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American Problems Europeans Don’t Understand

Not Knowing How to Drive a Standard

Automatic cars aren’t easy to come by in Europe, so the fact Americans mostly drive automatics is baffling to Europeans. The real problem comes in when we have to drive sticks – spoiler alert: many Americans can’t.

That isn’t to say you can’t find an automatic in Europe, but they’re just pretty hard to come by. Automatic cars also cost a lot more, so be ready to shell out a pretty penny even if you want to rent.

Sweet Everything

Have you ever noticed how sweet our food is? Well, Europeans sure notice. They really don’t understand why everything we consume is super sweet – everything from bread to tomato sauce. Honestly, many Americans don’t get it either.

Some Americans even complained that our sweets are so sugary that it overpowers any other flavor. If you want something with less sugar, you have to pay more. How does that even make sense?

Prices Without Taxes

In America, we’re used to going to the store and expecting to pay taxes after everything is scanned. In Europe, you know the exact cost of a product before you even reach the cashier. There, if it says it’s four euros, then it’s four euros. 

Taxes there are built into the price, which helps the whole process go much faster. The reason America chooses not to build taxes into the price is that taxes vary from state to state (and city to city), so it’s much easier to have a base price and add onto there.

Turning Right on Red

This one causes a lot of panic for Europeans! It’s honestly a little funny to watch them freak out a little when we turn right at a red light. In Europe, it’s illegal to make a right turn on red, unless there’s a sign or signal that expressly authorizes it. You’ll see this sign most commonly in Germany.

In America, it’s the other way around! You can turn as long as there isn’t a sign that explicitly states otherwise. You can see where the confusion (and panic) comes from!

Lack of Annual Leave

America notoriously has some of the shortest annual and sick leave of any other country. Most businesses give you minimal leave time, usually based on how long you’ve been at the company. It can be anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

In Europe? That leave is much longer. Some people get as much as nine weeks, and even one Reddit user said they can still feel deprived with that long. Europeans also don’t understand why some Americans choose not to use their annual leave.

TV Advertisements

This one is a double-hitter. First, Europeans don’t understand why prescriptions are allowed to have advertisements on TV. There are stringent rules against what can and cannot be advertised in Europe, especially as far as pharmaceuticals are concerned. In America, it’s basically a free-for-all.

Europeans also don’t understand why there are so many commercials for American television. An hour show typically has 15-20 minutes of commercials, and it really seems like that number keeps going up (looking at you, Hulu). 

Expensive College Textbooks

Any college student will tell you that one of the worst parts of going to a university is expensive textbook costs. Furthermore, selling those books back gives you a fraction of what you paid, and it isn’t like you can use the textbook over multiple semesters.

In some countries, professors don’t ask you to purchase a book. Some provide the books you need while others say you can pick up a photocopy they’ve made for their students. Meanwhile, in America, professors may require you to purchase their book brand new (and they check if it’s new).

Tipping

What’s up with tipping? Europeans don’t get it at all. Tipping culture in America is pretty confusing, especially since the percentage changes regularly. It used to be 10%, but now it’s all the way up to 20-25% depending on where you go!

In Europe, waiting is a serious profession that deserves respect. Waiters also get a good wage rather than being paid $2.85 or so. Sure, restaurants in America have to make up the difference if minimum wage isn’t met, but that’s just customers paying your employees. 

Still Using Old Tech

Despite having some of the best tech out there, America is pretty behind in some ways. It isn’t unusual for someone to request a fax in America, especially for anything involving health insurance. Who owns a fax machine anymore?

Overseas, they don’t mess with fax machines anymore. One Redditor said they were asked to fax something to the U.S. while studying in the U.K. So, they went to the printing office and asked to fax something, but “they looked at me like I was an alien and said the school hadn’t owned a fax machines for like a decade.”

Privatized Prison System

Some Europeans (and Americans) have claimed that it feels like America constantly creates laws out of thin air so that people will break them. Then, charges can be thrown on top willy-nilly to increase the prison sentence.

Okay, maybe that’s not 100% true, but the privatized prison system is weird. In 2010, a private prison in Arizona sued the state because it wasn’t getting enough prisoners. The state paid the prison $3 million (according to Huffington Post). This story isn’t a rare one.

High Toilet Water

This one is weird, right? Or is it us Americans that are weird? We’re not sure. Apparently, in America, the water in our toilet is super high. Granted, this doesn’t go for those of us who have eco-friendly toilets with an extremely low water line.

Men especially complain about the height of the toilet water. Women don’t seem to mind it (for obvious reasons). Maybe they’re just finding the few toilets in America with incredibly high water.

Public Toilets

Public toilets, in general, are awful in America. Not because they’re dirty, although that can be a bit of an issue from time to time. It’s the gaps in the stalls! Even Americans hate the gaps in the stalls, but no one is doing anything about it.

Nothing is worse than having eye contact with someone while you’re doing your business. Some stalls are so bad that they have half-an-inch to an inch gap between the door and the stall. In this case, Europeans are right. The gaps are a problem.

Bragging About Heritage

Why are Americans obsessed about where their ancestors are from? Europeans don’t get it. If they’re in America, born and raised, then they’re American. They aren’t Irish, Dutch, or whatever. Maybe if they’re first-generation American, but some people take it too far.

Their great-great-great-great grandpa came from Switzerland, so their whole family is Swiss? That seems like a bit of a stretch, but you do you. We’re not saying you can’t do it, but we are saying Europeans find it super strange. 

Limited Data

Not every place in Europe has unlimited data, but some do. For that reason, tourists to America (especially those from Finland) get confused about why we’re obsessed with being connected to Wi-Fi to avoid using mobile data. 

It isn’t free for unlimited mobile data, but data is cheap. According to one Redditor, it’s approximately 30 euro for unlimited data. We have unlimited data in America, but it’s expensive, and chances are, you’ll still be throttled after a certain amount of usage.

Medical Costs

We knew medical costs were going to pop up. Everything from medication to procedures is insanely expensive in America. Investopedia looked into medical costs in America versus the rest of the world and found that we have some of the highest costs.

For example, in the United States, Investopedia found that the average MRI will cost $1,119. In Spain, that same MRI is just $181. Hip replacements cost as much as $29,097, which is $10,000 more than the next most expensive country. 

American Flag Pride

Every country is proud of their flag – we’re not going to claim otherwise. That being said, Europeans feel as though Americans take it a bit further. Photographers are often criticized with how they use the flag, one being panned because they used the flag to hold their baby in a little hammock. 

People will get upset in any country if their flag is defaced, but one Redditor made the point by saying, “In the UK most people probably couldn’t spot if the Union Flag was round the wrong way.” Before you ask, yes, apparently you can have the Union Flag upside down. 

Registering to Vote

This one isn’t just Europeans, although they are often confused by our political climate. Even as close as Canada, you can register on the day you’re going to vote. In America, you have to meet your state’s guidelines, which can be as much as 30 days prior to the actual day.

That being said, not every European country follows the same rules. In the United Kingdom, you still have to register to vote (and often). One Redditor claimed he had to register four times despite living in the same place for six years.

Fahrenheit

The whole Imperial unit of measurements has been brought up time and time again. It’s weird we still use it, but the most confusing part is that we still use Fahrenheit.

Some Europeans panic before realizing they have to convert temperatures! Got to admit, seeing somewhere as 85 degrees seems great in America, but in Europe? That would be 185 degrees Fahrenheit – not so comfortable anymore.

Suing Culture

Why is America so obsessed with suing? Some cases make total sense, like the woman who got third-degree burns from spilling her coffee. However, some of the laws are super wonky. For example, in some places, if you don’t salt icy walkways, you’re not liable if someone falls.

However, if you do salt the icy walkways and someone falls, you’re suddenly liable. Why are you liable at all for someone who takes the risk of walking on ice? Things are getting easier to sue people, so we’re not sure where the line will be drawn. 

Student Debt

Student debt is one of the biggest issues in America. According to Investopedia, the average graduate has $35,359 in student debt, and 10% of student debt is past due. Furthermore, 14.4% of adults have student loan debt. That’s some pretty shocking numbers.

In some places in Europe, like Germany, higher education is entirely public-funded. Tuition fees in Germany were abolished in 1971. They did come back from 2006 to 2014, but even then, the average student debt was just 500 euros.

Writing Checks

Europeans just don’t understand why Americans still write checks. That’s pretty understandable. Overall, it seems America is pretty behind on technology. Think about how long it took our cards to get chips when Europe had it for years prior!

At this point, Europeans see “write a check” and “check bounced” as an archaic phrase that was said before the Internet. Only, they find out pretty quickly that in America, you pretty much have to write checks for some stuff (like rent).

Food Portions

Sure, other places in the world have pretty big food portions, but America? It’s almost a point of pride that we create giant mountains of food. These are portions that no human can realistically finish. 

We’ve all heard of “hubcap burgers” – burgers so big that they’re the size of a hubcap! We’re not sure why the portions need to be so large, but at least we have another meal out of it (sometimes two!).

Censoring Words

Europeans don’t get why American television censors swear words, especially when it’s obvious what they’re saying! Another European commented that American TV tends to censor only part of the word.

It’s weird to hear the beginning of a swear, telling everyone exactly what it is while also bleeping it. What’s the point? Some might say it’s so that adults know the words, but children don’t, but nowadays, they definitely know.

Terrible Food Quality

On top of everything being strangely sweet, the overall quality is pretty much garbage. Places like France revel in the fact that their food is top-notch. America? Not so much. The food we eat is often terrible for us and makes us unwell.

Many link this back to ’60s when farmers got subsidies for corn. Now, they still get corn subsidies despite the fact America doesn’t need that much corn. So, they put it in everything, including corn syrup, cornmeal, etc. Overall, this terrible food quality could also explain Americans’ ever-expanding waistline.

Lack of Bidets

This one came to light quite a following the toilet paper craze due to the coronavirus. Why don’t Americans have bidets? Everywhere in Europe has them whether you’re staying at someone’s house or a hotel.

Bidets aren’t that expensive to install, and they can significantly lower your toilet paper costs. On top of that, Europeans consider bidets as being much more hygienic as it can prevent rashes, hemorrhoids, and UTIs.  

Drinking Age

This one is one that’s repeated quite a bit, and we kinda get it too. Why is our drinking age 21? Not just that, but why are you able to register to vote, sign up for the military, get married, and have children, but not drink a beer? It’s pretty odd.

Now, some states are even raising the age to buy cigarettes to 21. In Europe, the drinking age ranges quite a bit, but in most places, it’s from 16 to 18. It’s also not uncommon to see a kiddo drinking a small glass of alcohol in some countries.

Ambulance Costs

On top of paying for outrageous medical care costs, Americans also have to shell out for an ambulance. USA Today reported that the average ambulance ride is around $2,480, with mileage often being tacked on per mile.

That’s pretty crazy, right? It’s no wonder that many people are choosing to get an Uber or taxi to take them to the hospital, but that comes with a caveat. Only ambulances can fly through red lights, and when you’re having a heart attack, seconds matter.

End-of-Year Taxes

Taxes are hard – any American will tell you that much. It’s so difficult that there are professions involved around helping us figure out what it all means but hold on a second! Europe doesn’t treat taxes the same way.

In Europe, you don’t do your taxes. The government does! During tax season, they’ll send you a bill or a check, depending on how much you paid in. In America, we have to guess that amount, hoping that we guess correctly. Otherwise, we’re looking at an audit.

Two-Party System

There are more than two parties in the American system, but they have pretty much zero representation. Most people vote for one of two parties because picking the other groups is often seen as “throwing your vote away.”

In Europe, there’s way more than two political parties. In some European countries, there are several parties, and each has its own representation. France is a good example, although confusing to many Americans. France is a multi-party system where each group has some form of representation.    

Politician Idolization

This is a biggie for many Europeans. Why do people idolize politicians? They’re almost treated like rock stars! People will scream their name, buy their merch, and commit their lives to every word that spouts from their mouths.

Politicians are public servants, and no different than a courthouse clerk. Sure, they have power with the position, but they still should be held accountable when they abuse it. At this point, they’re celebrities.