I was an exchange student in Japan. Someone told my host family that American kids drink tons of milk. When I arrived at their house, they showed me their fridge filled with “Sno” brand milk. They had also bought me yogurt and ice cream to make me feel at home. I’m lactose intolerant.
One of my favorite things I saw while traveling was at a zoo in Denmark. In the nocturnal house they had all the animals set up in their natural habitats.
In China, I ordered a sundae. On top was a tomato instead of a cherry.
I went to a restaurant in Moscow called ‘The American Bar & Grill.’ There was a bearskin in the doorway, the whole place was decorated like an 1800s saloon. All the waiters were dressed as cowboys and said ‘Howdy, partners’ in thick Russian accents.
In one restaurant, in Italy “American Champagne” was coke. I approved.
In Haiti, they call ketchup, “American Sauce”
I stayed with a friend in Italy for a summer. His mom wanted me to feel at home, so she bought what she thought were traditional American foods. She came back from the grocery store with ketchup, Chips Ahoy, and Coke. She expected me to put ketchup on every single meal, and she seemed disappointed when I told her that chocolate chip cookies are not, in fact, a breakfast food.
In Vietnam, some places have “American Fried Rice.”
Its made with eggs, hot dogs, spam, ham and ketchup is added so the fried rice comes out red. I think those types of meat are used since it was left over from when the American’s were stationed in Vietnam during the war. I personally love it and I still sometimes make my fried rice at home with those same ingredients.
When I studied abroad in Italy, I found a pizzeria in Venice that advertised “American style pizza.” Turns out it was a pizza that was COVERED in french fries.
I studied abroad in Argentina and there were a chain of pizzerias called Kentucky Pizza. Their pizza was actually really good, but I thought it was funny, as Kentucky doesn’t have a reputation for extra-delicious pizza the last time I checked.
Also, American cheese was labeled as cheddar. The first time I bought “queso cheddar” from a grocery store I took a bite and was heartily disappointed. I never found real cheddar the whole time I was down there.
My favorite thing was when I took a trip across Europe. We stopped at a KFC and they asked about where I was from in the US. I told them Kentucky and they about lost their shit. They wanted to see my ID. When I showed them I was in fact from Kentucky, they gave me a bunch of free biscuits.
I don’t know why they reacted that way, but doesn’t matter; had biscuits.
Not necessarily about America, but western culture in general:
People in Ghana are very, VERY surprised to find:
- Not everyone has a job
- There are homeless
- Post secondary education isn’t free
- the weirdest one (that keeps coming up!!!) is some people are very, very surprised that I, as a white man, shit. Some people thing that white people don’t poo.
During my trip to Vietnam last summer, my friends and I went to an “American-styled bar.” It was decked out in Cowboys vs. Indians gear with a Filipino band covering 80s hair metal.
A few of my Korean friends seemed to think America is an insanely dangerous where everyone has been in a gunfight, people are all millionaires, and the women without exception are supermodels. The Fast and the Furious is pretty popular there.
Tex-mex plate in Germany:
- Tortilla chips
- mozzarella sticks
- chicken nuggets
- hot wings
- country potatoes
- potato wedges
Japanese pizza has corn all over it, because corn is considered American, and what’s more American than corn and pizza.
My Nigerian friend thought that America was all covered in snow and everyone was rich. When he landed in Atlanta, It was 100 degrees and he got a rude awakening.
Barcelona advertised an American pizza that had hot dogs on it. Not cut up hot dog slices, but whole hot dogs covering the entire pizza.
Oddly enough, mine is also pizza-related. When I lived in Madrid in the early 90s, there was a restaurant called the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory. It was an international chain in a number of nations’ capitals.
I ordered a personal pepperoni and mushroom pizza, a Diet Coke, and a piece of chocolate cheese cake.
It all looked right. And absolutely none of it tasted like anything I had in the US: textures, flavors, spicing was all different. (The pizza sauce, for instance, involved no oregano, but lots of saffron. It had a biscuit crust. The Diet Coke, actually “Coca Cola Light,” was sweetened with saccharin.) On the walls were lots of signs from Chicago, many in Spanish. The woman who waited on me was wearing a Cubs shirt.
In India, theaters sell ‘popcorn’ for 100 rupees and ‘American popcorn’ for 300. They taste exactly the same, but the American popcorn comes in a fancier box.
A few months ago I visited Israel for the first time. There were five Israelis in my tour group, and when each of them asked me where I was from, the exact same thing happened.
Israeli: Where are you from in America?
Israeli: (Gets excited) Wisconsin! That 70’s Show!
I just got back from backpacking Europe for six weeks and got some amazing ones, but my favorite was this Italian guy asking me if we Californians were afraid of the ocean because of all the sharks. I was like why do you think we have so many sharks? And his response “shark week”.
23. Sweet bread
When I was in India in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was (with a few exceptions) nothing like what a European or American would call “bread”. Especially nothing like sandwich bread.
I love Indian food, but after months and months I sometimes would miss bread. Sometimes you would see something that looked a lot like a white bread, but it was very sweet and served as dessert.
One time I happened across a bakery, and I rushed in all excited, only to see it was baking and selling the desert version. The proprietor was there and spoke English well, do I suggested to him making a bread without sugar.
He replied “If I don’t put in any sugar, how will I make it sweet?”
He had me there, can’t argue with that logic.
Lived in egypt for a while, Evanescence was HUGE over there, no other American music really made it.
In Japan, Corndogs are “American Dogs.” When I tried explaining this, they pictured a hotdog covered in corn kernels, and didn’t realize the batter is supposed to be made with cornmeal.
I went to a Captain America themed restaurant in Dublin. They brought me raspberry jam to dip my mozzarella sticks in.
I ordered “Roast Beef” in Yangon, Myanmar. What they served me was two tiny pieces of bread quartered. Within the center of each quarter was the “beef.” Each piece was roughly the size of a bean and charred to a crisp, more so than bacon. Ketchup for condiments, “beef” and bread, WTF. I ate it anyways but I am not sure how their interpretation could have been that. Also in Myanmar I ate the best homemade gnocchi I have ever had in my life, I am Italian and have travelled all over Italy…
We went to China for my husband’s work. His company had a Chinese affiliate and his Chinese counterpart took us out to lunch the first day. So about five minutes into eating he tells us he likes American music and asks if he can ask us to clarify something he heard for him. He asked what does “One you go black, you never go back” mean.
I almost died. Literally. I laughed so hard I almost choked.
I explained it in common terms and he was very embarrassed.
29. Today, I learned not to order anything that has “American” preceding it because it will be ridiculous
When I went to Mexico I ordered an hamburguesa Americana and expected an American hamburger. I did not expect a steak covered in ketchup and French fries wrapped in bacon. Thats not even a hamburger.
In Chile everyone thought I worked for the CIA. Years later I read up on some of the stuff the CIA did in the 70s and they were right to be wary of the CIA.
I went with some other American girls to a bar in Zimbabwe. We were swarmed with men who were excited to hear that we were American, but they were disappointed when they realized we weren’t quite like the girls on Jersey Shore. That show is everywhere it seems, and people assume it’s an accurate portrayal of Americans.
In India, the kids would always yell things like, “Shway shwaaah shwoh,” or other variations of “sh” sounds, at me because that’s how they thought Americans sounded. I loved it because I always wondered how people from other countries imitated American language, given that we do the same thing here (“Ching chang chung” to imitate Chinese, etc.)
I did a study abroad program in Italy and a couple days were spent in this one hotel in Sicily. The hotel owner was clearly thrilled to have our group selling out every room in the hotel, so he served dinner to our group every night, it was really nice of him. One night at dinner he stood up and in a rehearsed, broken English (it was clear he really never had to speak much English) he said, “Tomorrow morning, for all my friends here tonight, I will serve you special American style breakfast!”
We. Were. Thrilled.
We had been in Italy for like 5 weeks and none of us had seen any eggs, pancakes, bacon or anything that resembled what Americans eat for breakfast in that time. Italians pretty much just grab a pastry and espresso each morning.
We wake up the next morning, walk into the dining area and the owner swings open the door to the kitchen and proudly displays a cart that has two types of corn flakes in punch bowls. A punch bowl filled with room temperature milk and a punch bowl filled with blood orange juice. We were a little upset, tried to hide our feelings and thank him. Then he runs in the back and gets another cart filled with pastries and an espresso machine.
It was a lovely attempt, but he sure got our hopes up. The homesick kids were hit the hardest.
I was visiting my family in China. A friend of my aunt came over while I was there. When she heard I live in the US, she asked, “Isn’t it scary to live in a war zone all the time with all the fighting and stuff?” I gave her the WTF face, and she said she saw on the news how the US and Iraq are at war. Apparently she thought Iraq and the US shares a border, since every war China has fought in are against neighboring countries.
A couple of my Japanese friends were convinced that, since they are pretty boys, they shouldn’t go to America. “Because they’d get raped by black men.”
On Halloween when I studied in Spain, a kid threw an egg at me thinking that Americans would throw them at each other like a snowball fight.
When I was studying in Amsterdam, my professor said when they see a situation of a shooting or a murder with guns on TV they call it “an American situation.”
I visited Moscow, Russia, recently and stopped in an “American-style diner” for lunch. One of the items on the menu was “Steven Spielberg’s Favorite,” which was essentially a hummus and veggie platter “straight from the LA Jewish Quarter.”
I had a good laugh.
In France you can get a sandwich called “The American,” which is basically a baguette stuffed with hamburger meat and french fries.
French fries inside the sandwich.
I was like wow, what a cliche, Americans love hamburgers and french fries. A week or two later I was eating one of those things about every other day, and now I’m back in the States and pissed that no one puts French Fries inside their sandwiches.
It’s delicious, people!
40. Thanks Brazil
I spent two years in Brazil and these were my favorite “American Style” creations:
- American Sandwich – Double-decker ham spread with TONS of mayonnaise
- American Burger – Cheese burger with a split sausage on it and TONS of mayonnaise (seeing a pattern?)
- American style fries – Cheese and mayonnaise (fuck, Brazil, I get it – we’re fat!)
- American ice cream – Peanut butter flavor (thanks for not adding mayo)
- American pizza – Tomato/mayonnaise sauce with sliced hard-boiled eggs and potato chips smothered in cheese (alright you bastards, that one was ok)
- American style beans – chili con carne with beans. Best day ever in Brazil.
I asked Brazilians where the notion came from and it turns out that almost every time you see an American family cooking or opening a fridge in a movie there’s a jar of mayonnaise front-and-center.
I lived in Japan for a while, so there’s a lot I could say on this subject, but I’ll just stick with food-related stuff :)
The movie theater nearest me had small, medium, large, and “American” sizes of popcorn and soda.
They called instant coffee crystals “American coffee” while brewed coffee was “European coffee.” That one really annoyed me…more than it should have lol. I found this out when I asked if I could have green tea in the mornings (everyone else in the office got green tea, I got instant crap coffee) and they replied with, “Oh you don’t like American coffee?”
I currently live in Finland, here they have “American Sauce.” It turns out it’s just ranch dressing. They also don’t have chicken sandwiches – only “burgers” and they are usually pretty vague. Sometimes its chicken sometimes its beef, you never know what to expect. I ordered a “New york style burger” and it came with 3 chicken patties loaded with “pickle sauce”.
My friend was in South America and ordered Nachos. He basically got Doritos with hamburger meat.