It’s no secret that cultural norms differ depending on where you are in the world. In the United States, everyday activities like driving or dining at a restaurant may seem like subtle events, but there are certain cultural norms that can be considered major lifestyle changes in other parts of the world.
While it may be difficult to understand just how different American culture can be from European culture, one Reddit user reminded the internet that there are some seemingly minor American norms that are taboo in Europe.
Last week, a Reddit thread on the popular forum r/AskReddit went viral when user u/Raphael_Olbert asked the internet: “What is usual in America, but isnt in Europe?” The thread has already gained more than 6,000 comments from people sharing their experiences visiting both parts of the world.
“Driving long distances for things not related to leisure travel,” wrote u/namehimgeorge. Another person responded: “Yup. I drove over 100 miles running errands for myself and my mom last Thursday.”
While Europe and the United States are almost even in size – 10.2m square kilometres and 9.8m square kilometres, respectively – it takes about 2,800 miles to travel from east to west of the United States. In some states like New York, a six-hour drive up north could still end up in the same state.
“I live in Europe and to me if it’s 30 minutes by car it’s considered long distance travel,” one person said.
Another cultural difference internet users pointed out was the size of parking lots in the states compared to Europe. “Parking lots larger than the building they service,” said u/Ferna_89. One person jokingly replied: “And there still isn’t enough parking somehow.”
Similarly, many Europeans were surprised by how young American teens are when they first receive their driver’s license. The minimum age driving requirement in the US varies by state. In some states, the youngest a student can be to receive their permit is 14 years old. But for the vast majority of Europe, most people don’t receive their driver’s license until they turn 18.
“I remember a few years back when a friend who turned 16 talked about learning to drive and getting a car and the idea was so foreign to my poor British mind,” said u/Lunarrio. “It still sounds so weird, but then I guess cars are far more essential in America, whereas a bus or train can get you most places in the UK.”
One of the biggest cultural differences internet users posed was how different dining in an American restaurant can be from one in Europe. In many European countries, leaving a tip for the waitstaff isn’t commonplace because service is often included in the total cost of a meal. But tipping is a major part of restaurant etiquette in the US, and leaving a tip lower than 15 per cent would be considered an insult.
One person noticed the “insanely large portions of food at restaurants” in America, while someone else said: “Waitstaff constantly checking on you, even if it means interrupting conversation. In Europe they leave you in peace unless you obviously need something.”
Plus, a sales tax is oftentimes not included in the total cost of an item in the US, but is added later on. “My roommate moved here from Australia six months ago and he STILL complains about this, he’s not used to it yet,” said u/emthejedichic.
“‘If you go to a shop with $5, you can’t buy $5 worth of items because when you get to the till you have to pay more! How do you stand it?’” they added, mimicking their Australian roommate’s disbelief. “I just shrugged and said we’re used to it.”
Other shocking cultural differences between Europe and the United States included the amount of water in toilets, Americans having garbage disposals in their kitchen sinks, and the American urge to put lots of ice in beverages.