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30 American Things That Don't Exist Abroad

Free Refills

There aren't any customer-accessible soda fountains in Europe. And if you finish your Coca-Cola at a sit-down restaurant, cough up the money for a second one. Your waiter won't automatically refill your glass for you.

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Tipping

Unlike in America, there is no tipping culture in most other countries, and it is often unnecessary. Across much of Europe, the price of service is already baked into the final total of restaurant bills.

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Flags on Bathing Suits

Most countries find it massively disrespectful to wear their flag as clothing. Even though U.S. code prohibits it, most of us think nothing of strapping the flag to our bodies. Sure, you can buy other flags in swimsuit form, but they’re all made in the U.S.A. 

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Open Carry Guns

In Texas, a business has to put up a specific sign to prohibit people from walking around with a gun. That's a far cry from places like the UK, where most police officers don't even carry firearms.

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Too Many Options

From sodas to cereals to snack cakes, Americans are faced with an overwhelming array of choices at the supermarket. Entire books have been written about what it's doing to us psychologically as a country. 

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Smiles at Strangers

Now, this isn't to say that people outside the U.S. are unpleasant or rude. There is just a different level of personal interaction. It would not be uncommon in the U.S. for a complete stranger to say, "How are you?" to someone that he or she had never met before. The expected reply is "Good" or "Fine," even if that person is not actually good or fine. Asking this question abroad would be seen as prying into someone's personal business.

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American Football

It's well known that what we call "soccer" is known as football everywhere else. What we call football, on the other hand, is a $10 billion-a-year industry. We've shared it with Canada and Mexico, but it hasn't really caught on much.

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The Condiments You Know and Love

We have some really bad news for non-adventurous eaters who travel abroad. The condiments you know and love are a little off. If you love your American ketchup and actually find a place with good french fries, you'll be disappointed to learn that non-American ketchup is more akin to a simple tomato sauce. It's less tangy and has more sugar. So be prepared for the sweetness before dousing things! Likewise, mayonnaise is less sour and lighter in other countries. It's even a preferred dipping sauce for fries in the UK.

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Fried Everything

We have the culinary ingenuity of an anxious toddler, if an anxious toddler could work a deep-fryer. We're a country that puts burgers on donuts. We've built an entire world out of fried-everything state fair food kiosks. We own this!

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Food as Entertainment

We have a long tradition of eating competitions; the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest just celebrated its 100th anniversary. There's even a hit TV show called “Man v. Food.” Try pulling this off in France and see what happens!

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Iced Tea

Iced tea is an entire cultural phenomenon unto itself. Some fanatical places will even serve tea with ice cubes made out of tea. The purpose is to ensure that your tea doesn’t get watered down as the ice melts. 

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Tex-Mex

If you are from the U.S. and you think you know what Mexican food is, think again. What you know and love is actually Tex-Mex. Visit Mexico and you may be surprised to see that some of your favorite dishes can't be found. And if you head to Europe, good luck finding quality Tex-Mex cuisine. They can be counted on a single hand.

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Fortune Cookies

There's something similar to the American fortune cookie in Japan's history, but the fortune cookie as we know it today is pure Americana. There are conflicting reports on where it came from, but all signs point to California.

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Solo Cups

From church potlucks to beer pong tournaments, these red plastic cups are everywhere. They've even had a country ballad written about them! You probably won't find them in any other country, however, at least not at the rate of popularity they have here.

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Being "Fashionably Late"

If someone invites you over to a party in America, it's not uncommon for the bulk of the attendees to start showing up around 15 to 30 min after the start time. It's not that they're late; they're just giving the host right up until the start of the party to get everything ready. Arriving a little after the "official" start time means that the party will already be in the swing of things, so there's no awkward waiting around for people to show up. In other countries, however, the host would be wondering why you didn't show them the courtesy of being punctual.

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All-Day Cappuccinos

American "coffee culture" is lacking, to say the least. You just drive through a Starbucks and get whatever coffee you want at any time of day. You would be laughed out of the coffee shop in Italy for order a cappuccino outside of breakfast time, however. Similarly, an Austrian would be appalled if you just wanted plain black coffee when they offer so many varieties.

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Eating Out for Dinner

Eating out at restaurants has almost become an unwritten rule on Fridays and Saturdays in the states. In many other countries, they stay in and use the time to make large meals for family and friends. It's essentially the same concept (hanging out with the ones you love over a shared meal), just a different location. 

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Medical Marijuana

Some states disagree with the federal government and allow marijuana to be prescribed for medically-appropriate conditions. Other countries seem to be better at making a national consensus and simply let you have it or not. 

 

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Wearing Shoes in the House

East Asian countries immediately come to mind when you think of removing your shoes before entering a home. But the practice is actually pretty common in South Asia, the Middle East, and even Scandinavia and Canada. It seems Americans are the odd ones out when they walk in the house while keeping their shoes on. Maybe Americans don't care about dirt that much? Or maybe they're particularly worried about their foot odor? The jury is still out.

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Girl Scout Cookies

It makes sense. After all the organization is called the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. So, of course, you wouldn't be able to find Girl Scout cookies when you're abroad. You might not even miss them much at first, but when all of your American friends back home start posting pics on social media during delivery season, you'll realize how bad your craving truly is.

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Cream Cheese

The closest thing is mascarpone cheese in Italy. It has more fat than cream cheese, however. American cream cheese is also created using lactic acid bacteria, giving it a tangier and more acidic taste than the creamy Italian counterpart. Those breakfasts of a plain bagel with a smear of regular American cream cheese are over once you move abroad.

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Maple Syrup

If you want to leave the country and still find maple syrup, head north to Canada. Otherwise, you'll be out of luck. North America is the only hospitable place for (growing and) tapping true 100% maple syrup. Other countries don't even use it as a topping for their country's version of pancakes anyway.

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Pancakes

The fluffy flour-based pancakes that American's have come to love at breakfast time (or for brinner) just aren't found abroad. French crêpes are too thin. The Japanese version (okonomiyaki) is too thick and most often topped with savory things like meat, seafood, and cabbage. Australian-style pancakes are too eggy and have sugar in the dough.

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Chewing Gum

In America, people walk around chewing gum. A lot. All the time. For hours at a time. In much of Europe, this is considered rude, especially if you try talking to someone with gum in your mouth. They might chew it for a few minutes after a meal, but they then spit it out. In Singapore, chewing gum is even outright banned!

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Movie Theater Popcorn

"Movie theater" popcorn that is drenched in oily butter is a uniquely American concept. So are hot dogs and nachos as movie food. Are you even one of those people?

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Cheeze-Its/Cheese Nips

That's right. You never knew you could crave these unique cheese-flavored baked crackers until you go abroad and they are suddenly missing. Sure, they have crackers elsewhere but nothing like these.

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Canned Cheese

We put cheese in a can! We also gave the world "processed cheese foods," like Cheez whiz and Velveeta.

 

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Long Highways

Russia, Canada, China, and Australia have wide open spaces. But when you look at other countries, their highways are not nearly as long as ours. Plus, they usually only have one or two lanes on each side. In America, we apparently need three or four. 

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White Bread

When other countries talk about our bread, it basically sounds like we sit around eating cake on our sandwiches. Honestly, once you've tried bread in other places, you may be inclined to agree.

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Walmart

Walmart has expanded overseas, but there's nothing like America’s sprawling Supercenters. In fact, the American company conceded failure and pulled out of the German and South Korean markets altogether. There is rarely something as similar as a Walmart Supercenter that has groceries, home goods, auto parts, and hunting supplies all under one roof.

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