You just finished your meal at a restaurant, and you ask for a box to take your leftovers home with you. You are actually out for a first date with a Brazilian girl. She is gorgeous. And she is currently judging you. Why is this strange American asking to take his food with him? Does he not have food home? Little does she know that this is just one of the many oddities of the U.S. culture. You probably should also tell her about these additional 7 things you did not realize were weird about American culture.
1. Tipping at Restaurants
You want to make a good impression on your Japanese colleague who is visiting the US for the first time. You want to give him a taste of home, so you take him to the local hibachi restaurant. It does not taste like home at all, but at least you tried, right? In the words of Yoda, “Do, or do not! There is no try.” The bill arrives and you graciously offer to pay. You give the waitress your card to pay. After the waitress returns your card, pull out some cash and lay it on the table. Your Japanese colleague’s eyes bulge out of his head. You notice his shock and pull out another bill, assuming that he finds your 15% tip to be much too small. To your dismay, his frown grows even larger. You explain that waiters and waitresses live off of tips because otherwise they would not make a living wage. Your friend is appalled. In Japan it is actually quite offensive to tip waiters and waitresses. So, he is still reeling at this strange American practice.
2. Ignoring Your Plus-One
You have probably been the recipient or the source of this American cultural oddity. Imagine yourself walking in a high traffic area of your city. You are walking with a friend as you head to find somewhere to eat. You see someone else you know walking toward you. You greet said person. You shake their hand and briefly ask how they are doing and quickly catch up. Then you tell them you need to be going because you are starving. You part ways with a side hug or a handshake. As you continue on your way, you tell your walking companion about how you know that person and their name etc. Never once in the course of your previous conversation did you introduce the two of your friends. It was as if your walking companion was invisible the entire time. Pretty weird, right?
3. Misleading Pricing at the Store
It is your first time in the US, and you are at a store wanting to buy a shirt. The price tag says $24.99. You do not know how, but somehow you have been able to fish out exactly that amount from your pocket. So, you decide to get the shirt. You take it up to the register to pay for it. The cashier scans the shirt and asks for $24.99. Except, she doesn’t. She wants some amount above that. You tell her she is mistaken because the price tag is very clear. She informs you that the price is correct with tax. You are then faced with a cold hard truth that unless it is food, the price you pay will never match the sticker price. The additional amount can be anywhere from 2.9% up to 7.25%, depending on the state you are in. Just a little weird.
4. Helping Yourself at Self-Checkouts
Later in your first US visit, you are at the grocery store armed with the knowledge that the sticker price will not be the final price you pay. You are feeling confident that this time you have it right. You head to the front of the store to check out and see a worker standing by a scanner. You head to the worker and do not see a place to put your groceries, so you try to hand one of your items to the clerk. He looks at you strangely and does not extend his hand to take the item from you. He asks if there is something you need. You tell him that you want to check out. He tells you to go ahead and points at the sign above your head. It clearly reads “self-checkout.” Apparently, the store is hard for cash, so they have customers do the work that the employees are supposed to be doing. Weird.
5. Ordering Food at a Drive-Thru
Your friend from Brazil just arrived from the airport and informs you that he is starving. You tell him you will find something to eat along the way. Your friend spies McDonald’s and immediately asks to go there. It is a special treat in Brazil, so you oblige. Your local McDonald’s has not reopened the dining room due to being short-staffed, so you pull up to the drive-thru to order. After you ask your friend what he wants, he watches dumbfounded as you order. He is amazed that you can simply purchase your food without even leaving your car. He is also impressed with how reasonable the pricing is as well as how large a large drink is. The kid’s cup is the size of the large in Brazil. Your friend marvels at the strangeness of things in the US. During his trip, he also finds out that there are drive-thrus at pharmacies and banks as well.
6. Defining Football
Your German colleague is heading to the States for the first time, and he tells you he wants to see a football game. You promptly use the company credit card to purchase box seats for your favorite team. You are so excited to be able to watch all the action in the best seats available. You really hype up the game up on the way there. Your German colleague asks what two MLS teams will be playing. You are unsure what football league that is but correct him and tell him that you are going to an NFL game. Your German friend then realizes that you thought he wanted to go to an American football game, which is the exact opposite of the football he wanted to see. Maybe your company should have invested in intercultural training instead of American football tickets.
7. Displaying Overt Patriotism
Your German colleague had noticed your extreme love and pride for your country through zoom calls, since you always make sure there is an American pin in your tie or lapel. He finds this grandiose display of patriotism as very strange. For this very reason, he was wanting to go to see a soccer game. It is one of the few places that it is culturally acceptable for Germans to display their patriotism. He sees American flags literally everywhere, and it is super weird and uncomfortable to him.
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