+
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

americans

Some American tourists enjoying the sights

Americans have a style and personality all their own, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just noticeable when they travel aboard. Americans often stand out because of their outgoing personalities. They are friendly and enjoy having casual conversations with strangers.

This is an endearing trait to a lot of people in more reserved cultures, although it can also come off as a little brash.

An American characteristic that isn’t quite endearing to people in other countries is that they can be rather loud. In Europe, one can always notice the Americans in the restaurant because they can be heard from across the room.


A Reddit user named Frosty-Ad3575 wanted to know the specific ways that Americans stand out when traveling abroad, so they asked the AskReddit subforum: “What’s an obvious sign that someone is an American?”

The post was popular, receiving nearly 6,000 responses in just 6 days. The most popular ones described how Americans' unique personalities, style of dress, dental hygiene and body language make them easy to spot.

Here are 14 “obvious” signs that someone is an American.

1. Posture

"Apparently, the CIA trains American agents to not lean on things if they go undercover in foreign countries because Americans lean on anything they can while standing around." — Clown1998

"I bet MI6 trains British agents to lean on everything if they go undercover in America because Americans lean on anything they can while standing around." — KingoftheMongoose

2. The date

"MMDDYYYY." — LowRevolution6175

3. Distances are different

"Anything under 4 hours is 'close by.'" — Grey-Canary

"Everything in Europe is around the corner if you're from the US. I can drive the whole day and not leave my state, but in Europe, I can pass through 4 countries in that same time frame." — JayHitter

4. They're polite to servers

"In the touristy cafe-restaurant I worked at:

If they asked me for the nicest spot we had

If they asked me my recommendation without seeing the menu first

I would walk to the table, and they would say right away ‘hey, how are you doing?’ This one threw me off a lot at first. Why is this person asking me how I'm doing?? I'm just there to take the order. I got used to it, and I think they found my awkwardness cute.

They would ask my name when I greeted them and took their order.

I'm Northern European." — Muc_99

"It’s under-appreciated just how polite, friendly, and sincere Americans are in general. It blew my mind the first time I came to the US, and I love that my children are growing up with those same values." — Irishweather5000


5. The water bottles

"I was told, 'Americans carry water bottles around like they're worried they'll never have access to clean water ever again.'" — Kosher_Dill

"I don't care what anyone says. If you think carrying a water bottle when walking a lot is weird, you're probably slightly dehydrated all the time and are just desensitized to it. You seriously need to drink water frequently if you want to be ideally healthy." — Tan11

6. Smiling

"I was in Germany this past summer, and I realized smiling at everyone you make eye contact with is very American. When I went to London on the same trip, they seemed less weirded out by it but would awkwardly return the smile. I was taught to always start with a disarming smile. Never realized it was American." — 12ozFitz

7. "More ice, please."

"I spent a year in Europe completely iceless to the point I forgot that was a thing. I stopped at a bar in Chicago fresh off the plane and not only did I get free tap water, but water with ice. I instantly felt at home." — Outside-Crezz8119

8. Personal space

"As an American man, I’ve been told repeatedly by European and Asian friends that we simply take up space (not by being fat) as though we’re entitled to it. Men in other countries apparently don’t claim the same personal space we do." — Potomacan

9. White teeth

"It’s even more bizarre that they assume we have braces or bleach our teeth because they’re straight and white. I have naturally straight white teeth. I brush them twice a day so they stay white. I don’t do anything special to them, but I remember being in London and some similar-aged students literally making fun of me for my teeth… it’s true that they don’t naturally look like headstones in an ancient graveyard, but there’s no need to make fun." — DPretilloZbornak

10. Casual dress

"My friend went to Germany recently, and what people said about Americans is you can spot them a mile away because they’re the ones wearing pajamas in public. Apparently, in other countries, at least Germany, they dress a little more formally and in less baggy clothes than we do in America." — MarcusWahlbezius

11. Baseball hats

"Baseball cap... even on an infant riding in a pram." — SyntheticOne

12. Shoes

"Americans are shoe snobs (they don’t think they are, but they are). Setting aside wealthier business types, Americans generally wear more on-brand, on-trend, high-quality shoes than others." — Mouflony

13. They're loud

"That was my first thought. Americans yell at each other in normal conversation in public. I noticed it years ago in Europe, and now I can’t stand it in the US." — SucccotashOther277

14. Occupation matters

"Immediately asking someone what they do for a living when meeting them. Our jobs and work are our entire identity." — Bealzu

"I hate that about American culture. I'm an American and recently became a SAHM, so I don't have an answer to 'What do you do for a living?' Half the time, I add the caveat, ‘Oh, my last job was with Apple,’ so that I'm not written off as an unemployed ‘loser.’ But it really is dumb to determine a person's worth by what they do in order to afford food and shelter." — WassupSassySasquatch


This article originally appeared on 1.4.24

Canva/Screenshots via Reddit

"Common" things that happen in other countries.

'Common' must be a word that's up for debate because my American brain refuses to believe that the occurrences these people are discussing are common anywhere in the world. But I also live where people fish next to signs that say "caution alligators may be present," so maybe I'm not the best judge of "common." Thanks to someone picking "things I never knew I wanted to know" on the Jeopardy board of Reddit, we now have a single thread that will tell you all the places to avoid … or places to travel to if you're channeling your inner Steve Irwin.


Someone on Reddit posed the question "What's something that happens in your country that would scare Americans?" Of course, the Australians were the first to pop on the scene with their spiders the size of dinner plates hanging out on your wall at any given time. Trying to watch TV? Giant spider. Giving your kids a bath? Sure, with a big ol' nope crawling up the wall. Obviously Australia is beautiful, but I think it would have to be to off set all of the things that are trying to take you off the planet. You know, it's pretty so it gives you incentive to stay and try not to die another day.

Canva/Screenshot via Reddit

After the Australians warned the internet of their dog-sized spiders, an American followed up with probably the most American response you can think of, "As an American the walls of my house would be riddled with bullet holes if this were the case." Honestly, while I don't personally own a gun, I know how to make a flamethrower from household items so let's just say I'd be homeless but the spider would be dead.

Just when you thought spiders that could wrap a toddler in their web to save for later was bad, South Africa bursts through the door like the Kool-Aid Man. The South African commenter said that while they don't know any Americans personally, "people get concerned when I mention that we occasionally have baboons invading our houses." Don't worry though, they have social media groups dedicated to letting residents know when baboons are running amok so they can put up their animals.

Canva/Screenshot via Reddit

I'm sorry, what?! You mean to tell me after a long day of work, that you could come home to a dang baboon making himself at home and going through your pantry? Have you seen the teeth on those things? I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure they could eat your face off. The commenter didn't list the town they live in, so I'm just going to cross off the entire country until Baboon City has been identified. Because, absolutely not.

South Africa is out and apparently so is Kenya because they have wandering lions. Of course there are lions, it's Kenya, we just don't pet the big kitty. But apparently, hyenas snatch toddlers in that country and I'm just wondering how people survive in these places. Do they give "how to throat punch hyena lessons" in preschool or do they keep decoy toddlers around? There are so many questions and the commenter did not give any answers that would bring much comfort.

Canva/Screenshot via Reddit

Hey, at least in Romania the most terrifying thing someone listed was waking up to the sound of your neighbor turning a live duck into a dinner-ready duck. After learning about all of the different ways certain countries try to put humans on the endangered species list, a little unfortunate quacking in the morning somehow doesn't sound as bad. If you want to check out the entire list before you make your travel plans, you can do that here.

From an outside perspective, the pledge of allegiance seems "culty."

You know how you were raised in a household where things were done a certain way, and then at some point, you went to other people's houses and saw that other people's families lived completely differently and it sort of blew your mind? Different rules, different standards, different consequences, different habits—all of which were considered normal to them? Some of those differences may have made you thank the heavens for your parents, or they may have made you realize your own family had some issues you didn't recognize.

The same thing happens when you are born and raised in a specific culture. Your sense of what's normal is molded by it—so much so that you may never even think to question whether certain things are actually rather bizarre.

That's why it's nice to have some outside perspective sometimes.

A Reddit user asked "What is the most bizarre thing Americans do that feels unbelievable by British standards?" and the answers are eye-opening.


Pledging allegiance to the flag

The first response was "Having kids pledge allegiance to the flag in school. Seems culty."

Most adult Americans were trained as young children to place our hands over our hearts, face the flag and recite the pledge every morning at school. Every single morning. Swearing our allegiance to our country and its flag, out loud, in unison.

"I went to an American school while I lived in Italy; I was one of the only English kids there. The pledge of allegiance was indeed every morning, and it felt as culty as you think. They called my parents when I wasn't joining in ffs," wrote one commenter.

"Never mind seeming culty, it just flat out is," wrote another.

And another: "As an expat, I can confirm that having to pledge allegiance to the American flag was definitely one of the weirdest things that contributed to the culture shock."

Let's be real. If we saw children from any country deemed unsavory to American sensibilities (let's say Russia, China, North Korea, for example) being required to stand in unison and recite a pledge of allegiance to their country's flag every single morning, we'd consider it brainwashing.

There's a reason that first comment got more than 5,500 upvotes.

The way we do healthcare

The comment "Going bankrupt because you needed your broken leg realigned. Being homeless as a result of needing to pay for cancer treatment" garnered 2,000 likes because the U.S. approach to healthcare is genuinely bizarre.

Everything Americans accept about healthcare is asinine: the for-profit health insurance industry, the fact that health insurance is tied to employment (but not all employment, because that would make too much sense, apparently), the fact that we pay way more for healthcare than other wealthy nations and yet have worse health outcomes, the fact that virtually no one understands how their health insurance works because it's so complicated, the fact that medical bankruptcy is a thing, etc.

And on top of that, the fact that there is a baffling number of Americans who actually defend this system when all evidence points to the superiority of universal healthcare is absolutely mind-blowing.

How we don't do guaranteed paid parental leave

"No paid maternity/paternity leave and new mothers having to go back to work within two weeks of giving birth. Insane," wrote one commenter.

After Americans tried to say this wasn't true because their company offers paid leave, the commenter clarified that the U.S. doesn't require paid leave. It's up to the discretion of companies, which is, indeed, insane.

"I've always thought this was barbaric but since having my baby it horrifies me even more," someone wrote in response. "My baby is 12 months old next weekend and I'm still on leave. My mat leave is just finishing and I'm about to start annual leave which will see me through until January. I've been on around half pay for the year which has been tough financially but I wouldn't give up this time for anything.

"At 2 weeks I could still hardly sit (episiotomy), my boobs were painfully full and leaking all the time, I was barely managing to get dressed, my baby was wanting to be held at all times day and night... I was hardly functioning.

"We don't separate kittens and puppies from their mothers that early, how can it possibly be okay to separate babies from their mothers."

School shootings and the active shooter drills that go along with them

Well, yeah. Not exactly a point of pride.

It's not that other countries never ever have school shootings, but the U.S. is in a league of our own here.

"My cousins in America do school shooting practises every term," wrote one commenter. "It's awful that that's a thing they need. Scary."

"You can buy bulletproof school bags," wrote another. "It's nuts."

To be fair, most Americans would agree that school shootings and active shooter drills are bizarre. We just can't agree on what to do about it.

Our lack of electric kettles, apparently

One commenter wrote:

"On a less serious note, boiling water in a pan (or microwaving it!) for a cup of tea or coffee. I've seen it when watching regular people do videos, not just on tv or whatever. Where are all the kettles??(There are a lot about guns and stuff, so I thought I'd do one that's less sad.)"

Others chimed in:

"I'm a Brit living in the US and my electric kettle is viewed by some of my American friends as a revelation. I buy them as gifts."

"Both times I've been to America, I would go down to reception at the hotel and ask for a kettle. The receptionist would look at me dumbly and ask what a kettle was. And this wasn't once or twice. This was multiple times."

Some people explained some reasons for kettles being rare-but-not-unheard-of, ranging from the voltage being different in the U.S. to the fact that microwaving water is quick and easy. But there's also this:

"British/American living in the US... No one I know really drinks tea with enough regularity to warrant a kettle, specially living in tiny apartments with limited kitchen space. Coffee makers are a lot more common because coffee is more popular than tea that I've seen."

This is the truth. (And I do know a lot of people with electric kettles, but it apparently varies from region to region.)

We don't walk when we can drive

Several commenters pointed to Americans' resistance to walking anywhere that's farther than a block or two, as well as our lack of sidewalks and walkways to even make it possible:

"No pavements/sidewalks in some places. I went to Dallas for work some years ago, and was dismayed to find that I couldn't just 'go for a walk' from the hotel."

"Yes! Nobody there walks ANYWHERE. I have a friend who is from Iowa but lived in London for a few years. When she went back she said she really misses walking. I asked what she meant, she said if she just went on a random walk she'd definitely get people stopping for her thinking she's not okay, not okay in the head or just homeless."

"I was reading a book the other day that described a woman walking two miles to then get a bus home as a 'hike'. I mean, that's just walking? Sure it was alongside a road not on a pavement but it's still just walking!"

"Yep, that's really weird. I went to an IT conference in Orlando back in the late 1990's. The hotel was only about a kilometre from the conference centre, so obvs we walked as the weather was nice. Not only was it tricky due to the lack of any footpath, people thought we were mad. Also you can't just cross the road where you want to."

Sorry, Brits. Our land is big and our gas is cheap compared to yours. And also, you know we're notorious for our unhealthy habits.

Sales tax tacked on at the end of a purchase

"Taxes put on at check out," wrote one commenter.

Wait, what? This isn't normal?

Apparently not.

"The taxes infuriate me," wrote one commenter. "I was in Canada last week and they do the same thing. I kept thinking I was being overcharged until I remembered that advertised prices don't include taxes, and that you're expected to tip for pretty much everything."

"I only found out about the tax thing recently and it f*cking blew my mind," wrote another. "How tf do you know how much cash you'll need? Americans must be really good at mental arithmetic if they have to add tax every time they add something to their basket."

Spoiler: We're not all that good at mental arithmetic. We just know we need about 10% more money than what a thing actually costs.

Agreed, though. It's weird and annoying.

This isn't an exhaustive list, by any means. Other "bizarre" American habits include circumcision (just the messenger—please don't send me hate mail), televangelism, prescription drug commercials and spray cheese.

Definitely some food for thought as we consider what's "normal" and what's not. Different or even "bizarre" isn't necessarily bad, but we could certainly do some national soul-searching with some of the things on this list.

(And hey, British friends—the way you say "aluminum" is weird. So there.)

Photo by Josh Johnson on Unsplash

Americans are a diverse bunch, but as a culture, we can skew towards an overconfidence-bordering-on-outright-arrogance that's less than likable on the world stage. We also have that whole "ugly American tourist" stereotype to contend with, not to mention our wonky politics as of late, so it can feel like we're viewed with disdain or pity more than admiration by our fellow humans on planet Earth.

However, when Reddit user u/Rebuildingz asked this question: "Non-Americans of Reddit, what do you admire about Americans?" the answers were kind and lovely enough to make us feel proud of our unique contribution to our global tapestry.

Here are some of the more than 7,000 comments, many of which are more about the U.S. itself than the American people, but still nice to see:

"How the national identity is so culturally mixed. it seems like If you move to France, you don't become a French; you just become a foreigner. While everyone who lives in America at all is American."lTheReader·

"The hospitality. Americans get a bad rap for being xenophobic, which I think is unfair and just based on the bad incidents we've seen in recent years. I go to the USA pretty often (I'm Irish/British), and everyone I meet is always so welcoming and friendly. Well, not EVERYONE, everywhere has bad people, but it just seems like Americans generally are a lot more open and hospitable to strangers than I'm used to at home. Like, they'll just strike up a casual conversation with you just while you're standing at a street crossing or whatever. I remember one afternoon I went into a bar in Austin for a beer, and the guy next to me just sits down and says "Yep. So I just drove a truck down from New York. Helluva trip." and we chatted for like an hour about his road trip hauling wood (or something, I can't remember lol). That doesn't happen where I'm from; just shooting the breeze with a stranger."

kutuup1989·


"The Smithsonian Museums. Very cool and very fun to walk around and see. And they're free."GullibleIdiots

"I had lunch with some Chinese friends who gushed and raved about the National Parks system. And I asked them What about China? China is as large (larger?) than America and has all the beauty, history, and different geography, etc. They said that unfortunately there is no National park system like in America. That if you want to visit a beautiful mountain range, for example, you have to pay an entry fee to access each individual mountain. Not just a general entry fee for the whole park, mind you. Everything costs money. Made me realize how fortunate we are to have the system in place. My husband gets a National Park annual pass for Christmas from his mom every year and it's so awesome to visit a park and just whip that card out and get waved through. Highly recommended."crabblue6

"Your national parks. There are so many parks that I want to visit down there. Hopefully soon after the border restrictions pass....."IamMillwright

"Having lived in 6 countries across EU and Asia, I can say the thing I admire most about America is that I can literally get anything I want. I may have to pay for them when other places offer them for free (e.g. health insurance), but whatever desire/need I suddenly form, I am 99.99999% certain I can get it. And sometimes it's not even that unique of a desire; sometimes they're just everyday things some take for granted. Like:

  1. I want to video call my family but i can't use Skype/Facetime because governments have their own paid version they force us to use.
  2. I want [to] buy arts and crafts supplies but I'm limited to a local bookstore because we don't have an infrastructure for e-commerce.
  3. I want to ship packages to my family abroad from a 'tech hub' in EU but it's a hassle because nowhere sells shipping boxes.

In comparison, America does not have the aforementioned issues and allows for satisfying the most complex or specific needs as well. Are you an immigrant who wants a taste of home? There are likely mini insert-your-country-here parts of town (even if it's a random supermarket that sells specific ingredients). Develop a unique interest or hobby? Odds are there's a convention happening within a few hours drive in the next few months. Thinking of getting some cosmetic work done? You'll probably have a pool of specialists with online ratings to choose from. Want to give up on society and live off of what you grow? There's plenty of land to choose from. Want a pet tiger? You can and will be offered a Netflix series.

America has its problems but damn I have never felt more able to pursue anything I wanted anywhere else." Nut-Flex

"Drinking fountains everywhere. And nearly all public toilets are free."bounded_operator

"The scale and grandeur. I'm used to nature being small, but everything in America is bigger - bigger storms, bigger mountains, bigger horizons. Even the sky seems more. People in America are casually dealing with everything from alligators to bears, pitching tents on the sides of cliffs and walking their dogs through literal wilderness, I genuinely feel like a hobbit watching Aragorn saunter through Middle Earth like it's nothing while I've never been beyond the end of farmer Maggot's farm before. I love it." coffee_up

"It's like each state is a whole different country and I'd like to visit them all."F*ck-tiktok·

"Fruity pebbles." Z00TH0RNZ

"How madly diverse it is. Admittedly I've only seen it on tv but the fact that the bronx and Texas are the same country is mind boggling." cdbman

"New York City. Hot Dogs. Your Friendliness. Hollywood. Yellowstone. Baseball. Ford GT. Road trips. Coke. NASA. Southern BBQ. Burgers. Yosemite. Your infectious love of the outrageous. Jaws. Your love of English accents ;). Harrison Ford. Rock and fuckin roll. Nike. Magic Mountain. Pamela Andersen. Red Vines. The Video games / animation industries. Dr Pepper. Maine Lobster Rolls. Skateboarding. Ralph Lauren. The Sopranos. Jack FM. Baskin Robbins. Car park cookouts. Wake boarding. Ruby's Diner. Long Island (Iced Tea). Eddie Murphy. Technological innovation. Soul. Southern California. Star Wars. Bronco jeeps. Key Lime Pie." –liam_crean

"The power and quality of their film and TV industry. They can make dreams and fantasies come to life. Jurassic Park to me as a child was like all my dreams had come true."SaveSwedishBeauty

"Americans always know how to get a conversation going! "Hey, where are you from?" And then they are genuinely interested in hearing the answer even if perhaps they've never heard of that place. They are great at small talk, and friendly (doesn't matter if it is "fake" sometimes, e.g. the waitress, it is still a skill to be that friendly and welcoming, in my opinion). They make people feel like a million bucks."BaileysBaileys

"I think that Americans are often quite friendly compared to Europe where I live." balticromancemyass

"Entrepreneurial spirit. In a lot of countries, including my own, failing at a business you started is seen very negatively, to the point most people will never try, as opposed to the USA where a business failing is seen as a normal part of the process and you just keep trying, taking the lessons you learned forward."Rarotunga

"I like how open-minded the people are and how much they seem to enjoy varied interests. I've found in my country, we tend to be pretty judgmental of anything we aren't used to seeing, and most people have basically the same hobbies."purple-nomad·

"That a lot of Americans are pretty chill, open, and kind people. You wanna just talk about nothing? You can do that. You have mental health issues? People aren't gonna judge. There's a problem going on and you wanna talk about it? You can do that.

In my family's culture, you must always keep to yourself if something's bothering you, always tell white lies, put up this facade of your life being rainbows and unicorns, and mental illness/disabilities/neuro divergence is frowned upon and shows you're weak. It's so suffocating."TakenByDeletedAccou

"I've always admired the American sense of rugged individualism. I've met a number of Americans and they all seem to have it to one degree or another. In its best form, it shows up as a kind of honesty that comes from supreme self-confidence and self awareness. It also includes selflessness, a kind of 'I've got all my stuff together, so I can help you out, friend.' These are the folks that worked together to tame the wild frontier, as it were. Even though he wasn't born American, I see Arnold Schwartzenegger as the ultimate American. Tom Hanks is another great example most people know.

At its worst... you get Karen." Ken_Meredith

There we have it. National parks, free restrooms, open-minded people, Arnold, Tom Hanks, and a few Karens thrown in so we don't get too big for our britches.

The U.S has its flaws and so does its people, but there really is a lot to love about us. High five, fellow Americans.