Strange American Traditions Foreigners Don’t Understand

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American Traditions

Posted: 5 July 2018

No matter where you travel, every country has different customs than what you might be used to. You may not know that eating with your fork in your left hand or pointing your feet at someone is insulting, which is why it’s important to do your research.

Though you may think certain countries have weird traditions and customs, you may wonder what foreigners think of our traditions. To learn more about strange American traditions foreigners don’t understand, continue reading. You might be surprised.

Baby Showers

We all know someone who’s had a baby or we’ve had one ourselves. When someone is expecting their first child, a baby shower is in order.

Baby showers celebrate the birth of the child and help get the parents ready for the newest addition of their family with gifts, but did you know in other countries it’s considered bad luck to celebrate a baby before it’s born?

Red Solo Cups

Despite how Hollywood movies depict typical partiers and college students partying, other parts of the country never expected Americans to actually use red Solo cups. While these cups are the definition of college parties and drinking, they are versatile with their sturdy design and ability to hide what liquid is in the cup.

Whether we use them for a game of beer pong or as a staple party accessory, other countries see this as truly an American tradition.


You can’t visit America without seeing the pride of our nation everywhere. Large American flags and even small flags are found on cars, hanging from porches and flagpoles, and designed on clothes and even party supplies.

Some even paint themselves to represent America at national sports games. And don’t forget about those truly proud people who permanently ink themselves with the American flag. Although foreigners may also have pride in their nation, they don’t have flags everywhere to prove it.

Besides showing our pride and love of America through flags, we are known to be in love with our country and we don’t care who knows it. Though this may come across as obnoxious, most of the time Americans are happy they live in the land of the free.

Advertisements for Lawyers

Advertisements are found everywhere in the United States … billboards, television commercials, and the internet to name a few. It’s hard not to see an advertisement for something. While advertising a drink or tourist attraction is one thing, foreigners are surprised with the number of ads for American lawyers.

Whether these advertisements are found in brochures upon a hotel check-in or on their fridge via magnet, it’s more uncommon in other countries than we might think. Outside of an occasional ad for divorce or potential accidents, lawyers are not advertised in other countries.

Smiling at Strangers

As a gesture of kindness and one we may often do out of habit, smiling at strangers oftentimes catches foreigners off-guard. Though this isn’t common everywhere (we’re looking at you, New York), in general Americans passing each other on the street typically smile or offer a quick hello to passersby.

Instead of using this gesture as a manipulating way to get something or draw someone into a scam, we are trying to be nice. Some experts believe this weird custom began when America became a melting pot and there were language barriers. Head to the Midwest and you’re guaranteed to be greeted and waved at a time or two.


Whether it’s the dead of winter or the end of summer, American’s don’t get a beverage without asking for ice in it. In fact, this is such a common tradition that restaurant servers automatically fill the glasses with ice unless told not to.

Most other countries serve their drinks at room temperature without ice as they see it as something that will water down your drink. Whether American’s are obsessed with ice or just like their drinks served cold is still up for debate.

Free Refills

Speaking of drinks, fast-food chains and restaurants alike offer free refills of your soft drink, coffee, tea, or water. If you didn’t realize this was uncommon in foreign countries, visitors often wonder how much American’s need to drink during a single meal.

What started as an American custom is now beginning to spread throughout other countries as well. American fast food restaurants began offering the same custom and it’s spreading even further, though not everyone is happy about it. Just ask France who banned the sale of unlimited refills on soda.


Just like Australia and England don’t celebrate the 4th of July, not every country celebrates Halloween. In fact, the United States is the only country where children and adults alike dress in costumes and ask strangers for candy.

Some countries find it an immature and silly holiday while other foreigners who move to America are stunned at what they’ve been missing out on all their lives. No matter what their opinion is, it’s one of the most fun and scary holiday traditions America prides itself on.

Weird American Traditions

There’s no question that American Traditions are odd and even questionable to foreigners, but growing up in the United States and seeing the differences from other cultures and countries really shows us how spoiled and lucky we are. From trick-or-treating to throwing baby showers we may not always do things in the traditional sense, but that is what makes America unique.

To learn about other country traditions, traveling, and a variety of other topics check out our blog on our website. Have a specific question about something? Contact us for more information!

American Traditions

One thought on “Strange American Traditions Foreigners Don’t Understand

  1. Nikki F

    Interesting. I was somehow fortunate enough to find myself traveling to both Asia and Europe this Spring, and did notice that in some places, not only did people not smile back with a greeting (in the native language of where I was of course) but more than once I received strange looks. I truly was only trying to be friendly, and yes I am from the Midwest.


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