+
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
We are a small, independent media company on a mission to share the best of humanity with the world.
If you think the work we do matters, pre-ordering a copy of our first book would make a huge difference in helping us succeed.
GOOD PEOPLE Book
upworthy

american culture

Joy

17 non-Americans share the 'most American moment’ they experienced visiting the States

"I was on Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom when in the distance, we could see one of the Space Shuttles being launched into the Sky."

Three things that are as American as they get.

For people from foreign countries, visiting America can feel like stepping into a movie. Many people across the world have grown up with American movies, TV shows, music, and even products, creating a kind of proxy culture through which they experience a slice of American life.

That’s why when they visit America for the first time, it can be a surreal experience. Everyday scenes that Americans take for granted—such as the sight of a classic yellow school bus, a waitress who calls you “Honey,” or a game of beer pong with red Solo cups—can feel like a moment straight out of a Hollywood script.

America is also full of characters that people may not find abroad, from sheriffs wearing cowboy hats to mustachioed bikers and people who really, really love guns.


A Redditor named JeffRyan1 asked non-Americans on the AskReddit subforum to share the most American moment they experienced when visiting the United States. It was a fun post where folks shared the people, places, and things that they’ll never forget after visiting the land of the free and home of the brave.

Here are 17 of the “most American moments” non-Americans have had in the States.

1. The most American day ever

"Several years ago, one of my friends reached out because a new international student was joining a local college, and their parents were hoping to find somebody in the US to help them out. The first day they came to visit us, a couple of major coincidences created a weirdly over-the-top American experience.

Based on talks before they arrived, the two biggest things they wanted to do was walk around the downtown area to make sure it was safe and get some American BBQ.

We went to a local BBQ restaurant that serves a huge family-style meal on a giant shovel (it's called KCs Rib Shack in Manchester, NH). The dad was absolutely blown away and took like 30 photos before we could eat. We then went downtown but didn't realize that there was both a classic car show downtown and an Elvis impersonator competition going on. this family that had never been outside of Japan ate brisket out of a shovel then immediately walked around looking at classic muscle cars while dozens of dudes dressed like Elvis walked around. We kept trying to explain that it was an abnormally 'American' day, but the family was just so blown away and overwhelmed the whole time. The last time I talked to the student, she said her dad still talks about the BBQ shovel, car, Elvis day all the time." — WoogyChuck

2. Never forget

"Dude took his shirt off in line at an amusement park to reveal no less than six 9/11 tattoos." — Peskieyesterday

3. Peak Florida

"I was on Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom, when in the distance we could see one of the space shuttles being launched into the Sky. The barbershop quartet stopped, turned to it and started singing the 'Star Spangled Banner,' and a military dad and his two kids stood straight, rooted to the spot whilst they saluted until it went out of sight." —Eezgorriseadback

"If this is actually true this has to be the best answer. That reads like a schlocky movie script—wild." — HankSaggittarius

4. The XL coffee

"American immigrant from Europe… On my first week in the US, i walked into one of those chain coffee shops and ordered a coffee. When prompted for a size, I pondered that I had not slept that much (jet lag) and selected an extra large. You know what we call those extra-large coffee mugs in the old country? Buckets. What I got was a bucket of coffee." — Milespoints

5. Pride of the frontier

"An old couple running a family run horse ranch, talking about their history, how their great grandparents acquired that bit of land, while their two daughters and son taught us horseback riding. The way they talked about nature, freedom, their dreams and aspirations, so different to our home country and our own culture, while still sounding faintly familiar, as if he was talking about a really old dream I used to have. It’s hard for me to put into words, but that scene, the surroundings, the air, every sensation, never left me, and but for a brief moment, allowed me to kind of understand the Americans a little more. I truly hope they all are doing well and that America never loses this special way of striving for a new frontier. Sounds probably ridiculous, but it was very special to me." — Parthorax

6. Breakfast of champions

"Montana after driving across the Canadian border: Eating in a breakfast diner that actually had stacks of pancakes with the little square of butter on top, just like I had always seen in movies. The waitress was pouring coffee into everyone's cups, talking about the 'potata salad' and saying 'sir' and 'ma'am' after every sentence. It was so quaint. Then I noticed a guy with a gun on his belt, wearing a shirt that read, 'I'd rather be a Mormon than a Moron.' The amount of Jesus and Stars and Stripes on that one little drive was peak America, from my outsider perspective." — yycokwithme

7. Chicken-friend bacon

"Had chicken-fried bacon at some breakfast BBQ place on the I5 between Seattle and Portland. Was it delicious? Yes. Did it probably take at least a few days off my life? Also yes. And it was just the starter to my biscuits and gravy." — parrallel_jay

8. Ready, aim, fire

"Being able to shoot weapons at a gun range despite being on a mere tourist visa." — Throwawayconcern2023

"The first time I, a Canadian, ever fired a gun was in a range in Oklahoma City. I was on a road trip and my boyfriend at the time (from LA) suggested it, so we walked in and asked for the most comically large guns they would give us. They handed us AK-47s and a key to the range. Didn't even ask to see ID." — Safadancer

9. The big yellow bus

"The yellow school-buses. I felt like I was in a movie." — SunnyTopHat268

"I hear red Solo cups have the same effect." — JunkMail0604

10. Deer service

"Going into a Savalot supermarket and discovering the meat counter had an option for you to drop off a deer carcass to get it prepared by the butcher." — Pickwick-the-Dodo

11. A monster of a night

"Went to watch Monster Trucks at the Georgia Dome (RIP) with family during the winter. We were a group of 6 brown people in coats and beanies and gloves amongst 59,994 rednecks wearing trucker caps, shorts, and sleeveless flannel shirts. Had my first Bud Light and funnel cake. What a time." — Honeycomb286

12. Grocery sore

"Formerly a non-American, i noticed was how grocery store employees at the cash register are not allowed to sit." — Ghengiskhan_1

13. Chatty Americans

"I think for me was noticing that strangers can randomly strike up a conversation with you. I've been in this country for more than 20 years now so I'm used to it. But I remember being weirded out by it before." — Kororon

"I've lived here my whole life and still find it awkward and unusual." — Mr-Whitecotton

14. Born to wild

"As if going to the NASCAR wasn't 'Merican enough, before going into the stadium, my mate and I had a walk around the fan park they had built outside it. Within 5 minutes of being there, I heard an engine being revved up to within an inch of its life, and the smell of petrol filled the air. I turned around, and this engine was on board a Harley Davidson three-wheeler, on which there was this big f*** off drum kit built onto it, driven by a bloke in full leathers, bandana, shades, the lot. All of a sudden 'Born To Be Wild' blasted out of the speakers also attached to it, and the bloke started playing the drums along to the tune, and started badly singing the lyrics, revving the engine every so often in random places. I felt like I was American myself by the end of it." — eezgorriseeadback

15. What a hamburger's all about

"A bite into an In-N-Out Burger. my sister couldn't believe that I ate a burger at their place every day for 3 weeks. Feel free to invite me for a few weeks, very happy to come back to Thousand Oaks, California, and we will indulge in the burgers from In-N-Out. I'm from Germany, flight is on me." — Seevetaler

16. Hollywood sunset

"I was driving through LA (from near Hollywood to LAX) in a pickup with the sun setting and listening to '80s/'90s hip hop on the radio. I felt like I was in GTA." — Criminalsunrise

17. Diner waitresses

"A diner where a lady walks around with a large pot of coffee and refills everyone's cup." — Y0rin

Things non-Americans just don't understand.

A recent viral Reddit thread revealed the everyday American customs that people in other countries have a difficult time understanding. There were so many things that were perplexing to people from other countries that the thread had more than 28,000 responses.

But don’t worry, it isn’t a long list of America bashing. It’s a fun list of things people across the world genuinely wonder about that gives a unique perspective on things we all take for granted.

The thread was started by Reddit user Surimimimi, who asked, “What things do Americans like and the rest of the world not so much?” Many of the responses were from Europeans who have a hard time appreciating certain American customs, cuisines and public facilities.


A big thing that non-Americans find unusual about Americans is our outspokenness. The commenters noted that Americans love speaking their minds on bumper stickers, lawn signs or telling somebody in public how they feel.

That’s probably because Americans are much more individualistic than Europeans. A Pew Research study from 2016 found that Americans are much more likely than our friends across the pond to believe they control their destiny and that it takes hard work to get ahead. Americans are also a lot more tolerant of offensive speech.

The American diet is also confusing to a lot of people. A lot of commenters pointed out that they have a hard time understanding America's love of ice-cold drinks and odd food combinations such as peanut butter and jelly or chicken and waffles.

But if everyone in the world was the same it would be a pretty boring place. So, as they say in France, “vive la différence!” which, in American English means, “Do your thing, man.”

Here are 19 things that Americans like and the rest of the world, not so much.

1.

"College sports. Particularly football and basketball. The rest of the world loves soccer, but nobody gives a hoot about it at the university level." — Scrappy_Larue

2.

"Opinion signs outside their houses. Like 'in this house we support...' I find it weird and unusual." — Bitten Onion

3.

"Bumper stickers." — Back2Bach

To which assortednut added:

"Sometimes I get the impression people put their entire political philosophy in the space of a bumper sticker."

4.

"This used to be much more prevalent in the US but food coloring. When I moved from Japan to the US, I was surprised at how colorful their foods were. These days Americans are now more keen to organic natural stuff so I see it less but it took me a while to realize that blue raspberry is not a real thing." — Awesome Asian

5.

"Root beer and ranch dressing. I brought some to Germany and had my friends try it and they said the root beer tasted like medicine. They politely tasted the dressing with celery and said 'Hmmm, interesting' but the look on their faces was that it was terrible ha." — nargleflargle

6.

"Cheerleaders." — liebe_rootBete

7.

"ICE. Filled till the brim before you pour any drink." — locoliga

8.

"24-hour stores. I was in Chicago working with a colleague from Switzerland who suddenly realized around midnight that he needed a network cable to configure a mobile router for a job the next morning. I told him that I'd meet him in the hotel lobby to drive him out to Walmart. He was happily surprised, as he had forgotten about the US's famous chain of Walmart stores." — Fondren_Richmond

9.

"Waffles with chicken." — glori-hallelujah

10.

"MM-DD-YYYY Date format." — javapyscript

11.

"Peanut butter and jelly." — FlyBuy3

12.

"Flags. So many American flags everywhere." — justmyfakename

13.

"Free soda refills at dine-in places." — Lostarchitorture

14.

"Free public restrooms. I know they're gross but they are nice to have." — vebidib774

15.

"Marching bands. If you’d played the flute in a marching band at my school you would have gotten pelted but in the US you can become a state hero." — Fuzzie_Lee

16.

"Handicap accessiblity. Old buildings/towns in Europe are nice, if both your legs work." — boxatel499

17.

"Lawns...what a waste." — TheFarce_Sighed

18.

"I'd like to say optimism, even if it's blind sometimes. The CAN DO attitude is extremely strong. I would also put belligerence up there for better or worse. That 'Get the f*ck out of my face, I'm not paying for / doing that' attitude. Whether you actually can or not, the American culture makes you feel like you can really do anything. Again, it's a double-edged sword but you'll seldom find an American who's just going to lay down and take someone's sh*t or heed someone who says (to your aspirations) 'You can't.'" — facobi8356

19.

"The switch for the bathroom is INSIDE the bathroom." — [deleted]

How many times have you heard someone say this?

"Pfft. I'm never getting married. It's all a big scam. Did you know 50% of marriages end in divorce?"


Photo via iStock.

Did you believe that stat? It's OK if you did.

Hell, when "Bennifer" announced their divorce in the summer of 2015, even I was pretty sure there was no hope for the rest of us. (They just seemed so rock solid, you know?)

Like most statistics proudly spouted off by cynical happiness-bashers, there is some truth to that 50% divorce statistic. Or at least there was.

The divorce rate is hard to measure precisely, but the data we do have suggests that the oft-cited "50%" stat is no longer true and hasn't been for a long time. In fact, the data actually suggests that the divorce rate has been dropping significantly.

There are many reasons for it, including the fact that fewer people are getting married overall these days. But some of the other reasons for the decline in divorce are pretty inspiring for all the hopeless romantics like me who still long for the fairy tale weddings of our dreams.

These are three main reasons why the divorce rate is dropping: 1) feminism, 2) acceptance, and 3) love.

Also known as three parts of a balanced Upworthy breakfast. (Obviously, the omelette is feminism, the spinach salad is acceptance, and the butter is love.) Photo via iStock.

Feminism: The feminist revolution in the wake of WWII changed things for women, and for marriages.

Data shows that women initiate the majority of divorces, which means a change in divorce-rate is usually reflective of a change in the roles and expectations of women in society.

After the end of World War II, the divorce rate in America hit its highest spike. That's because things were changing for American women in a pretty significant way.

Photo by Bob Aylott/Keystone/Getty Images.

Women had entered the work force to fill roles left behind by the men fighting the war, and they wanted to stay there. They organized and spoke out against a society that treated them as second-class citizens.

The feminist movement of the 1950s and '60s started to crystalize a movement toward equal rights for women. Topics like reproductive rights, domestic violence, equal pay, sexual harassment, and maternity leave all started to enter the national dialogue (and, as we know, all of them were solved immediately and we aren't still having these conversations today, right?).

Photo by William West/AFP/Getty Images.

The role of women permanently shifted in this country as they fought against the idea that their existence was predicated on finding a man to support them. So, they started leaving their unfulfilling marriages behind.

Today, instead of finding someone to marry who can support them and make their dads happy, women are more likely to marry when and if they want to and to spend more time dating or building their own careers before settling down, leading to an increase in marriages of choice, rather than necessity.

Acceptance: Slowly but surely, society came to accept that families come in all different shapes and sizes.

When a sitcom about a divorced, interracially remarried patriarch trying to remain in the life of his daughter and gay son, who himself is raising an adopted Vietnamese daughter with his husband, decided to call itself "Modern Family," it did so for a reason.

In 2016, the American family looks very different from how it looked in 1950.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

The signs of this evolution are everywhere: single parents, interracial couples, same-sex marriages, marriages without kids, and couples that stay together happily without ever getting married at all. These concepts aren't seen as completely bonkers as they used to be.

Where marriages were once about dowries and land deals, or more recently about settling down and baby-making, the modern American family is now more about compatibility and choosing the partnership that's right for you.

"Lets never get married or have kids and just spend our lives visiting various seaports!" Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.

"The fact that most people live together before marrying means that more ill-fated relationships end in breakups instead of divorce. And the growing acceptance of single-parent families has reduced the number of shotgun marriages, which were never the most stable of unions," Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College told The New York Times.

People today are more likely to get married when and if they want to, not because they think they have to. Turns out that leads to healthier, longer lasting marriages.

Love: All of this is to say that people really super love each other in 2016, in ways that previous generations didn't have the luxury of doing.

The biggest reason for the falling divorce rate is the fact that, today, marriages are more likely to be based on actual love and compatibility than ever before.

“We marry to find our soul mate, rather than a good homemaker or a good earner,” economist Justin Wolfers told the Times.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

If that sounds eyerollingly obvious to you, consider the fact that marrying for love is a pretty darn recent notion.

"For most of history it was inconceivable that people would choose their mates on the basis of something as fragile and irrational as love," writes author Stephanie Coontz in the first chapter of her book, "Marriage, A History."

Today, marrying for love is considered normal. The only other common reasons are for green cards and to finally have someone to start watching "The Wire" with (which is its own kind of love).

Next time someone tells you that half of marriages end in divorce, tell them they're wrong. And they're being a jerk.

Sure, not all marriages end happily ever after, but our society has opened the door for all kinds of stronger, healthier, happier families, and the falling divorce rate is proof of that.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Whether you want to get married or not, you're part of a more equal, accepting, and loving society. That's pretty awesome.