Europeans Share Their Craziest Moments Traveling Through the United States
Every country, every culture is a little bit different — some more than others. You can really experience that first-hand when you spend any amount of time in another country, whether it's for a six-month trip abroad or a quick vacation. When it comes to stereotypes, it seems there are many surrounding the United States and American culture. Most of these things are perfectly normal if you live and grew up in the U.S., but they are completely confusing and shocking to travelers. Just take it from these Europeans, who recently shared the craziest moments they experienced when traveling through the U.S.
Banter, Then Drinks
First thing I saw after sitting down to have my first beer in Portland was some guy walking in the middle of the street, kind of dressed as a ninja, with two weapons on his back. Before that, some homeless guy told me and my friend to “go back to your country.” Then some slightly hippie looking girl apologized for his behavior. We just laughed at how scripted the situation felt and went to have the drink mentioned above.
Also, when you play Grand Theft Auto you hear strangers on the street yelling and talking about weird stuff. That always felt exaggerated until I went to the U.S. and realized it actually happens all the time.
See You Later, Alligator
In 2015, I went to Florida. We walked past a putt-putt 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 about having a real live alligator in his arms.
I'm Arab, and I went to some diner in Portland, Oregon, and ordered coffee. Halfway into my coffee, the waiter asked me if I wanted a refill. I politely declined and told her I was short on cash. She laughed and told me refills were free of charge. To top off my amazed reaction, she complimented my shirt. Needless to say, she cured my hangover, and I fell in love.
I had my cousins come over from Latvia for a few weeks. They never got over the absolutely gigantic size of stores like Walmart and the sheer amount of products offered.
I'm a European who went to Texas. The difference in religion is astounding. It’s so much more prevalent in people’s lives in Texas. There are some beautiful churches in Europe, but they don’t seem to have the same spirit as Texas.
Also, holy smokes! The driving distances are immense. I couldn't believe an hour commute in the morning is normal for people.
Erasing That from Memory
So, I’ve been living in the States for three years now, and I'm originally from England. I turned to my co-worker one day and asked, “Can I borrow a rubber?” She proceeded to do a double take and said “What?” I asked again and told her it was to rub out the mistakes I made with a sketch I was working on. She proceeded to burst out laughing and explained to me what a rubber really means in the U.S. I definitely should have said eraser.
Endless Fountain of Sugar
I was extremely surprised that in fast food restaurants you find unlimited soft drinks from time to time (like a refill cup), but people still pay extra for a bigger cup. I guess that's so they don’t have to walk too often?
We couldn't believe your commercials on TV for prescription medications. We found the disclaimers for the side effects to be hilarious.
There are so many flags everywhere. The American flag density per square mile is so much higher than any other place I’ve been. It’s like every other house has a flag.
Guest with a Weapon
I was at a 4th of July party in the middle of the woods, just chilling and having a great time and some drinks. We did some zip-lining from a tree into a lake. It was like a 90's film come true.
Out of nowhere, this fellow comes in with a weapon slung over his shoulder and starts shouting, “LET'S SHOOT SOME STUFF UP!” Naturally, I pooped myself and turned to run into the woods before realizing he was just a guest who showed up a bit late. He turned out to be a really nice guy.
Tip-Toeing Through Texas
I left my hotel in Texas at 7:00 a.m. and stopped at McDonald’s and got enough breakfast sandwiches to last me through lunch. I then stopped at a gas station to get gas, some smokes and two cokes. I gunned it through Texas, sometimes going more than 90 miles an hour. I stopped one more time to go to the toilet and get gas and snacks. At 7:30 p.m., I stopped at the hotel to spend the night. I was still in Texas.
The first time I flew to America, I saw this guy at the airport walking around all dressed up like a cowboy, and my day was just made right there. They have always just been these fantasy characters from TV shows or movies, but in the back of my mind, I knew they were real. No matter what, you can never be prepared to really see one. He wasn’t even a cowboy, of course, just an American.
So Much Room for Activities
The space — you guys have so much unused, untouched space. It’s crazy. In Europe, there is barely anywhere that isn’t owned or being used. In Europe, we have protected forests, but in America, you have unrestricted, uncontrolled forests that are massive!
Snakes in the Park
I’m from the U.K. Yesterday, I went to Central Park, and there were literally two guys just driving around on segways with giant snakes around their necks. Occasionally, they would take them off and drape them around the nearest random person. I was actually frozen with horror.
We LOVED our visit — loved the whole bloody place, but I was absolutely gobsmacked when I found Fruit Loops with marshmallows. I genuinely did not think it was possible to make Fruit Loops more unhealthy, but you guys did it – and I love your work!
My brother lived in Tampa for a while. When I went to visit, any American I spoke to told me their life story: their military career, how many jobs they had worked, the kids they had, how old they were, etc. I took a 40-minute trip in an Uber from the Keys to Ebor, and I’m not kidding, this guy talked — seemingly without taking a breath — the entire time. As a Brit, this made me very uncomfortable.
I’d go into a store, and everything had a price on it. Then I’d take it to the checkout, and all of a sudden, that price had a load of extra charges on top of it. Why not just include it in the price, so I know what I’m going to have to pay for it?
Troubled by the Toilet Situation
I went to New Jersey for work. I quickly learned the portions are enormous, and public restroom stalls might as well not be there, considering the size of all the gaps. Toilets have a weird shape and hold too much water. Also, everyone is so polite and talkative. As someone who is really horrible at making conversation myself, this made me feel a lot less awkward talking to people, so that was nice.
I went to Portland at the beginning of this year on a business trip, and I couldn’t believe the number of homeless people in downtown Portland. I'm not talking about the odd person just sitting on the corner begging. There were a couple of streets with people just strewn on the pavement, some lying down, some sleeping, some just talking to themselves and screaming.
This was the first time it really hit me at how big the class divide is in the U.S. and how this is normalized. I would like to believe if this happened in the U.K., it would be all over the news. And don’t get me wrong, we do have displaced people in London, but not at this level.
While this is happening, a few streets over you’ve got the most hipster of markets with people talking about stopping gentrification and changing the country, and I’m thinking, “Look a few streets over mate. There are about 20 people just on the floor without a home, and no one cares.”
A Dozen Donuts
I know this is the biggest stereotype, and I don’t think this is an actual representation, but holy smokes, this ACTUALLY HAPPENED! My first day ever in America was in Miami, and my family and I went to a donut shop. First of all, when we asked for a single donut each, they looked at us oddly. “One donut? Are you sure?” We felt weird, so we bought a couple each.
Moments later, two cops entered and proceeded to buy 12 donuts — 12 donuts EACH. Then a guy walks in with his two kids, maybe 3 and 5, and buys them a dozen too. One of the kids eats 3 and starts throwing up. So, Daddy calms her down and feeds her another donut “to make her feel better!” Wow. 10/10 stereotypical experience. It was like a show was put on for us.
Back to Cali
There’s a lot of negativity in the U.K. My experience visiting California at 15 or 16 was wonderful. I had never left the U.K. before, and it was honestly the best experience of my life. The people were so friendly, and everyone was so excited to meet a tourist. They genuinely care about hearing your reason for visiting.
The food was amazing. I ordered a milkshake, and most of it was in the glass, but then all of the extra was given to me in this metal cup thing. It was great. It’s really hard to describe the tangible difference in people. The best way I could describe it would be openness, I guess. I was waiting to use a toilet, and the guy in front of me just turned around and was like, “Hello, my name is (blank). What did you think of the Golden Gate Bridge?”
The same thing happened in a supermarket too. It was great. The only irritation was the tax not being added on to prices already. My teenager brain wasn’t prepared for that. Someone explained that they do it because it helps them identify how much they’re paying for the product and how much they are paying for taxes. 10/10. I would visit the U.S. again and would like to see more states.
Lawyers at Large
When you see things like The Simpsons, you think the lawyer thing is exaggerated. But the highway really is full of signs like “Been in an accident and need help? Call a lawyer.” That's pretty far down on the list for accident help for me. I was also somewhat surprised at the huge confederate general statues in the middle of large cities. I thought the Civil War was a bit more touchy of a subject.
Traffic Lights Are Suggestions
England: Red light means don’t you dare go past the line.
America: Red light means if you feel like it, you can ignore it when making a turn.
I almost got hit about a hundred times while walking around NYC.
Extra Cheese, Please
Cheese, cheese, cheese…EVERYWHERE!! Americans even pile it on stuff that already has a ton of cheese, like pizza! Insanity!
Off the Beaten Path
So, I’m from Germany, and I think the thing that shocked me the most is how unnecessarily and overly friendly everyone was. It kind of gave me the creeps. I also do not understand why there are literally no paths for bikes anywhere, so you have to have a driver’s license. I also saw cars driving on the streets that wouldn’t even be allowed to drive anymore in Germany because they were so damaged.
Into the Wild
I went to a little town in the middle of a forest in New Hampshire, near the border of Vermont. While I was sleeping, I kept hearing this weird sound, so I decided to take a glance. It was just a deer — being followed by a wolf.
No Sippin’ in the Street
I spent a semester in Minnesota. On move-in day, we were over at an American friend’s place. Everybody was having a good time, partying and playing yard games in the front yard. I saw someone across the street and started walking, and about a foot short of the sidewalk, my friend pulled me back and almost tackled me to the ground. He said, “What are you doing? There are cops like 10 feet away from you!” That was the moment I learned I can’t carry an open beverage can across the street.
Mine was a few things. The main two are price labels. I hated that the price on the label or the menu was nothing like the price you would pay. In the U.K. and Australia, any sales taxes are legally required to be included on the label.
The other was more annoying than anything — dollar notes and that all the other paper money was the same size and color. At a glance, you don't have any idea how much money is in your wallet. I can’t help but feel sorry for the blind or visually impaired.
The amount of very obvious plastic surgery in Manhattan is astonishing. I realize the rest of the country isn’t like that, but it was so weird to see all these people who looked like deformed balloon animals walking around. Do they not own mirrors?
U.S. banking feels like a thing straight from the 14th century. You guys still use checks, and the only way to transfer money between friends is PayPal and Venmo. In Europe, bank transfers between accounts of different people are super cheap and simple to do online. Also, American banks don’t use IBAN. Banking in the U.S. sucks big time.
Northern European here, and on my trip to America, I booked a rental car online for a trip from New York to Niagara Falls. When I arrived to collect the car, the customer service lady called a manager and both started apologizing that the last car model left for the booking was a manual transmission. I will never forget their facial expressions when I told them that I have never driven a car with an automatic gearbox.