Culture Shock: 21 European Habits That Are Just Plain Weird to Americans

Americans have always been fascinated by Europeans. Someone recently asked, “What European habits do Americans think are odd?”. Here are the top 21 answers.

Having Foods In Their ‘American’ Food Aisle That Americans Don’t Even Have

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“You guys have hamburger-flavored Cheetos in your “American Food” aisle. Homie, we don’t even have those.”

“Yes! I have seen canned cheese in the American aisle. I don’t know anyone who eats that canned cheese. Even the grocery stores here barely stock it. It’s one of those foods that is associated with America, even though few eat it.”

Having The Bathroom Light Switch Outside The Door

Having The Bathroom Light Switch Outside The Door
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“I can’t remember if the whole of Europe, but the bathroom light switch being outside of the door. Just how many times has a father or a sibling flicked the switch on and off or just straight up turned it off while you were doing your business?”

“We have strict zonal laws on where you can have electrics in a bathroom. You can only have a switch in a bathroom if it’s a pull string.”

Taking Soccer Very Seriously

Taking Soccer Very Seriously
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“Two Germans will go into an office and shut the door as though they’re talking about something important. Nope, just soccer.”

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”

“Our local paper used to feature football under the heading ‘Religion.”

Strange Queueing Etiquete

Strange Queueing Etiquete
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“English: “I was born in this queue, and by king and country, I’ll die in this queue.”

“In Germany, personal space doesn’t exist in lines. I’d be standing in line at a store, and the next person behind me would be breathing down my neck. Step back, man!”

“When I came back to France after four years in Texas, it was one of the most annoying things to me. I hate it so much. At least Americans know how to queue.”

Shutting Down In August

Shutting Down In August
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“I do find it a bit odd that everyone sort of agrees nothing happens in August. Like, for a whole month, you better not need anything done – even doctors seem scarce.”

“Schools close, and offices take two weeks off in August. Basically, everything will be closed; everyone is on holiday. It’s basically the EU version of Ramadan.”

Paying To Use A Public Restroom

Paying To Use A Public Restroom
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“I’d give my two cents on the topic, but I had to pee earlier, so….”

“Visited Europe for the first time and noticed this. Think I paid 0.5 for a bathroom break at a Mcdonald’s. Having said that, those bathrooms were super clean.”

“I’m European, and I can’t understand that either.”

Impressive Language Skills

Impressive Language Skills
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“Here’s Ivan, straight from the mean streets of Moscow, who speaks better English than I do and also speaks Portuguese and Mandarin.”

“In most European countries, there is an emphasis on learning foreign languages at school. I had English class every year and German classes for half of my school years.”

Letting Babies Sleep In The Cold

Letting Babies Sleep In The Cold
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“I was in Denmark in November, and it was a super windy, cold week (ranging from -6 to -9 degrees Celsius), and this honestly stunned me. I admire that people feel so safe that they can do it!”

“I’m from the UK, and my grandmother told me it used to be super common for people to leave their babies in prams outside, in all weather.”

Open Borders

Open Borders
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“It’s been crazy to discover how many European countries just have open borders. I’m taking the ICE from Germany to France, and there are no border checks. It’s really fascinating to me.”

“In Germany, some of my navy comrades fell asleep on the train home and woke up in Switzerland. They then got themselves a beer and rode the train back.”

Their Love Of Tracksuits

Their Love Of Tracksuits
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“In Europe, a lot of guys love tracksuits. Hell, I was surrounded by so much tracksuit exposure I wound up getting one myself (I love it)!”

“Full matching tracksuits, especially the shiny types, are stereotypical Eastern European. I read it’s because the west marketed them as fashionable, freedom clothes after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

Not Being Able To Adjust To High Temperatures

Not Being Able To Adjust To High Temperatures
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“I am from and work in SEA. My American colleagues adjust to heat and humidity pretty fast, the Europeans not so much.”

“To be fair, the entire eastern part of the US is fairly humid. Much more so the further south you go. And the entire southwest, while very dry, is quite hot. So a lot of Americans are already pretty used to heat and humidity.”

Offering Seats To Seniors

Offering Seats To Seniors
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“In Paris, I was offered a seat on the metro (when there were none) every single time. I’m a senior, and that very seldom happens here.”

“It’s very common here in Europe, but I do feel bad when I offer up my seat, and they don’t take it, Seems like I just called them old and disabled.”

Late-night Dining

Late-night Dining
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“A lot of European cultures eat dinner so late at night. I can’t imagine eating my dinner at 8 or 9 at night. That’s crazy!”

“I am from the UK, and we’d have dinner once back from work, around 6. Now that I live in France, if you’re planning to go out for dinner, nowhere is even open until 7.”

No Ice In Their Water

No Ice In Their Water
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“I asked for ice in my water at a restaurant in Copenhagen, and the waitress warned me it would be cold.”

“When I went to France in the middle of July, I was dying of thirst and asked for ice in my water in a fancy restaurant; the waiter told me, “We don’t do that here.” I was stunned.”

Having Twin Beds Pushed Together Instead Of A Double

Having Twin Beds Pushed Together Instead Of A Double
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“I went to several hotels, and they had two twin beds pushed next to each other instead of a king/queen size bed. You invented kings and queens, for goodness sake!”

“This one got me my very first trip to Europe! I’m someone who likes to sleep in the middle of the bed. Imagine my surprise when I laid on what I thought was a queen bed and dropped between the two twin bed frames!”

Very Long Lunch Breaks

Very Long Lunch Breaks
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“The fact that many can take two hours for lunch in the middle of a day, and it is considered to be a norm, really surprises me.”

“Frenchman here, and I hate it. Makes you lose so much time. Please just let me work straight through so I can use part of the afternoon for myself.”

No Comments For Sneezing

No Comments For Sneezing
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“Sneezes get no reaction there. I have since come around to their point of view, but, for a minute there, I was like, WHERE ARE MY BLESSINGS?”

“Here in Germany, you say ‘gesundheit.’ It literally means ‘health.’ But it’s not meant as a blessing for the person who just sneezed; it’s a prayer that they don’t get infected as well.”

Thinking That “How’re You Doing?” Is A Genuine Question

Thinking That _How_re You Doing__ Is A Genuine Question
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“They think it’s a personal question instead of an American greeting.”

“I think this contributes to the US being perceived as superficial. That we just perform this charade of asking how each other is doing when giving an honest answer is a faux pas.”

The Amount Of Paid Leave They Get

The Amount Of Paid Leave They Get
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“When I worked in the UK, I got six months paternity leave on full pay to bond with my kid. I continued collecting my six weeks a year paid holiday in that time too.”

“German here; I work part-time for only 65 hours a month, and I have 36 paid vacation days plus unlimited sick days.”

Day-tripping To Other Countries

Day-tripping To Other Countries
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“You can drive 5 hours in any direction, and the people there will speak a different language and have a completely different culture.”

“That’s true. If I drive five hours north, I end up somewhere near Newcastle and feel lost and scared. The dialect has changed 13 times, plus there have been three revisions to what bread rolls are called.”

Drinking At A Young Age

Drinking At A Young Age
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“When I went, middle schoolers and high schoolers were doing it freely.”

“Being 14 and getting drunk in the field next to the train station is an English rite of passage. Our drink of choice was 2.5 liters of Strongbow, as it was only £2.50.”

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