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12 Things About America That Always Confuse Foreigners

Ask any visitor to the U.S. and they'll tell you that there are things about our culture that are as funny as they are kinda wacky. Read on for 12 things that are as American as apple pie that gives foreigners pause.

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What’s with these things called donuts?

“Why do Americans have pastries with holes in them? Why would you remove the center? And then you sell the holes separately? That’s crazy.”—Dmitry Kuzhanov, a Russian citizen living in the U.S. for two years

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Squirrels are everywhere

“Foreigners find it funny that some Americans go as far as to interact or feed squirrels in the park. This is viewed as quite bizarre and eccentric!”—Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert

Just like we do things that confuse tourists from abroad, they do things that confuse us, too. Check out the 30 British phrases that confuse Americans without fail.

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So much food

“Food portions in the U.S. are much larger than in China where food is served ‘family style’ for everyone to share. Seeing the look on the faces of Chinese tourists at The Cheesecake Factory, for example, as their dishes are served is quite amusing!”—Glen Loveland

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White socks—what?

“The white socks thing baffles many Europeans. You can pick an American tourist out from miles away—poor fitting clothes, usually brand-new sneakers (if not sandals) with bright white socks!”—Alex Bunten, who has lived in Scotland, Sweden, Spain, and Russia for over a decade.

Before you pack your bags (and intentionally leave out the socks and sandals), find out the 10 “rude” American manners that are perfectly acceptable abroad.

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Super-sized drinks

“In most European countries, the sizes of beverage packaging are standardized, usually in the size of one liter or one and a half liters. Also, most Europeans buy just as much milk as they really need. Not so in the U.S. where milk or red wine is often bought in huge containers so that it can last for weeks to come.”—Clemens Sehi, travel writer in Germany.

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Mini-athletes—and intense coaches

“Little League sports teams and specifically parents coaching them is something I just don’t understand. Maybe that’s because children’s sports teams don’t exist in Russia.”—Dmitry Kuzhanov

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Fast-food obsession

“It’s hard to get used to all the fast food in America. It seems that many Americans love eating their food on the go and as quickly as possible, whether it’s the drive-through, at In-N-Out Burger or a short stop at a favorite food truck on the corner.”—Clemens Sehi

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Say “cheese”

“I find the ‘American smile’ really funny and endearing. I’m talking about the wide ardent ‘say cheese’ grin every kid and adult seems to have practiced and is visible in every image which appears at a second’s notice.’—Sonam Yadav lives in New Delhi, India.

Heading abroad? Check out these 12 things that you should never do in other countries (hint: smiling is completely inappropriate in one country!).

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Such big highways

“Particularly as a German used to the Autobahn with its six lanes, it’s shocking to see that in the U.S. you have highways with 12 or more lanes, on which most cars drive at the same speed. It can be hard to learn the rules of the road!”—Clemens Sehi

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Ice—too much ice

“Iced drinks are something Chinese people don’t understand. Chinese people tend to drink lukewarm or hot water for beliefs related to traditional Chinese medicine.”—Glen Loveland, an American who has lived in China for over a decade.

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A long shelf life

“I find it unbelievable that Americans buy groceries for one or even two weeks at a time. I can’t believe Americans trust food to stay fresh that long. In Asia, people go shopping every day, or at least once every two to three days!”—Landon Lin, born and raised in China

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Shifting gears

“In Germany and other European countries, you mostly learn to drive with cars that have a gear shift and not with a transmission. This makes it weird for many foreigners to rent a car in the U.S., because most rental cars have automatic transmissions.”—Clemens Sehi

And in England, you drive on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road. Confusing, huh? Find out more with the 10 words that mean very different meanings in England than America.