more expensive than initially seen.

I like when I shop for lodging in another country and all taxes and fees are included in the advertised room rate — and I can always look up the details of the rate to see the specific breakdown of taxes and fees. Comparison shopping is significantly easier for me when I do not have to think about what more I might possibly have to pay.

Unfortunately, the trend may be reversing if the Total Cost Airfare Rule — which went into effect on Thursday, January 26, 2012 — is rescinded and airlines will once again only be required to advertise the base airfare without including taxes, fees and other extra costs.

8. We Smile Like Crazy People

smile teeth mouth

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Americans smile all the time — and like crazy people? Since when?!?

Not me.

Don’t get me wrong — I do smile; but I prefer not to smile on command. If you take a look at the photograph of me used to identify The Gate, that is about as much of a smile as I can muster. I only involuntarily smile when I feel genuinely happy.

I will say, however, that I have caught myself smiling while traveling when I realize what I am doing at that moment and how fortunate I am to do it.

Also, I do not recall the last time I saw an American citizen smiling and thinking, “Wow — he or she smiles like a crazy person.”


9. We Have the Longest, Most Expensive Elections Ever

Lesotho South Africa border

A thunderstorm decided to rain on my misery as I waited for almost four hours at the border trying to cross into Lesotho. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Whether or not the United States has the longest, most expensive elections ever is true, I can say one thing: souvenir shops in other countries are obsessed with them. In Kenya, people wanted to talk to me about Barack Obama. In Lithuania, I saw souvenirs for sale which resembled Donald Trump. Those are only two examples of countries where I have seen merchants attempt to capitalize on elections in the United States or start small talk with me.

As I said, I cannot stand small talk — but if that small talk includes politics, you have lost me for good. I am especially not interested in that — no matter what country I happen to be visiting in at the time. Like religion, politics is a difficult topic about which to discuss because people are usually so staunchly passionate about it that they will rarely concede or change their minds.

I know one thing for sure: sitting in a car for four hours in a thunderstorm at the border in South Africa trying to get into Lesotho because the national election was the next day was the longest wait I have ever experienced to simply cross an international land border…

10. We’re Obsessed With Guns

I do not own a gun — never have, actually, which is why you do not see a photograph of one in this article; and that does not necessarily mean that I oppose the right to bear arms — but I sure like to shoot people, places and things, as evidenced by the photographs included in many articles posted here at The Gate over the past eleven years.

I am reminded of an anecdote about which I have not thought in a long time: as a native New Yorker, I once visited a high school in Colonia in New Jersey. An ignorant student found out that I was from New York and asked how I could live in such a dangerous place.

“Well, I got pretty good at dodging the hundreds of bullets from all of the gunfire whenever I left the garbage can in which I lived,” I replied.

If the look on his face was any indication, I think he actually believed me.


As I have said in the past, I will admit that there are times where it is easy to spot an American tourist in the crowd while traveling. The United States is unique in that it encompasses many different climates and regions, which can cause some people to ask why they should travel outside of the country when there is so much to see without leaving it; and is arguably the most autonomous country in the world in terms of factors such as natural resources, corporate business and entertainment…

…not to mention that it only physically borders two countries: Canada and Mexico. I am not counting countries separated from the United States by a body of water — such as the Bahamas, Russia, Cuba and France as examples. Unlike in Europe — where it is quite easy to visit many different countries with many different cultures and governments — the United States is somewhat isolated in terms of geography. There is still no need to learn a language other than English; although Spanish has been gaining momentum.

Regardless, it is all a matter of respect. When in Rome, do as the Romans do — for you might just learn something…

…and I do whenever I travel.

I suppose that — once again, as with part 2 of this series — I am just not your typical American tourist, as with part 1 of this series

All photographs ©2015, ©2016 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

3 thoughts on “10 Things Americans Do Which Totally Confuses People in Other Countries? I Must Not Be a Typical American — Part 3”

  1. ss says:

    How about adding many of us don’t know how to dress appropriately when visiting another country. Those wife beater t-shirts (male and female) showing off your tatoos and those flip flops aren’t really appropriate when taking a tour of the imperial palace in Kyoto. It’s actually embarrassing for the rest of us.

  2. Ryan says:

    Seems like there are a lot of stereotypes in play in that article, which like similar pieces views the American culture and perspective as “weird”. It also ignores large swaths of the world in some of its comparisons.

    Your post did make me wonder about a few things…This article has a cool explanation of the history of bringing home leftover food – turns out the practice was popular in ancient Rome. It originated in the US from WW II and food conservation efforts, which is what my grandparents had told me years ago, as well:

    Last summer during two weeks in northern Scotland, a lot of people asked about our US election, what I thought of both major candidates, etc. Earlier this year traveling in South Africa and Swaziland quite a few people asked what I thought about the current President. As I am not very political at all, my answers weren’t very enlightening I suppose.

    I do wish our display prices included tax. Granted I have a rough idea of the tax when I’m in my home area as I know what the rate is, but it would just be a nice convenience.

  3. Jennifer Hill says:

    When I first returned home after being in the Air Force, there were NO JOBS in my field, or many others, but people always have to eat. I went into waitressing.
    I hated it. I’m not cut out to be a good waitress, but I gained an appreciation for those that servers who were stellar.
    I compliment them, appreciation can lift someone’s spirits, & tip. 25% seems excessive unless one goes to a very ritzy place, but I do tip 15%.
    Back in the mid-70s, servers would have starved without tips; wages were abysmal!

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