6 Weird Things about America that Keep Me Up at Night

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Over the years (and on this blog), I’ve done more than my fair share of (lovingly) poking fun of the UK as I try to navigate life here after moving from America to the UK.

However, I’m an equal opportunist, and there are some weird things about America that also seem bizarre after living in the UK for awhile.

Like, America, I love you, but why are the gaps under your bathroom stall doors large enough to fit a small human?

Enjoy this guide to some of the weirdest things about America to non-Americans, which I have very quickly found out from talking to friends across the pond.

Weird Things About America – Let’s Talk

Jaywalking fines

One of the most freeing parts of living in the UK is the ability to cross the road wherever I want.

In America, ‘jaywalking’ is illegal and if a police officer catches you on a bad day, you may end up with a fine.

For crossing the road! This is particularly bizarre in rural areas with low traffic.

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Q: Why did the American cross the road?

A: To get to the other side. THEY DIDN’T BECAUSE THERE WASN’T A CROSSING FOR 3 MILES AND THEY ARE A LAW ABIDING CITIZEN.

I just don’t understand the need for us to say who can cross the road and where – I would understand this more on busy highways, but walking when the red man is showing on a slow intersection with no one coming?

I feel like you should be able to take your life into your own hands here.

Toilet stall gaps

Americans aren’t known for wanting our privacy in social situations, and we’re usually the first to strike up a conversation or make a friend in line at the grocery store.

**CORRECTS DATE TO SEPT. 17 ** The stalls in the men's room at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport where U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was arrested June 11 by a Minneapolis airport police officer., are shown Monday Sept. 17, 2007. The Idaho Republican pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Craig has since said his guilty plea was a mistake.

But, seriously, why do we need such big gaps around our toilet stalls? Who is that for? Are people passing things between them? Are they for an easy means of escape?

This is one of the major things that bottles people’s minds when they first arrive in an American airport and use our bathrooms for the first time.

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Word on the street is that this is the best way to keep stalls clean as a mop can easily go underneath it – and while I will admit that that sounds plausible, I’ve now becoming accustomed to walls that go all the way down in UK public bathrooms.

Stop being weird about your stall gaps, America!

Bank transfers

In the UK, everyone has a ‘sort code’ and account number for their banking account.

It’s printed on your debit card so you always have it on hand, and you can transfer money into any UK bank account online using these numbers.

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Compare this to many American banks, where inter-bank transfers can require a PhD to figure out (and that’s if you can even find your account and routing number easily).

This results in a lot of people still writing checks to transfer money or pay rent. And checks in 2018? So far from cool.

It’s becoming a less weird thing about America as we come into the 21st century and apps are starting to come out that helps you transfer money easily, but it’s still a problem.

This goes along with America’s general “behind the times” attitude when it comes to debit and credit cards, too.

While America loved the “swipe and sign” method for many years, the UK was advancing into using chip and pin technology for a good few years before the states.

And now that America is now chip and pin-ready, the UK has moved on to the ability to pay contactless – or just by tapping your card onto the reader for purchases under a certain amount.

Pharmaceutical commercials

All Western countries besides the US and New Zealand have banned direct advertising of medicine to consumers.

For Americans, being sold to by pharmaceutical companies is nothing new or notable, and you expect to see advertisements stating things like “This can lead to coma or death” with the nightly news.

After moving to a country where ads like these are banned, it all seems even more bizarre.

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Wouldn’t we all rather hear about a new cholesterol medicine from our doctor rather than on a commercial for Modern Family?

In the UK, your doctor simply prescribes you the medicine that you need – because most drugs cost the same on the NHS, there is no debate between “generic” and “brand name” or asking your doctor for specific drugs other than ones that will fix you!

Banned ingredients

I am the furthest thing from a health nut, but even I am slightly worried about all of the ingredients banned in Europe, but allowed in the US.

My favorite dinner as a child, Kraft Mac and Cheese, is literally banned in it’s “American” form in the UK because of the chemicals.

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I can’t even think about how many boxes of Kraft I’ve eaten in my lifetime without feeling random pains and web-diagnosing myself with Mac and Cheese induced diseases. Moving on.

Pledge of Allegiance

The pledge is another part of American culture that rings no alarm bells for most Americans.

You start reciting it in school at a young age, and it’s just something you do every morning as part of your routine.

I’m not exactly the world’s biggest patriot, but I happily teach my incredibly patient coworkers the pledge on various American holidays for fun.

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However, while many people seem to admire American patriotism (and this is not a knock against that), I find that a lot of people think it’s a weird thing about America that we actually have a pledge of allegiance.

Someone the other day thought it was a massive joke and still didn’t seem convinced that it was real after I confirmed.

When you think about it, there is something a bit robotic and next-world-order about reciting our allegiance to the country every morning.

I mean, God Bless the USA and everything, but we definitely must look strange every morning when classrooms full of children are facing the flag with their hands over their hearts and chanting.

What weird things about America have I missed? 

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tefltravelling

3 years ago

Pharmaceutical commercials I find the most odd.

matt

3 years ago

I think the direct marketing of drugs is similar to the Soma in Huxley’s Brave New World.

girlgonelondon

3 years ago

I’ve never made it all the way through Brave New World but always had it on the list…this makes me want to check it out again!

Stacy di Anna

3 years ago

#4 and #5 are particularly concerning. I never realized #4 and now that you point it out, that does seem bizzare. and #5 is downright alarming. Great post, thank you!

girlgonelondon

3 years ago

Glad you enjoyed! I truly didn’t realize most of these things until I left America and have had them slowly pointed out to me by my British friends over the years. From what I’ve heard, America is doing a better job now at getting rid of chemicals in food, but, still, yikes!

girlgonelondon

3 years ago

That’s funny that you mentioned it has slow sections because, in hindsight, I’m pretty sure that’s why I put it down in the first place. Thanks for the nudge, I’m inspired to pick it up again! 🙂

Zoë

3 years ago

Number two is absolutely the one that I agree with most! Hahaha. Every time I go to the UK it’s so refreshing to not feel exposed haha.

Girl, Independent

3 years ago

I always thought banking was a bit strange in the U.S. Paying for a standard no-frills bank account (you only pay for a high end one with perks here), plus paying for each cheque (check!) deposited or written, plus paying for ATMs… You guys pay a lot for the privilege of having a bank account!

(And I’m a banker!)

girlgonelondon

3 years ago

How true! I have to have an American bank account still to pay off my American student loans, and there’s a 12 dollar a month fee if I don’t have enough transactions. That’s got to be an American thing too, right? I can’t imagine my Barclays account charging me for no reason…?

Girl, Independent

3 years ago

Yep, definitely a U.S. Thing, though if you have a “platinum” account or whatever here with the “free” travel insurance etc you’ll pay a monthly fee regardless of whether you use it.

ldr13

3 years ago

I actually never realized that jaywalking is legal here… its illegal in canada as well though everyone does it and I’ve never heard of someone getting a fine for it.

I never noticed any difference between the stall doors back home and here but I’ve heard many english that have gone to north america talk about it.

In canada we sing the national anthem every morning at school so coming here to volunteer and work in schools I thought id have to learn god save the queen but as it turns out I’m off the hook!

All good points. I also love that tax is included in the price of things so you’re not constantly guessing whether you have enough money!

Amanda Afield

3 years ago

I hadn’t really thought about the pledge before… But I guess you could think about it that way. I do miss a bit of the patriotism at home, and find it strange that people sometimes won’t fly their country’s flag for fear of it being interpreted as a political statement, when in the U.S., many people fly American flags without a second thought.

girlgonelondon

3 years ago

Yep, we pay rent electronically! It’s so easy because of the way you can transfer money to any bank with just a few numbers. I’ve heard of Venmo from my American friends, which sounds similar to just the basic way bank transfers work here. I still have a Bank of America account and it’s always a nightmare trying to access and get money transferred to my parents and things. I’ll have to check out Venmo for myself…

No stall gaps?!? That’s amazing! Surely that should be the default..forget immigration and human rights and the economy, stall gaps should definitely be the focal point of the next election!

theepowerofgood

3 years ago

I find America’s health and education systems to be very odd. It is like they don’t want their population to be healthy and educated. Why do they have the largest incarcerated population in the world?

And in all seriousness, why are all their biscuits either drop style or oreos? Why does their chocolate taste burnt? On that matter – why is everything candied?

girlgonelondon

3 years ago

Yes, the health and education systems are definitely big ones (though it’s one of those cases where it seems like everyone outside the US can spot problems with it while a large portion of Americans are fine with the status quo, which can be a problem).

Funny you mention chocolate because until you have other chocolate, American Hersheys really does taste great! Then I had Cadburys and realized the error of my ways…

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