Things I Don’t Understand About America

I’ve been living in the US for nearly a year now and there is so much that I still don’t understand here. A lot of things that puzzle me are the obvious ones like healthcare and politics but if you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I like to look at things from a different angle so here are the things that really puzzle me about the US.

  1. Why does a country with so many great fast food chains export all the bad ones? There are so many great fast food chains in America (perhaps too many as my expanding waistline will attest) so why have only the crap ones made it to other countries? Keeping In-N-Out Burger and Chipotle in the US while spreading McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC around the world like a plague is like having Roosevelt and JFK running the country together but sending Sarah Palin as your ambassador to the UN. It’s just not fair guys.
  2. Toilets with gaps in the doors. It sounds like a weird thing to bring up but other Brits in the US have also told me they find this strange. In the UK and many other countries (not France), toilet cubicles are constructed with privacy in mind, in the US they seem to be designed by voyeurs. Many public toilets have a big gap between the door and the side so that you can see people walk past as you sit there. Awkward! In addition to this, there are often large gaps at the top and the bottom too, it’s enough to give you constipation if you aren’t used to it!
  3. Fahrenheit. In the entire world the only countries other than the US that use Fahrenheit are Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands and Palau. Now I’m not knocking these countries, I’d like to visit all of them on holiday (I might have to find Palau on a map first) but they aren’t exactly global powers are they? It’s time to embrace a temperature scale that has freezing as 0 and not 32. How about Celsius? Don’t even get me started on ounces…
  4. Why are greetings cards so slushy? It’s nice that so much thought goes into the sentiment but finding a Father’s Day card that didn’t have three verses of average poetry and lots of dubious similes wasn’t easy. What’s wrong with “Happy Father’s Day, mate” and a picture of a pint of beer? Finding Christmas cards that just said Merry Christmas was time consuming too; my theory is that the designers get paid by the word!
  5. Hershey’s. Not only does it taste vile but they have tried to prevent companies from importing British Cadbury’s because the Cadbury’s they make under licence is inedible as you can read about in my post here. Other than making Reese’s (which I do admit I have a soft spot for) is there really any point in Hershey’s?
  6. Drive-thrus. Now I understand that there are places in the US that have very hot summers and very cold winters and having places that let you stay in your car might be handy but it’s gone too far. I get drive-thru fast food restaurants, pharmacies and even banks but there are drive-thru wedding chapels and even funeral parlours, I kid you not. Nothing like saying goodbye to a loved one through glass and a haze of exhaust smoke right?

What do you make of my list, did I leave anything important out? Can you explain any of these for me?

40 thoughts on “Things I Don’t Understand About America

  1. I’ve lived in America my whole life and don’t understand some of these.

    I’d like an In-N-Out Burger in my state

    I find Hershey’s a poor substitute for the real thing.

    Metric is so much easier.

    Good job!

      1. I’m none to keen on Five Guys, but I think that’s because I had a not-so-pleasant first experience. If I have to go out for a burger, I like Red Robin. For a fast-food burger, they’re all about the same (to me) where I’m at.

  2. I miss drive thrus! There don’t seem to be many in the UK and they’re so much more efficient when commuting to work.
    I also have to say I kind of miss the imperial measurement system as well. 🙂 and why does the UK use miles if they like metric so much?

    1. There aren’t many in the UK at all but I’ve found that going into the store always seems to be faster than waiting in the car.
      Fair point about the UK and miles, we do have a weird mix of metric and imperial which is confusing to a lot of people, including myself!

  3. Josh Wrenn

    #1 is the greatest rant of all time! I can speak to the In n’ Out thing. They are family owned, so they do not have the corporate resources to expand like crazy (not that they aren’t making a mint, but just don’t have that huge investment capital), it took years of lobbying and convincing them they had a market in our town to open a couple up here. People would literally drive to the next state over to get some until then.

    1. That does make a lot of sense, I didn’t realise they were family owned. Makes sense they would focus on expanding across the US first and building their capital before a risky foreign expansion. Thanks for clearing that one up! 🙂

      1. Josh Wrenn

        Anytime. I only know because I researched and lobbied for them to build here. We literally started an email campaign because we got sick of driving 2 hours across state lines for their food, l

  4. American recipes annoy me. What the hell is a “cup”? Why can’t they just give weights and measures in grams or in ounces. My morning of1fee cup is considerably larger than the one I would get ordering a cream tea :-/

    1. I have a set of measuring cups 😉 they’re an extension of the teaspoon, tablespoon measurement system. Sort of logical to go by volume with all things…sort of…

  5. mamakam

    I love your observations! I just wanted to comment on an odd experience I had living in the UK. My young daughters came home with homework that contained homonyms, or words that are spelled differently but are pronounced exactly the same. The example given was: Pore, Poor, Pour and PAW. This really made me giggle! The other was when my 4 yr. old daughter insisted to me that Guy Fawkes Day was “guy forks day” because that was what her teacher told her. She was adamant about it! If I put my mind to, I’m sure I could come up with many things that make you go “hmmm” about living in Britain. Not in a bad way at all, I really loved it there and would go back if I could, just things that are different. Again, I love your observations!!

    1. Thank you! Haha “guy forks” is pretty funny. I’m sure that you could find loads of things that are strange/different about the UK, my wife is often quick to point them out to me when we visit. All part of the fun of living in another country. 🙂

  6. A.PROMPTreply

    Hah, Tom. This is a riot. My husband once had a shirt making fun of your No. 6 up there……it had a car pulling into a drive-thru and the driver of the vehicle rolled down his window and laid his head on the counter of the drive-thru window. The sign over the window on the building said, “Drive-Thru Brain Surgery”! Not too far out when you see things like funeral parlours doing this, eh?

  7. We have the toilet thing here in Canada too – I don’t get it! I’ve gotten used to it now but it’s worst at work when you know everyone else walking by. Awkward.

    Have to agree with the comment above about cups too, great when it’s stuff like flour but how the hell am I meant to measure out a cup of butter?!

    1. Oh no I didn’t realise the toilet issue extended north of the US too!

      When I see half a cup of butter in a recipe it makes me want to melt the butter and pour it into a cup to make sure I’m being precise!

  8. Americans like to drive in their pajamas while dropping their kids off at school and if we had to go inside for our favorite burnt cup of overpriced Starbucks coffee, it would never happen!

    And as far as the large gaps above and below the public toilets go, I think those are to keep children entertained while mother’s use the restroom. You see, not only can children crawl on the floor to peek underneath to observe their neighbor, they can also climb up top and look over with their neighbor being none the wiser…

    I’ve found some crude Father’s Day cards at Target (love LOVE) but Hallmark seems to carry mostly sappy syrupy cards. I avoid those.

    1. Thanks for your insight on this! The mental image of Starbucks filled with pajama clad parents definitely made me laugh! I will have to check out Target next time I need a card. 🙂

  9. thenovelist

    I live in London and used to small packaged things. When I visited California twice, I once went into a supermarket to get a small bottle of milk and for the life of me, I couldn’t find one. All the items were so huge.

  10. Lovely rant . . . finally someone else understands why I cannot stomach Cadbury. Yuck!
    On the fast food tip: Chipotle just has not gotten around to formulating a local fresh initiative in Europe. It will happen and there will be monster burritos for all!

  11. Enjoyed this, especially #4! I hate the mushy cards. I recommend a Hallmark brand called “Shoebox.” You can find them at Walgreens now, as well as Hallmark, and they are relentlessly irreverent while being true.

  12. cvail

    This is a great list, even though I could not give up drive-thrus I could easily give up the rest. I live in Germany, and parking is always an issue. Don’t even get me started on opening times!

  13. Ha..ha..ha.. Nice bewilderment!
    #1) No offense, but maybe this has something to do with “Keep the gold and dump thy garbage..” thing.
    #2) Some people just love to share, I guess—smell, sight (however unstylish).
    #3) Rumor has it that this even confuses our fellow Americans.
    #4/5) Sorry, just beyond me.
    #6) Ingenuity, mate. Ingenuity. Chance is, soon there’ll be drive-thru divorcing process, birth care, adoption-ready, euthanasia..
    (Hey, wanna get rich quick? What about some drive-thru toilet?) 🙂

    1. Haha great comments, especially about the fast food chains! You might be onto something with the drive-thru divorce; if people could get divorced as quickly as possible and from separate cars it might catch on! 🙂

  14. Eileen黃愛玲

    Love this! I have had the same thoughts. Although, I must say that American restaurants such as Pizza Hut is way more amazing in China or in Taiwan than in the States. The decor, the food, everything. I don’t think I can look at Pizza Hut again when I go back to the States. xD China does have Chiptole – knock offs, that is.

  15. The.Restless.Worker

    That’s great! My boyfriend moved to Canada from England and one of the first things he mentioned was .. the gaps in the doors in the toilet! I guess we’re so used to it we don’t even realize. Thanks for giving me my morning chuckle 🙂

  16. Canada also uses ferenheit on our ovens but we use Celsius for the weather… it’s taken some getting used to cooking in thd uk.

    I’ve never noticed a difference in the bathroom cubicles but another english expat to the states mentioned that as well I will have to pay more attention next time I go to the “loo.”

    Completely agree about the lack of good food chains. Oh how I miss east side marios and montanas and harveys and a&w but a burger king is never far away! (PProbably the worst fast food chain!)

    1. Interesting that Canada mixes Celsius and Fahrenheit, we mix metric and imperial a lot in the UK sometimes which does cause confusion! I’m glad I’m not the only person who has noticed the bathroom cubicles. 🙂

  17. Pingback: Things I Don’t Understand About America Part 2 – Old England to New England

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