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16 Things You’ll Only Find in America

Picture of Julia Goicochea
Updated: 5 January 2018

Every country has its own unique features, and the United States is no exception. From the good (like showing enthusiasm for college sports), to the bad (think: drug advertisements), to the ugly (we’re looking at you, spray cheese), here are 16 things you’ll only find in America.

An obsession with college sports

In most countries, the general public doesn’t take interest in the extracurricular activities of college students. Only in America will thousands of people gather to watch students play a game, often organizing tailgating events prior to the game and watching high-profile interviews with the athletes afterward.

Drug advertisements

Along with New Zealand, America is one of only two countries that show advertisements for drug products on television. This means, rather than a doctor instructing their patient on what medicines to be taken, Americans often ask medical professionals about specific brands.

Excessive patriotism

In the U.S., residents are proud to be American; a point they make clear by singing the national anthem before sporting events, having schoolchildren pledge their allegiance to the flag each morning, and posting flags outside their homes and even on their cars. Understandably, this excessive patriotism can strike some non-natives as bizarre at best and creepy at worst.

Same-day online delivery

For some far-flung countries, the concept of quick online delivery is no more than a myth. In America, almost anything can be ordered online and delivered in one or two business days. As if that convenience isn’t hard enough to fathom, some companies offer same-day delivery service in certain U.S. states.

Spray cheese

Exactly what it sounds like, spray cheese is a cheese product with a whipped cream-like texture packaged in a spray can. In great news for the rest of the world, it can only be found in America.

24-hour stores

Convenience is king in America, making the country’s 24-hour stores and drive-thrus royalty round these parts. Whether you’re looking for an ATM, groceries, or even a drive-thru wedding chapel (really), America is open for businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

White bread

Tourists are in for a treat (or a shock) when tasting white bread for the first time. The American invention is sweeter than other breads and has been likened by non-natives to cake. For Americans, a sandwich featuring white bread is a rather plain meal, but for tourists, it’s a unique culinary experience worth trying for yourself.

‘How are you?’ as a greeting

Visitors may be taken aback when everyone from check-out people to sales clerks say ‘how are you?’ Confusingly, Americans use the phrase as a way of saying ‘hello’ rather than an actual enquiry into the state of your well-being. An answer is not actually required here, and if provided, may even be met with the local’s own surprise.

Pets as children

Pets have a special place in many cultures, but only in America are furry friends treated like members of the family. Here, the pet industry includes day cares, clothing, spas, and more.

‘Doggy bags’

You’ve heard about America’s legendary food portions, but what’s less widely-known about is the concept of ‘doggy bags.’ When served a big-enough-for-two meal, many Americans don’t actually polish off their plate. Instead, they’ll be given a ‘doggy bag,’ or takeaway container, to take their leftover food home. As portion sizes are generally more manageable outside of the U.S., this concept doesn’t exist in many other places.

Indulgent food combos

Speaking of food, Americans are known for their indulgent food combinations. Think: ice cream and soda floats, peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwiches, and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. Needless to say, you won’t find many of these bizarre concoctions outside of the U.S.

169 million unused vacation days

Business Insider reported that in 2013, Americans squandered a whopping 169 million vacation days, and that the following year nearly half of working Americans didn’t take a single day off. This is difficult to understand for anyone, but especially for tourists coming from countries with a healthier work-life balance.

Confusing coins

For a country so obsessed with wealth, America has one of the most confusing currencies in the world. Here, coins are called by arbitrary nicknames rather than by their numeric denomination and have sizes which are incongruous to their values.

Throwing peanut scraps on the floor

This is a tough one to explain. In certain settings in America, such as baseball games and themed restaurants, it’s customary to throw one’s peanut casings on the floor. There’s no real reason behind this practice, and it baffles even some natives.

American Black Friday

While many countries acknowledge Black Friday, the shopping holiday taking place the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., American Black Friday only exists here. Unsurprisingly, Black Friday has become bigger than the national holiday which precedes it, with some Americans queuing up for shopping deals as early as Thanksgiving Day. In addition to unfathomable lines, American Black Friday features fights between shoppers, car accidents, and downright scary mob scenes.

Tipping

In many European countries, tipping is not common practice. On this side of the Atlantic, however, tips are expected—but not often explained. What is the correct amount or percentage to tip? Who gets tipped? Why should a customer be expected to pay someone extra for doing their job? Here’s a tip for you: there’s no guidebook to getting along in the U.S., but a most memorable travel experience is something you’ll only find in America.