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Top 10 Things Europeans Find Strange About America

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp

Cultural differences galore! For this list, we’ll be looking at things that are prevalent in America but that are done differently in Europe. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Things Europeans Find Strange About America.

Special thanks to our user Jayka for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+things+Europeans+find+strange+about+America.

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Script written by Nathan Sharp

Top 10 Things Europeans Find Strange About America



Cultural differences galore! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten things Europeans find strange about America.

For this list, we’ll be looking at things that are prevalent in America but that are done differently in Europe. Of course, Europe is a large place, and we understand that not all of the customs, practices or habits we’re listing will feel odd to all Europeans in all regions.

#10: “How Are You?”

Of course, there are regional variations on the question “how are you” in Europe, but the words “how are you” as a greeting is a relatively foreign concept to many Europeans. In America, asking “how are you?” is expected to be followed with a short and concise, “Fine, thanks.” The asker is simply being polite, and almost never expects an honest or lengthy response; it’s simply a way to say hello. However, ask a European the same question, and they may actually get into it, as this is rarely used as a form of greeting overseas.

#9: The Measurement System

To most of Europe (and most of the world for that matter), the United States’ use of the imperial system is simply mind boggling. Most of the world has adopted the metric system, but the United States remains one of the few areas of the world to stick with imperial. Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, the imperial system is still widely used by the British (despite metric being the official system), with imperial units still commonly being used for things like speed, road signs, distance, weight, and volume. However, a large majority of Europe employs the metric system, and to them, things like feet and miles are completely foreign concepts.

#8: Pharmacies Acting as Convenience Stores

In America, pharmacies and convenient stores are basically interchangeable. You can walk in, get a prescription filled, and pick up some beer and cigarettes while you wait. In many areas throughout Europe (and the rest of the world), cigarettes and beer are a huge no-no in pharmacies. In fact, before the mid-2000s, many European pharmacies were extremely strict – even relatively harmless things like ibuprofen and vitamins were hidden behind the counter. While many areas of Europe have opened up the availability of drugs, it’s still extremely rare to see cigarettes and alcohol right beside the prescription counter.

#7: Strict Alcohol Laws

When it comes to alcohol, few countries are as strict as the United States. Not only is alcohol relatively cheap in Europe (especially wine), but Europeans are also much more relaxed when it comes to alcohol regulation. The mandated drinking age in America is 21, and some states ban those under 21 from entering bars, even if they’re not drinking. In Washington, possession of alcohol under 21 may even land you in prison. On the other hand, some countries in Europe, like Denmark and France, do not have a legal drinking age, and the minimum age for purchasing alcohol can be as low as 16. Public drinking is also often acceptable, despite being widely forbidden in the United States.

#6: American Patriotism

Patriotism is rampant across America – flags are proudly hoisted on houses and lawns, the national anthem is sung at events, and some even take great pride in their weapons - another hallmark of the American constitution that feels alien to many outsiders. While Europeans undoubtedly love their respective countries of origin, the patriotism is nowhere near the fever levels exhibited in the States. National identity just doesn’t seem to carry the same weight. While certain types of American patriotism may be on the decline in today’s political climate, it is still undoubtedly a facet of American life for which there is no European equivalent.

#5: Expensive Post-Secondary Education

Quite frankly, post-secondary education in the United States is ridiculously expensive. According to College Board, tuition ranges between a modest $3,500 a year for a public two-year college to $25,000 for a four-year out-of-state, to nearly $35,000 for a private non-profit (not including room and board). These prices would be faint-inducing for most Europeans. In places like Austria, Denmark, and Germany, tuition is completely free for domestic students, while other countries like Belgium, France, and Italy provide tuition for less than $1,000 a year. Of course, there are some expensive areas, like the United Kingdom, where tuition can cost around £9,000 a year, which equates to roughly 12,000 USD.

#4: The Health Care System

This is a potentially controversial difference, but a difference nonetheless. Universal health care varies between European nations, with some being publicly sponsored and others publicly provided, but the fact remains that practically all of Europe is covered under the umbrella of universal health care. Countries like Austria, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, among many others, are covered under universal health care. America does not have such a system in place, with some even calling the idea of universal health care “socialized medicine.” Coverage has increased under the Affordable Care Act, and as of 2017, 92% of Americans had some form of health insurance. But only time will tell what the future holds for healthcare in America.

#3: Such Little Vacation Time

Vacation time is certainly a touchy and controversial subject in America. Many Americans DO get paid vacation, but the allotted time is relatively limited (usually two or three weeks), and annual paid leave is not a right that Americans enjoy. U.S. law does not guarantee a single day of paid vacation or paid public holiday, and, as reported in 2012, only 77 percent of private employers even offer paid holiday. Countries in the European Union must provide their workers at least four weeks of paid vacation every year. Some countries, including France, Luxembourg, Sweden, and Austria, can allow up to seven weeks (or more) vacation when including paid public holidays.

#2: Prices Displayed Without Tax

If a European tourist finds themselves in an American Walmart, they may find themselves a little confused when they go up to the cash and discover that the price is higher than what they read on the tag. That’s because American stores display their prices before tax. Some states, like Oregon and Montana, do not have a state sales tax, but some states can add an additional 6 or 7% onto your bill. In the EU, all prices must be displayed with the inclusion of taxes and other additional charges, so the price at the cash always equals the price on display.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
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#1: Tipping

Eating out at a restaurant is an extremely different beast in Europe than it is in America. Not only are the portion sizes much smaller, (xref) but also the servers aren’t constantly checking in on you, and you’re not expected to leave a tip. However, if you feel like your service was simply magnificent and worthy of a little something extra, a tip of 5% is more than sufficient. However, American servers often rely on tips to make a living, and leaving a tip as high as 15 or 20% is generally expected. Not tipping your waiter is seen as a highly offensive gesture. We’ve all seen “Reservoir Dogs.”

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