40 Things That Make Americans Say "WTF" While Overseas
What's "normal" isn't universal. These are 40 things that were so weird, it made people stop and say, "What the heck?!"
Cultures are different—we all know this. That’s precisely why the word “culture shock” exists. This is when a person visits another country to find that the way they feel about certain things isn’t universal. For example, some countries sleep in the middle of the day. In America, it’s hard to imagine someone leaving work to take a nap at 2 PM, but it happens elsewhere. Granted, we think this is something that Americans should start doing ASAP.
America has a pretty defined culture, whether people want to admit it or not. That’s why we experience culture shock whenever we go to Russia, China, Italy, or another country. Some of the stuff we see just makes us stop, stare, and ask, “What the heck!?”
If you’ve ever experienced this, you’re not alone. Every day, an American abroad finds out something they thought was “normal” isn’t so normal after all. For example, did you know that Romania puts colorful, cartoon characters on their gravestones? Here, that would be seen as disrespectful, but over there? Nah. It’s totally normal. Worse yet, the cartoons show how the person died! Yikes.
These are 40 things travelers on Reddit experienced overseas that made them stop, stare, and question what in the world they were looking at. Gotta say—there’s some pretty weird stuff in here.
Public Bathrooms Costing Money
If you need to use the restroom in Europe, make sure you have a few euros in your pocket. Restrooms across the EU cost money, and some even have people waiting outside to take money—no sneaking!
Open Air Urinals in Paris
In what can only be described as the most un-French thing to ever happen, Paris has recently installed open-air urinals--where the public is free to urinate in full view of anyone unlucky enough to pass by them. Apparently, the city has had an issue with public urination, so it's understandable they'd want to do something about it. We just thought "doing something about it" wouldn't involve encouraging more public urination.
No Gaps in Bathroom Stalls
This one goes both ways. Europeans are shocked when they use our public restrooms because there are gaps. In Europe, there aren’t gaps in a ton of places. Can you imagine going to the bathroom without seeing people walking around through the little gap in the stall? Sounds like an exclusive club.
Snakes in Australian Toilets
Despite what you may have heard about Australia, it's not the brutal, dangerous place you may be imagining. Except for the snakes in toilets. During the dry season, snakes searching for water have been known to slither into a home or two--and what better place to find H20 than a toilet? If you're vacationing and this happens to you, don't worry, they're not poisonous--most of the time.
Lack of Bathroom Rules in Paris
If you’re in Paris, don’t freak out if a woman walks into the men’s restroom to use the bathroom. It’s normal. Needless to say, it’s pretty dang shocking for some Americans who are used to strict, gendered restrooms.
Not Flushing Toilet Paper in Mexico
A lack of modern plumbing in Mexico means that many of their pipes can't handle toilet paper being flushed. While this is not entirely uncommon in the USA, the stakes aren't usually as high as screwing up the plumbing for an entire building. For those of us who flush toilet paper and are worried we'll forget this bit of etiquette, this rule will be seared in your memory once you flood your first hotel room.
Squat Toilets from Around the World
In America, we might sit on a porcelain throne, but in other countries, they prefer to squat. Squat toilets are found in many Asian and South Asian countries, but they are a rarity in the Western world. Despite claims that these toilets are more hygienic and healthier for humans, we're not sure if we're ready to pop a squat.
Hundertwasser Toilets of New Zealand
In America, we try to think about the bathroom and what goes on in there as little as possible. In New Zealand, they turn the whole experience into a freaking art museum. The Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa, New Zealand were designed by an artist using recycled materials from around the city. The end result is a bathroom that is more unique and creative than it ever needed to be.
Colorful Gravestones in Romania
Romania is serious about its gravestones—particularly in a place called Sapanta. There, there’s a “Merry Cemetery” that features tombstones that depict how the person died using little cartoon characters. Yeah, that would totally not be cool here.
Police Officers on Rollerblades in France
Apparently, in France, police officers wear rollerblades. Sometimes, they scoot around in groups, so you can hear them before seeing them. We don’t even let bellhops at Sonic wear skates anymore!
Kindergartens in Amsterdam
We can’t verify where in Amsterdam, but apparently, there was a kindergarten located directly above the prostitute display booths. Guess that would work as great birth control, huh?
Underage Drinking in Germany
In America, you can’t drink until you’re 21. Well, some visiting teens are excited to learn that the drinking age in Germany is 16. If you have a parent, you can drink at 14. Guess that’s one way to pass the time.
Lots of Smoking
Smoking has pretty much become something taboo in America, but Europe? Nah. People smoke a lot more than anyone expects. If you can’t stand the smell of cigarettes, Europe may not be for you.
Age Restrictions on Energy Drinks in the UK
This one kinda makes sense, but it’s still really weird. If you’re sleepy in the UK, it’s easier to get coffee than an energy drink. You have to be 16 in order to get one! It’s a recent law that’s supposed to keep energy drinks out of kids’ hands.
Numerous Pharmacies in Spain
We have a lot of pharmacies in the United States, but it’s nothing compared to Spain. There’s a pharmacy on pretty much every street corner, and you don’t need a prescription for most things.
Vending Machines with Beer in Iceland
Maybe this one isn’t a huge surprise for some, but it’s still shocking to see. A vending machine that sells liquor? Next thing you know, there will be machines that can dispense cocktails. Actually, we’d be willing to give it a shot.
Blue Big Bird in Holland
Alright, this one is pretty tame compared to the others, but it’s pretty shocking. Here you are, used to a YELLOW Big Bird, and you come across a BLUE Big Bird with the Sesame Street gang? They call him Pino, but we all know better.
Cafes Turning into Bars in France
This one happens in more than just France, for sure, but France is really known for doing it. During the day, you can study in a café, and visit the same place that night for a drink. They just swap out the menu and start selling those stiff drinks.
Old, Old, OLD History
America has history, but you don’t really interact with it on a regular basis. In Europe? It’s ancient—literally. It isn’t weird to live around history. One person was shocked when they saw a sign at a brewery that was established in 1489, three years before “Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
Random Restaurants in Germany
When you’re out hiking in Germany, you’ll want a good bottle of water and…an entire restaurant? Some hiking areas are populated by restaurants that are only accessible via a little hike. You can sit and enjoy the view while munching on some wurst.
Requesting the Check
This is another one that happens a lot in Europe. There, a waiter will only come by sparingly. When you want your check, you have to wave them down. They’ll leave you with empty glasses until you request attention.
Public Drinking in Germany
Public drinking is totally chill in Europe, but it’s most prevalent in Germany. In America, you can get a ticket for having an open container out, but there? It’s totally fine to drink outdoors. You can start drinking at 9 AM for all they care!
Country Road, Take Me Home
For some reason, Europe loves “Country Road, Take Me Home.” During a trip through Italy, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, bars are known for playing the song at least once, and locals absolutely love it.
Massive Amounts of Tourists in Italy
America has tourist spots, sure, but it’s nothing like Europe. Some areas have so many people that it’s nearly unbearable. The Vatican is basically one long line with thousands upon thousands of people (if not millions).
No Toilet Paper in China
In some areas in China, you have to bring your own toilet paper. Even worse, some of them don’t even have walls between the toilet! Instead, there are just little fences to mark the space.
America moved beyond pickpockets. Now, we have to worry about card skimmers, so some people forget that there are petty thieves all around the world. It can truly be as bad as people say. When you’re sitting at a café, someone can fly by on a bike and swipe your phone. People will reach into your purse or pocket and take your belongings.
Tanning Anywhere in Sweden
Americans want to be tan, but we don’t tan wherever we please. In Sweden, it doesn’t matter where they are—next to a museum, a Fika shop—it honestly doesn’t matter. They’ll stop wherever they want for some rays.
Beer is Cheaper Than Water in Austria
Depending on where you go, beer is sometimes cheaper than water. Water is pretty important, so what’s up with that? Plus, don’t you need water to make beer? Guess when Jesus turned water into wine, he went a little overboard some places.
Necrolog in Bulgaria
A Necrolog is an obituary placed on a wall, tree, bus stop, street lamps, or other areas. They’re supposed to honor that person, but they look just like our wanted posters. Anyone who doesn’t know better would probably think Bulgarians are really proud of their criminals.
Shirts with Random English Words
This one is pretty common in areas where English isn’t popular. Nothing is better than getting a friend a hot pink shirt with friendly, yellow front that just says “scum.” Love ya, buddy!
Lack of Air Conditioning in Italy
Italy gets as hot as America, and we’re talking about the hotter areas of America. It isn’t weird for it to be 90 degrees, but many buildings and apartments don’t have air conditioning. What the heck?! Talk about a heat stroke.
Bizarre Scams in Ukraine
People will go a long way to force you to pay money. One weird scam is when people come up to you, put four living monkeys on you without permission, and then force you to pay money for the pictures you didn’t ask for. This has to be weird everywhere.
Pedestrian Rights in Switzerland
Sure, pedestrians have the right of way in America, but that doesn’t mean cars pay attention. Walking across a street is a dangerous sport. Switzerland, on the other hand, is serious. Cars will slow down significantly if you’re anywhere near the crosswalk. It honestly makes it kind of awkward.
Everything Seems Small
This goes for all of Europe. In America, we have plenty of space, so we go oversized. In Europe, showers, elevators, cars, and rooms are all generally pretty small. Even the freaking sidewalks are super thin!
Karaoke in the Philippines
Karaoke is a big thing in the Philippines—no, seriously. It’s a huge thing. It’s a widespread pastime among Filipinos, and it can get seriously competitive. It’s basically like football in the South. People have even gotten murdered because of their song choices!
The Selfie Stick Business
Visit anywhere in Europe, and you’ll see a ton of people selling selfie sticks. They’ll just stand on the side of sidewalks and roads saying “Selfie stick? Selfie stick!” Apparently, it’s a billion-dollar industry there or something.
Thieving Baggage Handlers in Budapest
Don’t put anything valuable in your luggage in Budapest! The baggage handlers are so untrustworthy that there’s a service where you pay them to shrink-wrap your luggage so that you know your stuff wasn’t rifled through. Why not just fire the crappy ones?
Public Pooping in China
Walking around Beijing? Try to look where you’re going. Apparently, public pooping, as in pooping in public areas that aren’t a toilet, is common. Yeah, this sounds like a pretty crappy situation.
Lack of Ice
Some places overseas can get pretty hot. Sure, you don’t want ice when you visit Russia, but Italy? You better bet I want ice in my water when it’s 90 degrees outside. Good luck getting it without asking, though.
Free Healthcare in Sweden
Sprain an ankle or break a finger in Sweden? Don’t be afraid to go to the hospital! It’s definitely surprising when you go to an emergency room, get treated, and go to pay, only to find out that your bill is $0.
Waiters Saying No in Italy
Don’t ask for an espresso before dessert, because you’ll get a big ol’ “no.” Italian waiters feel they know best in regards to food and drink, particularly where it goes and when. It’s weird, but hey, Italian food is pretty great, so maybe they do know best.
Corn on Everything in South Korea
South Korea imports a lot of corn. They love it. They love it so much that they’ll even put it on pizza—yes, pizza. If you’re visiting South Korea, make sure to ask for your food without corn.
Other countries don’t have the same fondness for America that we have for ourselves. It isn’t odd for an American to visit somewhere overseas, and someone stops to tell them everything wrong with America and Americans.
Lack of Personal Space
So, what’s with everyone standing cramped together? Some countries have a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean you have to touch the other person in line. Just back off a little.
Nudity in Paris
In America, you get a ticket if you walk around showing off your privates. In France, it’s perfectly fine. Admit it—seeing someone naked walking around in public is shocking at first.