11 Major Facts About the U.S. That Non-Americans Just Don’t Get

The United States is known as the land of the free and home of the brave, but still, is subject to numerous misconceptions from people outside the country. In the global narrative, America takes many shapes; some funny, some bizarre, and some fully detached from the truth. Let’s explore these fascinating misrepresentations and shed light on the actual, ground reality of what non-Americans don’t understand about America based on an online forum.

1. Racist America

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America often gets a bad rap for being a racist country, largely thanks to its portrayal in the media. But according to one visitor, the reality is quite different. They came from Asia, and so they are worried about being treated differently due to their race. Instead, they found warmth and acceptance. “I was blown away by just how friendly and accepting the people are,” the user said. Even their accent didn’t deter folks from striking up conversations. In fact, they felt more accepted in America than in fellow Asian countries like Japan or Korea—a genuine surprise!

2. Taxes Not Included in Price

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The number one-voted response is, “Why is a tax not included in the price tag?” Many Americans explained taxes, while others were equally confused.

The original poster explained, “I get that different states have different tax rates, but I don’t understand how a different tax rate in another state means you can’t put the exact amount I need to pay on the shelf in THIS store.”

An American shared, “It’s not just different states. Every county and city also has its own tax rate.” Several Non-Americans admitted this would infuriate them. Everyone agreed they do it “Because the stores want to show lower prices to induce impulse buying.” But nobody understood why it was legal.

3. Kansas vs. Arkansas

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One non-American asked, “Why is that one Kansas, but the other one is not Arkansas? America, please explain. What do you mean it’s pronounced ARkAnSaW?”

An American looked it up and noted, “Because we used to speak French Creole in that region. Arkansas is the French pronunciation of a Native American tribe.” Another added, “Hi, Arkansas resident here. Arkansas comes from ‘Arkansas,’ a term used to refer to the Quapaw natives. It means ‘south wind.”

4. Every Worker Filing Their Own Taxes

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Someone asked, “Does every worker have to file their own taxes, or am I just confused?” An American explained they weren’t, then elaborated, “What’s even better is the government knows how much you owe. But they won’t tell you.

Instead, they make you do complicated calculations based on a set of ever-evolving rules to figure it out. And then, they fine you if you’re wrong. And it’ll never change because it has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry with a strong lobbying arm.”

An American asked, “You mean there’s a magical land where someone does that for you?” One replied, “Most of the world? In Australia, it’s all done automatically. We only have to log in to a website, double-check if it’s right, and submit it. It takes less than a minute most of the time.”

Finally, one stated, “U.K. here. Your taxes are automatically taken out of your wages before you receive them. VAT (sales tax) is included in the list price for everything. If you’re not interested in it, you can live your entire life without ever knowing about tax.”

5. Public Restroom Stalls

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“Why do public restrooms include a small opening between the doors that allows passersby to see you when you’re using the restroom?” one asked. While nobody seemed to know the answer, one suggested, “Because it’s cheaper is probably the only real answer.”

6. Why Jerk American Politicians Govern Good People

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A non-American asked, “Why are good people such as American citizens governed by such jerks of American politicians?” To which one replied, “Good people don’t want to be politicians.” Another noted, “I’m more concerned about why many Americans tie politics into their identity. I am seeing this more in my country as well.”

7. Pajama Days

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One woman shared, “My mom is from Moscow during the Soviet Era, and she DOES NOT GET pajama day. To her, it’s just the weirdest thing in the world. In Russia, there is an essential distinction between clothes for home and clothes for outside.

They have a concept of home clothes, like your cozy or ugly clothes, that you are supposed to change into after school or work. You change out of your home clothes at bedtime into pajamas.

As a result, pajamas for adults and children are considered extra-extra private in Russia. My mom perceives pajama day as extreme, like wearing only undergarments to school. That’s how private pajamas are considered to be in Russia!”

8. Tipping Culture

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“The tipping culture is so foreign to me,” one confessed. “I would be so scared to make a mistake or not tip enough if I went to America because it’s not common here in Denmark.” Many Americans agreed that it had gotten out of hand.

One noted, “Tip jars were okay when they were tips to people who were paid a full wage, and it was optional, but now we are replacing what should be a significant wage increase with tips. It’s integrated directly into the payment system and makes people self-conscious about it.”

9. Sharing Rooms With Strangers in College

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One user stated, “How you must share a room with some complete rando when you go to college?” Many American students admitted they made best friends that way, while others traded shared war stories.

One explained, “Rando #1 – ran a perming hair business from our tiny room. The chemical fumes were awful. Rando #2 – hid her boyfriend in our room while he was evading a police warrant for his arrest.” She was not happy with the system.

A German shared, “In Germany, we typically share flats, and everyone has a room. Dormitories are usually small individual apartments or shared flats. I don’t know a single student who had to share a room.” Other countries that noted single rooms included the U.K., Australia, Canada, and Sweden.

10. Talking to Strangers

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“The culture of just talking to strangers you don’t know and just starting a conversation with them or joining a discussion,” one explained. “I’m British, and we go to great lengths not to talk to people, let alone open up and pour our hearts out to a random person.”

11. Homeowner Associations

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Finally, someone asked, “What is up with Homeowner Associations? Why would you pay to let a nosy neighbor dictate what you can and can not do on your own property? I understand living in an apartment block, paying maintenance fees, etc., but in a suburban home?”

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