30 Norms Around The World That Are Weird To Foreigners

30 Norms Around The World That Are Weird To Foreigners

“We casually drop this into conversation without even thinking about it. Visitors might be alarmed, but it’s totally normal here and isn’t meant to be offensive.”

When something is so commonplace around you, it’s easy to assume that it’s the norm everywhere. But turns out, there are lots of customs and traditions that are standard in one place, yet they might seem completely bizarre to outsiders.


France: “Being nude or partly nude at the beach. Every beach here has naked people, and no one cares. It’s just normal.”

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Czech Republic: “Kids are allowed in all bars and pubs. As a Czech person, this is totally normal to me, but my American wife was blown away by it.”


The US: “Prescription drug commercials. I thought the fact they have these in the US was a running joke. But finally, I went to America, and when I played a YouTube video on my phone, guess what ad played? You guessed it, a prescription drug commercial.”

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Luxembourg: “Where I live in Europe (Luxembourg), voting is mandatory. In fact, you can even get fined for not voting in an election.”

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Brazil: “In my country, it’s not very common to see places for rent or for sale with appliances already installed. Sometimes, homes don’t even come with built-in cabinets. People just buy their own and take everything with them when they leave the place.”

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Spain: “While visiting Spain, I couldn’t wrap my head around how late people generally eat dinner. Even sitting down for a meal at 10 p.m. is considered normal.”

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Italy: “Pizza in Italy is not like pizza in America. In America, you get a pizza pie to share, but in Italy, they’re meant for one person. You get a fork and knife with which to cut it yourself.”

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The US: “Going all out on holiday decorations. I couldn’t believe the intense love of decorating. There are Christmas competitions like best street for lights or best tree decorating. It’s so serious!”

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The UK: “Having washing machines in our kitchens. Apparently, in the US they have a whole other room for that. Only very posh people have a separate room for laundry machines in the UK.”


Japan: “Vending machines that serve full meals. Ordering food from a vending machine at a restaurant in Japan was surreal. You order noodles from a machine, then you sit at a booth with a curtain, and someone delivers your food when it’s ready and closes the blinds. It was a strange experience, though not in a bad way.”

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The US: “Drive thru restaurants everywhere you look. They are so much more common in the US than anywhere else in the world. It seems like every street, even in the suburbs, has a drive thru. This is definitely not the case in Europe.”


Germany: Most German restaurants expect you to sit for dinner for an extended period of time to the point where the waitstaff will actively ignore you. They’ll always keep an eye on your drinks, but they allow you to enjoy your meal without constantly interrupting. In that same vein, waitstaff won’t bring your check until you indicate you’re ready.”

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Romania: “People don’t leave a tip when dining in restaurants. Tipping is not necessary here because our waiters get paid a living wage. If you do choose to tip, it’s simply your way of stating how satisfied you are with their service. I usually leave a small tip unless I don’t have any cash or the service was really bad.”

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The US: “The fact that the legal drinking age is 21 is really weird to the rest of the world, especially since at age 18 people consider you an adult.”


South Korea: “Convenience store food can be seriously gourmet. Their convenience stores like 7-Eleven are heaven. Dining out in South Korea is pricey, but the meals served in convenience stores were so good, gourmet, and a lot cheaper. It’s nothing like the convenience store food you’d find back home in the US.”


Sweden: “People don’t share a single comforter in a shared bed. Rather, they each have their own. My Swedish husband was blown away by the fact that most American couples use a single comforter.”

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Australia: “Addressing everyone, even elders and teachers, by their first name. We are a very informal nation. Almost everyone is called by their first name.”


Sweden: “Extremely generous paid time off. Sweden requires employees to have four consecutive weeks off in the summer. When my Swedish wife told me that, my brain short-circuited. I’ve gotten used to it now, but when I tell Americans about this, they are seriously confused.”

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Italy: “Most windows don’t contain screens. The last time I was in Italy, I accidentally left my hotel room window open. That night, I spent an hour killing mosquitoes in the room and still got 20+ bites.”

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The UK: “Generous, paid maternity leave. When I hear about maternity leave in the US and people getting as little as six weeks unpaid, it’s heartbreaking. I’m from the UK, and we get nine months off paid. The thought of leaving my baby at six weeks old to go back to work would have killed me.”

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Portugal: “Lunch is the largest meal of the day. In many other places I’ve visited, lunch is a little sandwich or small salad, and that’s it. Home in Portugal, almost everyone has a big, hot lunch and breaks from work for at least an hour to eat. It’s still very funny to my British friends when I say I’m making lasagna or a hearty stew for lunch.”

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Australia: “We swear a lot. Like a lot, a lot. We casually drop the ‘c’ bomb into conversation without even thinking about it. Foreigners might be alarmed, but it’s totally normal here and isn’t meant to be offensive.”


Japan: “There aren’t many public garbage cans, but streets are still pristine. While visiting Japan, I couldn’t believe how clean the streets were. I realized that people actually carry their garbage home with them. There are almost no garbage cans outside in public areas.”

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The Netherlands: “Going everywhere by bike. Going to a funeral by bike, to a Michelin star restaurant for dinner by bike, picking up a Christmas tree by bike, etc. These are all things people do in the Netherlands.”

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New Zealand: “Walking around barefoot. Most of us live near the coast where the weather is good. It’s not unusual to see someone walking around the supermarket without shoes.”

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Bolivia: “Bagged milk. It’s almost the only way to buy milk in. It comes in 1-liter bags. Even chocolate milk for kids comes in small bags.”

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India: “We have matrimonial ads in newspapers and sites to find grooms and brides. This is something you wouldn’t see in western countries, so people find it strange. The ads are mostly published by parents. It’s like supervised Tinder.”

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Mexico: “Most drugs are available over the counter in Mexican pharmacies, even antibiotics and pain medications, or drugs that require a prescription back home in the US.”

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Denmark: “Leaving babies outside to sleep in a stroller, even in the cold. This is also the normal thing to do in Denmark. All midday naps are outside in a pram. Same goes if you are at a cafe. It’s quite normal to leave your child outside as long as you can see them.”

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Malaysia: “Using at least three different languages in a single sentence. I live in Malaysia, and nearly everyone does that here since everyone speaks at least Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil.”


The US: “When I was younger, I always thought that sororities and fraternities were just a concept made for movies. I liked it, but it didn’t seem like it could be real.”

What is something that is completely normal where you’re from that might seem strange to foreigners? Or something you’ve seen abroad that has shocked you? Tell us in the comments.