15. Kenny Larson
I’ve lived in Germany for a few years from what my German friends have told me:
Wooden houses. In Germany you only build a house out of wood if you are poor or trying to make some sort of environmental statement.
The sheer size. Tried to explain to a friend that my state takes 6 hours to drive across at 120kmh and that it’s not even the biggest state. A few told me driving through the plains area made them a bit agoraphobic.
That there are places in the US where you can be the only person in a 50 mile radius (not counting Alaska)
Funny thing, I told them the name of the state I came from and they gave me a blank look. I told them that it bordered California and instantly they said “CALIFORNIA!” They then asked if I had ever been to Hollywood and seen celebrities. They couldn’t comprehend how far away I live from Hollywood and that I’ve never seen a celebrity.
The couldn’t believe that we like Root Beer.
16. Olof Åkerlund
I’m originally from Sweden, and I have to admit that I first mis-remembered this question as being about what makes the US different from other countries. Since it’s about what foreigners will not believe until they go there, which is a much harder question to answer, I’ll just do a flow of consciousness thing here.
And first something about where you’re from. I notice that many answers tend to be on the form of “things work” and “it’s so rich” for people from developing countries. Being from a developed country myself, that’s not what I found hard to believe before I came here. Rather:
- Yes, you can buy guns without very much of a background check. When I was driving around yesterday I saw a guy walking out of a gun store with a bag, possibly enjoying his purchase of two new pistols. It was great!
- People really are afraid of socialism. This seems to be especially true the less they know about it, or believe it means turning their car in to the state. It also turns into fear of Obamacare being some sort of socialist plot, which is hilarious.
- There really are enormously big things here, like huge cars, houses and natural scenery. It’s too bad the last is not as well known – the US could get a lot more revenue from tourism.
- Bank checks are still used and mailed in envelopes. I thought this was only in a few cases but a lot of companies seem to prefer this method by default.
- Food portions are larger, and you can get some amazingly fatty food. Every once in a while, it’s a feature rather than a bug.
- Nobody takes the bus (for the laid-back, colloquial definition of “nobody”).
- Credit cards are way more popular than in other countries, and the default, rather than debit cards. Using the latter is considered odd.
- The role of religion is much stronger here than in other Western nations. Things like creationism are usually believed by a handful of people in other places, but here it seems to be at least a force to be reckoned with.
- It really is a diverse place, much more so than many foreigners really understand. A country that can produce both Snoop Dogg and Westboro Baptist Church is like no other place (seriously!).
- Bureaucracy really is kafkaesque at times. But most of the time, it’s just that there are over 300 million people and the manning for a certain department is limited to two guys in Kentucky who have to answer every request by snail mail. This is probably the real reason people say government is evil.
- A lot of people really think a constitution written hundreds of years ago provides written guidance to any issue the nation might be faced with. Then again, a large subset of the same group believes that a book written 2000 years ago provides answers to all problems in life.