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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.
These strange things about America may present a bit of culture shock to visitors to the States, so best to be prepared for what’s coming!
1. 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.
Q: Why did the American cross the road?
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.
2. 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.
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 boggles people’s minds when they first arrive in an American airport and use our bathrooms for the first time.
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!
3. 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.
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 2020?
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 help 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.
4. 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.
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.
5. 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 its “American” form in the UK because of the chemicals.
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.
Oh, and if you find yourself in this situation as well, check out these American copycat recipes that I love!
6. Pledge of Allegiance
The pledge of allegiance 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.
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 don’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?