13 Weird Things I Only Learned About The U.S. By Traveling Abroad

Before leaving the good ol’ state of Texas for a year to travel, people always talked to me about “return culture shock.” I always brushed it off, because hey it’s my home country and how shocking can coming home really be? Turns out it can be a weird experience. While traveling, I saw so many places and met so many people that I slowly learned what I always considered “normal” in my home state of Texas wasn’t quite so normal with people in other (mainly first world) countries, and sometimes even other states.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my state but Texas (and the rest of America) can be a very strange place. Here’s a list of random observations from when I lived abroad and when I returned home:

1. The word “fanny.”

In the U.S. it’s a polite word to say instead of butt, in other English speaking countries it’s not such a polite word. Nor does it mean butt.

2. Grocery stores are a strange place.

One of the things that surprised me most was just how much cereal is in American grocery stores. So many choices! Same goes with soda. And does anyone else notice how shiny the apples in American grocery stores are?

3. The obsession with guns.

The question I probably got asked the most abroad was probably “Do you own a gun?” Growing up in America, more specifically Texas, guns are just part of life. In other countries, it’s not like that. Places such Australia and the UK have strict gun control, which leads to some very heated conversations with other travelers. Most are just fascinated with our love of guns though.

4. Giant cars everywhere.

Again part of this is probably from growing up in Texas, but people tend to buy the bigger cars here. Abroad I rarely saw pick up trucks and SUVs while here my small Volkswagen often gets lost in the parking lot amongst all the supersized pick up trucks, SUVs, and mini-vans.

5. Flags EVERYWHERE.

Driving around I see so many more flags than when I lived abroad. Not only that, but these flags are massive too.

6. How weird high school and college football really is.

Don’t get me wrong; I love a good game of much as the next one. Life in central Texas practically revolved around high school for football in the fall for my town growing up. That’s so much attention and pressure to be put on 16-18 year old students. Same goes for college football, they’re just students playing a sport yet you see them in the news all the time. Some are almost like celebrities? You don’t really see that abroad.

7. The fact that Kinder Surprise Eggs are illegal.

Kinder Surprise Eggs are a little plastic egg with a toy inside coated in a delicious chocolate. Seriously this chocolate is amazing. Unfortunately trying to bring in one of these treats can get you fined $2000 per egg. Apparently they’re banned because a child could choke on them, which is understandable. However with everything else that you can easily buy in the U.S. that is way more dangerous, they banned Kinder Surprise Eggs? Really?

8. Why is bread so sweet here?

Seriously, after leaving for a year, white bread here almost tasters like cake. Why there so much sugar in bread? I had a sausage roll today and even the pastry in that tasted more like desert than anything. Blech.

9. Religion is constantly shoved in your face here.

This is one that can easy be taken the wrong way. This is also another one that probably is affected by the fact that I live in a part of the U.S. referred to as the “bible belt.” Driving around I see an impressive amount of churches. It’s pretty much assumed you go to church here, and heaven forbid you tell anyone you’re an atheist. That doesn’t tend to go well. It’s a huge part of daily life that just was not as prevalent when I lived abroad. I even get religious literature tucked in with the checks sent to us at my work. I have no problem with religion, but I definitely miss living where it was more of a choice and not so forced on me.

10. Portion sizes are massive.

Americans are just used to eating bigger portions. Who knows why, but it always astounds me how much more food you’re given when you go out to eat here. I’m not sure how this happened but IT’S AWESOME and having leftovers for work later is even better.

11. Why do other countries love Canadian bacon so much?

Order bacon outside of the U.S. and most likely you’ll get Canadian bacon. Why do people love it so much? That stuff’s basically plain ham. American bacon is commonly referred to as streaky bacon and unsurprisingly it turns out that it’s the more fatty version and worse for you, but hey there’s a price to pay for something so delicious.

12. Our love of drip coffee.

All my foreign friends seem to really hate American drip coffee. Other countries tend to go for espresso drinks as their coffee. While it’s definitely an acquired taste, I’ll take my drip coffee over a flat white almost any day.

13. America’s love of ice in beverages.

Abroad I don’t think I was ever served ice in any beverage I ordered. In fact one time some guy came in asking for ice at the pizza store I worked at in Queenstown, New Zealand. My boss looked him square in the eye and told him that he won’t find ice in Queenstown? A lot of people say they don’t like how much it waters down the drink. Whatever I still love ice in my beverages. TC mark

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