Thought Catalog
September 22, 2014

19 Americans Talk About The One Thing That Foreigners Would Be Shocked To Learn About The United States

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What is the issue?
image - Flickr / Mike Mozart
image – Flickr / Mike Mozart

Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are some things the outside world would be shocked to learn about the United States of America? Here are some of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.


1. Michael Liberty

  • As of 2011, the majority of children born in the United States are not white (non-hispanic)
  • 57% of American college students are women
  • From 1944-54 the top income tax rate was 90%+. From 1932-82, it was 50%+.
  • The average income of the poorest 5% in the US is higher than the income of 68% of the world.
  • The US is actually a net exporter of petroleum products.
  • The combined deer hunters of Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania alone would comprise the largest military in the world.
  • 30% of Southern Men aged 18-40 died in the American Civil War.
  • 20% of our states are bigger than the UK. Texas is bigger than Germany and France. Alaska is 2.5x as big as Texas.

2. Phil Darnowsky

Let me make a bold, blanket statement that may shock a number of people from the outside world: if you aren’t an American, and you haven’t spent a substantial amount of time here (on the order of ten years, say), your mental picture of the USA is dead wrong.

“Whaaaaaat? How can he be so sure?”

Simple. It is a freaking huge country with a vast and heterogeneous population.

The United States, even disregarding the massive outlier that is Alaska, has roughly the land area of Western Europe and almost as many people. The waves of Europeans who settled here before the Revolution landed far apart in both time and space, giving each wave room to develop their radically different ideas of how a society should be run. They banded together in an alliance of convenience against the British government, and afterwards managed to hang together for nearly a century before they started a civil war. They patched things up afterwards but the cultural divisions still run deep.

So unless you’ve spent a long time here and met a representative sample of Americans (which means quite a few people), your idea of the United States is going to be inaccurate mainly through omission.

Let me put it another way. Is America the skyscrapers of New York City? Is it the endless sprawl of suburbia outside Chicago? Is it the Iowa cornfields? The ruins of Detroit and the farms that are springing up amongst them? Is it Silicon Valley? Or maybe Hollywood? The small cities of the Pennsylvania coal district that are hurting but refuse to die? Route 50 through Nevada where you can drive for an hour and never see another car?

The answer is yes. All of these things and more. Come see for yourself.