Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ask a Korean! Wiki: What is Weird About America?

Dear Korean,

A friend posted this link to his Facebook profile a couple weeks ago. I had no idea that supermarket checkout-baggers were such a weird thing, that nobody uses checks anymore, and "that so much American cheese is coloured orange." It was mentioned a couple of times in the posting that most of the contributors were from Europe, which is fairly similar to the States, shared culture, politics, history etc. 

I guess I'd like another perspective on "America's Quirks." I would love to hear the substantive, as well as the off-base insubstantive comments. What are the most striking differences you've noticed from living in the States for so long? What do Koreans living in/visiting the states bitch about when they're blowing off steam over a $13 (!!!) bottle of Chamisul?

Just Curious

Just off the top of his head, and keeping strictly on the frivolous side, here are a few things the Korean has found peculiar about America:
  • Wearing shoes indoors. HATE HATE HATE it. So disgusting. The Korean will never get over this.
  • Insane amount of soda drinking. The Korean is pretty certain that in his first year in America, he drank more soda than he ever drank in his life at age 16.
  • Ridiculous portions of food. (Discussed in this post.)
  • Ice in every drink. 
  • Excessive use of napkins.
  • General preference for cooler temperature in everything (ambient, food, drinks, etc.)
  • Drinking alcohol only (i.e. without eating something at the same time.)
  • Music too loud in bars.
  • Cell phones have the same area code as any landline, instead of its own prefix. (In Korea, all cell phone numbers begin with 010 no matter where you live.)
  • To address a mail, going from small to large (i.e. "Number-Street-City-State-Country-ZIP") instead of large to small ("Country-Province-City-Number-ZIP").
The Korean will add more to the list as he thinks of additional items, but let's hear from the readers. What do you find peculiar about America?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. Address being small to large is annoying the shit out of internet workers too:

    Givenname Surname

  2. -The fact that tipping is not only expected but required and has very little to do with the server's actual performance.

    -Abysmal public transportation and needing a car for nearly everything even as simple as picking up just some milk and bread.

    -The fact that Americans drive even when it's not necessary because they have forgotten that you actually can walk places sometimes.

    - High fructose syrup in nearly everything.

    - Nearly everything is disposable, people don't even think to use something reusable for simple things, like using a rag to clean up instead of paper towels or using a plate to cover leftovers instead of saran wrap.

    - Grotesque amount of chain restaurants. I love independently run small restaurants!

  3. Month Date, Year. What kind of order is that?

    Date/Month/Year makes more sense, but Year/Month/Date (as they do in East Asia) makes the most sense (and makes sorting numerically easy).

  4. I'm US-born, but some things friends from overseas have mentioned to me as odd are:

    * so many large cars
    * so many fat people
    * the relatively narrow range of political thought in general discourse
    * the road signage -- they generally like the large amount but wish there were more graphics and fewer words
    * fundamentalists

    PS: I agree about shoes indoors.

  5. - Amount of waste
    - Number of "plump" people
    - Many kids had no respect for anyone
    - Gyopos.
    - Pledge of the allegiance in the morning
    - Car as necessity to get anywhere
    - Not every house was fenced in

  6. I just got back to Seoul after a two-week trip to the USA. Here's my list:

    - Aversion to walking: Everyone competes for the coveted closest parking spot and gets back in the car to drive to the next store in the strip mall.

    - Moralism: Heard so many admonitions of adults (not of me) put in terms of "Shame on you. Don't you know better?"

    - Coke Fiends: A small soft drink is the same size as the large in Korea.

    - Strange Assumptions: Do people wear jeans in Korea? Do they have music in Korea? It must be really hard living in a place where you can't speak the language AT ALL!

  7. At bars and lounges, people always want to stand around and talk, instead of sitting down. Not a big fan.

  8. 1. Need to take a car everywhere, even for really simple things

    2. Poor public transit

    3. Required tipping (and the expected amount is much higher than Europe!)

    4. Insanely large food portions

    5. Putting a lot of artificial crap in food - it tastes artificial, it looks artificial, you can tell. ex) look at Fanta in Europe (orange juice-like pale orange) vs. Fanta in America (INTENSE food coloring orange)

    6. US Yogurt tastes like crap,and the only decent one is the really expensive "Greek yogurt"

    7. Severe lack of re-using things - plastic bags at grocery shopping, I'm looking at you. So much waste!

    8. Unable to buy drinks until you're 21, when the rest of the world allows you to drink much earlier than that

    9. Obsession with Christianity, to the point that some states don't teach Evolution? Why?...

    10. Apparent gap in quality between primary education and higher education

    11. The school lunches look absolutely appalling. How can you feed that to kids?

    12. Not putting tax on price tags. What purpose does the price tag serve if it doesn't show exactly how much you have to pay? Feels a little like being ripped off tbh

    13. Yeah, I hate wearing shoes indoors. I dislike carpeted floors as well, it seems so difficult to clean.

    That's all I can think of now. Perhaps there will be more.

    1. I'm an American 18 year old girl (soon to be in college), and honestly I agree with a lot of your statements.

      Number three and four: I'm a waitress actually, and our pay is low ($3 per hour) so most of our income comes from those tips. The better the service we give, the higher the tip can is. Although around here (Pennsylvania) there are no requirements for tipping, it is generally assumed you tip about 10 to 20 percent. I agree our food portions are overly large, normally I keep myself on track with that, but not everyone here eats like a pig. We diet just like any other country.

      Number 5: There's access to natural foods. Around where I live there's plenty of farmers markets, but I know a lot of people who buy into the artificial food because it's so easy and cheap to get here. No matter how much our society tries to push to healthier ways many Americans lean towards convenient living (AKA eating out, fast food, wawa joints).

      Number 9: I don't understand the fixation of religion either. People cling onto Christianity when something goes wrong in their life or times get hard. Some even take it a little too far. Me, I believe in evolution no doubt. I find it ridiculous that these religions believe a superior being magically created everything that existed on earth. America is a mixture of religions and races, so we can't assume they all follow Christianity, so I respect those who practice their religions for how much devotion they have, but I silently don't particularly agree with their views.

      Number 10: Sadly, yes, in order to succeed here you either need to be connected and creative, or an owner of a bachelors/masters degree. College is a necessity. If you want a comfortable life with a family and nice home you'll most likely need a diploma. This has been a fact since the economic push for business, technology, etc. related careers. Jobs that don't require higher education are either low paying or have been replaced by machines designed by those that earned a diploma.

      Number 11: I've never, ever, in my 12 years of public education, had school lunches. Mystery meat, old veggies, burgers, whatever they serve, I can't eat it. I pack my own lunch, normally with fruit, stir fry, pasta salad, veggies, or something of that sort. I don't get why my classmates eat it. There are regulations for public and private education food, but a lot of schools cut corners because of budget cuts on education. On a side note, if you'd like to be grossed out look up the contents of an American breakfast staple: Scrapple.

      Number 13: I always have socks on or I'm barefoot in my house, but I have always wanted to get rid of the carpet in my room (I dont have the power to atm since I live in my parents house). Hardwood seems so much cleaner. Nowadays consumers appreciate hard wood floors. Carpets are being looked down upon in real estate.

      My curiosities about Korean culture:

      1. Do most people use public transportation?

      2. What is the difference between Korean yogurt and american yo-plait?

      3. Living octopus: do koreans commonly eat it? I've seen videos, but I'm curious how common that is.

      4. Respect of elders, I understand that, but why is it offensive if you mistakenly call someone the wrong name (like oppa, or their first name). I just don't understand the concept of it. I'm trying to learn korean atm.

      5. Some say koreans gravitate to natural blonds, is this true...?

      6. If an American white business woman works in Seoul, would there be racial tensions?

      7. Why is touching such a big deal in Korea? I'm used to friendly hugging, but when I watch k drama its a sign of romance. Why?

      Hopefully I answered some of your ideas, and you don't take offense to my questions. I've just always been curious of these things.

  9. Just one more for the night:

    The very narrow view of what is considered acceptable "masculine" behavior - it seems like you are only a man if you watch sports 24/7, drink like a whale and act like a barbarous man-child. At least, that is the image I get.

    If you have a sensitive personality? "Gay!" If you wear stylish clothes? "Gay!" If you happen to like anything that does not constitute as a "guy thing" (which is so narrrow to begin with)? "GHAAAAAAY!"

    1. The U.S. right bows kinda going through some growing pains right now with our Gay Rights movement and so a lot of boys seem to feel a general need to prove that they aren't gay especially in front of other boys also these actions are deemed more feminine in nature in American culture so there associated with either being gay or girly. American culture premises hyper masculinity in boys to an extreme where instead of being raised to be gentlemen there raised to not be girls. It's a problem that's just started being addressed very recently which is why this behavior occurres in the US. I hope that helps a little bit. Just what I know about American culture currently.

  10. - Re-runs on major national TV broadcasters are the norm, not the exception.

    - Public broadcasting isn't all that great compared to countries that have large, centralized public broadcasting systems.

    - Again, on TV: Shitty Olympics coverage that never seems to change despite thousands of Americans complaining about it every two years (though things are changing with online alternatives).

    - Immense decentralization of public affairs (education, law enforcement, etc.): State-level is understandable, but more to do with things stretching up to county-/town-/city-levels. For example, there are almost 300 school districts in Washington State alone. Adverse results that I can think of are: resources not being shared, policies differing among neighboring localities, etc.

    - [Frequently heard complaints from Koreans in the U.S.] Things working very, very slowly when it comes to dealing with customer and governmental services in everyday-type situations. Also, those service providers are highly mistake-prone.

  11. I will never get used to "uh huh" for "you're welcome".

  12. as a canadian, if you ever wear your shoes in my house, i will cut you.

    is that really an american thing?? o_o

  13. I second the "uh huh" response to a thank you. Whatever happened to "you're welcome" or "no worries"?

  14. I do not find wearing shoes indoors weird anymore but I find it realyl weird to someone have ice in every drink. Now, my Korean friend just applied as a Korean bilingual Customer Service Rep in Phoenix at http://bit.ly/ACqEmS (gave you the link as the people here might be interested). I think we'll know more weird stuff soon in our perspective. :)

  15. @ the people who said that Americans don't like walking: only compared to Koreans, maybe. From my experience in Taiwan and Indonesia, Americans walk a lot more than people from those countries.

    Also, the person who said that not including tax on price tags is forgetting that every area in the US has variable tax rates (state and local), resulting in different prices for practically every store. Brands are sold nationally and their prices are generally fixed to a national standard.

  16. I was recently told that the Kinder Surprise/Egg isn't allowed in the US. Apparently, having a toy, that's in a plastic container, inside the egg is dangerous, since children might eat the inner container... As a child that grew up eating and enjoying Kinder eggs, like every child around me, I'm dumbfounded. Why do you suppose children are that stupid?

    1. Ridiculous! I live in the United Stated. El Paso, TX to be specific. I lived in Germany 4 years and LOVE Kinder eggs. It's outrageous Kinder eggs are not allowed from Germany yet people from Mexico buy similar (by description and appearance) chocolate eggs and bring them here and give them away, eat them, etc. I will never buy them from Mexico on principle alone. How can your child choke on a Kinder Egg?!I would imagine the children aren't dumb enough to choke on them but the adults who care for the children. My mom bought them for me and my sister ALL THE TIME. Kids here don't know what they're missing.

    2. omgosh when i go to mexico with my grandma i eat as many as i can and collect the toys haha. because that is a dumb thing to bann!!!

  17. I'm American and dislike wearing shoes indoor as well. I know only a handful of people who do it. Is it really that common of a thing? Don't people want their feet to breathe?

    Some of my students (I'm teaching in Korea)

    And I completely appreciate the distinction between mobile area codes and landline area codes. Brilliant idea. See also: 안주. See also: large-to-small format for dates and addresses.

  18. As an American I agree with about 90% of everything written here, especially 조안나 and Y's.

    Except I find it really weird not to have ice in a cold drink, or to not have a hot drink be sufficiently hot. Same for food -cold noodles took me awhile to appreciate (but now i love them!). To me its a waste of the product not to have it served at its optimum (hot or cold) when possible. I only eat or drink lukewarm things when I am very very lazy and in a rush.
    As for walking, I'm constantly heckling my Korean friend for always needing the closest spot or being afraid to walk a few extra feet. I didn't grow up in the city - there is no such thing as public transportation where I grew up - so I think the aversion to walking is a city thing not a culture thing. Koreans don't have this problem because public transportation in Korea is phenominal. And when you do go for a walk its this grand activity complete with a uniform (my experience at childrens park in Busan showed this to me) instead of going from point A to point B. Think about it, how many Koreans actually venture out to areas of the U.S. where there is no public transportation? Walking is apples and oranges in this case.

    1. You mean, there are places in U.S. where there is public transportation?

    2. Hehe maybe you didn't notice because they are disguised by a whole lot of rust and only make it out of the station occasionally.

      Ah, to clarify though, I meant no offense. I specifically mean Korean visitors and academia, not Korean Americans or anyone planning on spending a lot of time here. Outside of the cities we walked a lot I swear! It was either that or spend Friday nights home alone sometimes. Yet we had just as many if not more overweight people - confusing...

  19. ATMs that will not count your money when you make deposits! When I first came here I was appalled that the ATM simply asked you to put your money in an envelope and drop it in.

    1. Even though I've lived in US for decades I still haven't gotten used to the inches/foot.

    2. It's based off some old kings actual foot and thumb measurements and honestly we don't really know why we still use it either. It just proves more of an issue in science classes because you have to learn imperial to metric conversions.

  20. I was raised here, but I can think of a few things that are odd to me...

    - So much COFFEE. Sure, people outside of the US drink coffee, but a lot of Americans are so obsessed with it.

    - Why so religious?

    - American football. Wtf?

    - Lack of public transportation. Thankfully I live in NYC!

    1. In Korea Coffee is just as crazy to the point where you will see 4 different coffee shops all next to each other....in fact you will find many business that do that here..for example in Daegu there us motorcycle row..plant row...pet store row....downtown will even have makeup and underwear shops lined uo next to each other....but the best by far is cell phone row...a KM long block of store after store that sell cell phones...the concept of competing business means nothing here...but ultimately Koreans love their coffee as much as we Americans do in fact they are obsessed with it and it is very good....don't ever use starbucks in downtown Daegu as landmark...trust me

    2. That last comment about using Starbucks as landmarks made me so happy. Just had to say because I live in Seattle in Washington state and we have the same problem. It's fun to know that there's anouther city out there with just as many Starbucks coffee shops.

  21. It was actually pretty funny reading this article after scanning over the link provided. Sometimes it feels that the US is in the middle of some spectrum between Europe and Eastern Asia. For example, many Europeans were marveling at "superior American customer service", American obsessions with hygiene, American obsessions with fitness and sport and American obsession with what college you went to; funny when considered that these are points of criticism of the United States from an Asian perspective.

    Personally, my observations:

    1) Unlimited refills / bottomless beverages (something I'm quite fond of though perhaps detrimental to my caffeine addiction).

    2) Choice and variety - for all the talk about homogenization, the United States offers consumers a wider range of choices than nearly any other nation. Perhaps again to our detriment (see Paradox of Choice).

    3) Friendliness of Americans. Yes, it's at a surface level, but there is something nice about being able to actually give a polite smile and a hi to a person on the street (at least in the South, I hear in the Northeast, they cut people for that).

    4) Beverages being served with meals. This is one of those things that when I went to Korea, I was really confused by. What do you mean you don't drink water until AFTER you eat?

    1. Haha, yeah, us Southerners are much friendlier than those Yankees. :P But that is really true, in the South there is a lot more friendliness even to strangers than in the North. An obvious example of this would be sir/ma'am. In the South many kids are raised to say Sir or Ma'am to any adult they encounter as a sign of respect, but I've heard stories of people moving to the South from the North and getting offended when someone called them sir/ma'am.

    2. It's sad that those things should be limited to or attributed to North or South. I was raised to call everyone Sir and Ma'am and raise my children to do so as well.OR Mr/Mrs/Ms...(last name) It is a respect issue not a location issue. I have also been reprimanded for calling a young lady ma'am before "Don't call me that! I am not that old!" It's a lack of even general common courtesy. Please, Thank you... YOU'RE WELCOME.Everyone should have courtesy for others and that is lacking, at least where I've been in the US.

  22. Actually, one other observation a relative from Korea made was just how massive the United States was. I think it's one of those things they don't fully appreciate until they get here. Reflected in other things as well: size of the people, size of the roads, size of the food portions, size of personal space, etc.

  23. A. Saying anything in the name of humor and freedom of speech.
    B. A lack of empathy for their own kind during crisis.
    -e.g Hurricane Katrina VS Haiti & Japanese earthquakes
    C. Parents blatantly blaming the education system for their children's shortcomings at schools.
    D. People blaming food companies for their own obesity problems.
    E. Lawsuits over petty issues.
    F. People subconsciously clinging on to negative characteristics of those that are different and claiming that that they are being fair.

    p.s A,B, and F annoy the heck out of me.

    1. seems like some of the comments can be said about Korea also.
      A. it's okay to comment against Korea as long as you are Korean
      B. no empathy to anyone not Korean
      C. Korean parents blaming schools for shortcomings
      D. Koreans are getting fatter, cars are getting bigger (have you seen the Genesis, really, they need that on the roads?)
      E. can't say I really saw lots of this in Korea however do Koreans even know what laws are, such as traffic laws?
      F. Koreans bad mouthing foreign english teachers, service members, Japan whenever the Sea of Japan gets mentioned.

      I would say if we speak of American eccentricities then we keep it to habits that really are eccentric, such as shoes on in the home. Things I see are wanting bigger but then if you work hard for it why not. Big cars because again if you work hard for it why not. The strangest thing that gets me is the fact that some Americans will complain about sushi, sashimi or the exotic seafood from the East but then have no problem with roadkill surprise.

    2. @ Unknown:
      A. Maybe you should see the looks or responses that I get if I make negative observations about the US from the locals. By the way, I'm a naturalized citizen and I know for sure that I will always be viewed as a foreigner.
      B. You misunderstood me. I said Americans lack empathy for their own kind. I discovered that Haitians received more donation money than Hurricane Katrina victims. The country is spending a fortune on foreign aids, while its own citizens are barely scrapping by.
      C. I guess that is true for both.
      D. People can control the food intakes themselves. No one is force feeding them anything. Super-sizing a meal is an option, not a requirement. Yes, Koreans are getting fatter as well.
      E. I agree. Koreans are notorious for not following traffic laws, but what does this have to do with my point?
      F. It is okay to ridicule certain groups of people at work (or anywhere), yet it is not acceptable to do the same for certain groups. I just love the way white people tiptoe around black folks when they are in front of them. I don't have problems with blacks per say. I'm just making an observation.
      -e.g Asian, Latin, and Muslim Americans VS African Americans

      I understand your views, but I don't need to sugarcoat my observations or experiences for anyone.

  24. Having grown up in the US, not a lot feels weird to me, but I still cannot comprehend why we Americans insist on not switching over to the much more useful and logical metric system. Twelve inches to a foot? Eight ounces to a cup? What?? Conversion is so much easier and reasonable in metric.

  25. Jake,
    Is that you Banquiqui? :)

  26. Size of the people, oh yes. I can't help but gawk in awe whenever I (fairly regularly) come across a female who is taller than me, a male Asian at 5 ft 10 in, sometimes by a lot. I can never get used to that sight.

    1. I live in the US but Im really interested in korean culture and am trying to teach myself korean. Im also a fan of Kpop and I have the same thing happen to me where I think one of the members is really tall and I look up the members heights for the group and am shocked that the tallest one is 6'. Which isn't short in the US but it's not necessarily tall for a boy either.

  27. daylight savings time. So glad to be done with that.

  28. Every country has it's own weirdness I suppose. I used to find it strange that in Brazil people shower with these rubber flip flops on but there is a good reason for it. The water is heated with an electric wire running directly to the showerhead and if you go in there with nothing on your feet you risk getting a shock. Furthermore the bathrooms are fully tiled and have no tubs. The shower area is all open with just a drain, ceramic tile is very slippery when wet if you have those rubber slippers on you won't slip and fall. Anyway what I find strange about the USA the trends people take on just to look cool where in another country it's a perfectly ordinary thing. A good example is the advent of sushi consumption in the 90's. It was a trendy thing to do but in Korea and Japan it's just an ordinary thing like going to eat a burger and fries is here.

    1. I neglected to add what I think is odd about America and that is their ridiculous love for dogs. Dogs are treated like people for the most part here. They are raised inside (so dirty) and are pretty much babied more than human children are. Everywhere else you go dogs are animals with a purpose but not so much here.

  29. @Jake, I'm from Minnesota, and growing up I didn't know ANYONE who wore shoes indoors. You'd track in mud and snow. When I lived in Georgia, most of the people I knew also didn't wear shoes indoors because when it was wet, you'd track in red clay. I keep hearing about these indoor shoe-wearers, but maybe it's a location and/or class thing, because most people I know don't wear shoes inside.

  30. I have never been there, but seen from the media, either mainstream, underground or whatever and talking with Americans on chat and knowing some people personaly, I noticed some peculiar things that are actually pretty frighteing. Or maybe I'm just paranoid for the conspirances stories making some sense when you think about it. Althought conspirances should be treated with a bit of doubt as well, however.... Let's get to the point.

    There are a lot of hidden messages in the cartoons for children. Especially Disney, either satanic or sexual messages. Same goes with video clips for the teenagers, with and addition of pathetic lyrics where masochism is shown as "oh so romantic and touching" and what's worse "oh, how it fits my mood". Drugs and violence and women turning as objects is shown as "so freakin' cool" and this is what is dominant in the whole wolrd because it brings money and it distracts people from what's more important, making it an easy controllable and obedient mass. But the story is not over.

    Mercury in food, water and medicine. All essential things that a human body needs is poisoned. And people are too lazy to even think about anything that's not sex, guns, money and bad words.

    That's not only the USA, thogh... It is present everywhere, but the USA is somehow dominant, for being so aggressive.

    But then, I believe it is also not a living hell either and there should be some nice things too. Like some underground music bands, chp tunes (Anamanaguchi) and some other art. The original X-Men (not the money making new Hollywood movies) and some good movies that are not all about being so cool and being so pathetic. However, these things are not the major things.....
    Some good thing is science too. But this one is also.... I mean, you have to educate yourself some more to be able to either trust what they say or not, because there are both people with conscience as scientists AND people who lie. And there is some good free software and some other useful technology.

    But anyway, the USA government is being so powerful because they lie, their power is based on lies and hiding facts. And as the Manic Street Preachers said (ahahahah, I'm acting like a teenage now) "If white America told the truth for one day, it's world would fall apart".

  31. Here's a wonderful American quirk. Is there a country anywhere else in the world where immigrants can do so well with such regularity even when bullied and dropping out of high school?

    If you happen to only follow American television and film, you'd find a whole lot of immigrants from the likes of Canada, Australia, the U.K., and even South America enjoying the freedoms and wealth that come from working hard in such a large and diversified country.

    And while so many bemoan the lack of high-quality public trasportation across the 50 U.S. states, they seem to forget just how large and spread out everything really is while the price of gasoline and automobiles (thanks to the assembly line system used by Henry Ford) have been extremely reasonable for most of Amereica's car driving history. Will this change in the near future as gas prices continue to rise or will America find an alternative source of power to fuel its car driving addiction/right? Eventually, we will find out.

    Warts and all, the U.S. is still drawing millions of immigrants and students into its borders each year, so something must be pretty special about the place.

    1. And Mexicans too. Don't forget the Mexicans. :)

  32. After coming back from Russia, apparently our consumption of condiments is weird. I never felt so American as when I realized I desperately missed having butter for my bread.

    Oh, and even as an American, the mandatory tipping annoys me too. :x Pay your people well enough and then your customers wouldn't have to directly compensate for your employees' poor wages.

  33. - Taxes not included on retail pricing. That annoyed the hell out of me!
    - Measurement system.
    - Wide roads and the fact they still get into a lot of traffic accidents despite that.
    - Large portions of everything! I could not believe my eyes when I saw a 2 gallon tub of ice cream in the grocery store and how cheap it was.
    - Size of clothing. A small here in the US is at least a medium where I'm from.
    - Lack of knowledge of their own history/geography/language. This surprised me an awful lot because my biggest fear when I moved here was that I did not know anything about U.S. History and Geography. I thought I was going to fall behind in my classes but apparently they're as ignorant as I was!
    - Oh, and kids talking back (well, more of yelling back) to figures of authority such as parents or teachers. The way I was raised, that's not even in the realm of my imagination.

    1. Kids talking back. Not accepted in my household either! Would NEVER have dreamed of it when I was growing up.

  34. People holding doors for each other and saying "GOD BLESS YOU" after you sneeze like it's a religion
    Tipping. I hate tipping.
    Not following metric system
    Taxes not included in prices

    1. BTW I'm not Korean, I'm just saying the things that annoy me as an American

    2. It bugs you for someone to hold the door open for you? That's just common courtesy.

    3. i was born and lived in america my whole life and i dont understand why they say bless you after sneezing it makes no sense to me!!!!!???? haha

    4. I was told that people believed that when you sneezed your heart stopped briefly, so people would say "God bless you!" as a sort of little prayer that your heart would start beating again.

  35. How easy it is to get a driver's license (and how relatively cheap it is!)

  36. Speaking as a Canadian, I always found it weird that Americans say "soda" instead of "pop" (The Korean used "soda" in this post^^). I recently found out that many Americans don't say soda: particularly in the border states with Canada. As for not using the metric system: I don't mind. For example, there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year, etc. They aren't equal increments but conversion is easy. It's just a matter of what you're used to. Also, being in Canada we usually use a mix. For example, distance would be in kilometers, but height and weight would be in feet/inches and pounds. I guess that's the American influence.

    1. and in the South, we call any soft drink a coke. "Hey, you want a coke?" "Sure." "What kind?" just a little quirky...

  37. I've discussed the shoes in the house thing with both friends in Korea and friends at home. I am an American and I never wear shoes in my house. Besides being dirty, it's just uncomfortable. What we did notice, however, was that it seemed like people who lived in areas that received above average amounts of snow were the ones who tended to not wear shoes indoors. I lived in North East Pennsylvania and it seemed like the majority of my friends did not wear shoes in doors.

  38. Regarding shoes in house thing,
    100% of hotels I stayed in the states did NOT have designated place at the entry for taking one's shoes off.
    100% of motels I stayed in Korea DOES separate these areas from the rooms.

    I never had chance to stay in the major big hotels in Korea. If they are like Korean motels, I would say this CAN be cultural thing. Yes?

  39. How Americans when out in a public place like a restaurant - if a waiter or cook drops a dish/glass and you hear it shatter - EVERYONE starts clapping! I was in Mexico with a group (mostly Americans from various parts of the US) doing some volunteer work, and during lunch one of the workers dropped something and then everyone started clapping and shouting. Nevertheless, I was so embarrassed to be a part of the group. We were so LOUD!

    1. That isn't an American thing at all. I've seen people drop plates or glasses plenty of times and have never heard anyone clapping. If anything, it sounds like it was a function of the people you were around.

    2. I have to agree with Larissa. I was born and raised in the USA and I have never seen anything like that.

      Which begs the question...which volunteer group were you with?

  40. Littering in the street is generally frowned upon, but once you're in a stadium, you don't have to worry about leaving trash wherever you want to.

    People will cut down trees so that grass will grow on their lawns. They will also water their lawns with a sprinkler even during a heatwave/water shortage.

    People who are not from coastal areas (and some from coastal areas) think fish is disgusting.

    Everyone goes to church and learns that premarital sex is wrong, but they all do it anyway, sometimes with other members of the church.

    Everyone seems to think America is the best place in the world even though they haven't ever been anywhere else.

    You'll find bumper stickers for environmental causes on gas guzzlers.

    Cars are big... unnecessarily.

    The bus is seen as transportation for the poor, not just another way to get around.

    You NEEED a car. If you don't have one, then you can't do anything ever.

    1. Eugene: "Everyone goes to church"

      Where in America do you live...a little Mormon community out in Utah?

    2. @ Eugene: At least they don't litter like Koreans do.

    3. @audience

      Americans don't litter? Yeah you just keep telling yourself that. Although I am thankful that there are only empty soda cans and paper trash in my area and not used needles like in the neighboring city.

  41. As for the shoes, I must say, I get tired of smelling feet all the time. I find it rather disgusting.

  42. Elementary school-age kids calling adults by their first names. I remember being shocked out of my shoes as a kid, when other kids my age would call my parents or other adults by their first names, instead of the more appropriate (to me, at least) Mr. and Mrs. So-And-So. Just a small cultural thing, not actually weird - just different compared to other cultures where the age hierarchy reigns supreme.

  43. there is always a holiday coming up. a holiday where you are expected to buy things.

  44. ah, reminds me of the many lists I have seen titled" You know you have been in ---- to long when"....
    'Everyone thinks America is the best place in the world..."
    true..but is there anyone MORE nationalistic than a Korean?
    I have travelled a tad.....

  45. The strange juxtaposition of Americans believing they have the free-est, purist democracy in the world with a system that, with campaign finance/electoral college/first-past-the-post/gerrymandered districts drawn by the entrenched parties/elections requiring insane amounts of money, makes it almost impossible for anyone who isn't already wealthy and well-connected to one of the two entrenched major parties to get elected.

  46. Yeah, I had a feeling this was going to go negative. Not necessarily saying anything is wrong here (though some is). I thought I would leave a little positive weirdness; volunteering!

    Had an Italian friend in college who mentioned in a discussion how there was no such thing as a "volunteer fireman", "reserve policeman" or "hospital volunteer" in Italy or likely anywhere else in Europe because not enough people could ever be found who would be willing to do such work for free and on their own time. I've had acquaintances from other parts of Europe and Asia confirm the same view.

    1. Of course you'll have comments about things that they hate about America (not necessary weird)!

      Yeah, volunteerism is not well practice in other parts of the world. When I was in high school my parents use to say "why are you wasting your time volunteering for the Red Cross?" Probably why Asians look at Buffet and Gates in a weird way when they advocate philanthropy?

    2. In Portugal there are both volunteer fireman and corporate fireman, also hospital volunteers, the same in Spain, and when I lived in Austria a friend of mine was a volunteer fireman as well, and when I worked in an hospital in Wien there were volunteer auxiliaries there as well.
      As to reserve policeman, no, generally that doesn't occur, but I believe that it is a way of preventing vigilantes who don't get in the force to get guns I guess... Not sure, but we already have problem with corporate policeman, so...

    3. I live in Germany and have to say that I know a lot of people who are volunterring as firemen or work at a hospital or for the Red Cross voluntarily. Additionally many students do a voluntary social year after high school, so I don't think there are no people who are willing to do free work in Europe at all! (:

  47. Weird things about America?

    1 - Grown adults camping out for days or even weeks to get tickets to a movie. I can sort of understand camping out to get concert tickets, because concerts are a limited engagement. But movies worth camping out for often stay in the theaters for many weeks.

    2 - Grown adults trying to hold a dialogue with movie characters on the screen.

    2 - Weird lawsuits



    3 - The whole NCAA setup.

    4 - The electoral college. Nothing like being able to win the presidency even if the majority of the voters or states favor your opponent.

  48. I grow up here and can related to some of the lists especially coming from foreigners!
    Mine is:

    People waiting in their cars just so they can find the nearest parking spot...Drive your lazy asses a little further and you'll find plenty of empty spaces!

    Month/date/Year = that is pretty strange order even though I'm in the habit of writing it this way!

    Yeah wearing shoes indoors is disgusting...You step on the ground where dogs poop!

    Ice in drinks...I don't find this really weird because I wouldn't have it any other way! I find it weird that other countries don't do this? (I hate it when I'm in Korea and the cold drinks from the frig is not even that cold???)

  49. 1. American people's (or more accurately white people's) obsession with sun tanning. This has always baffled me. To Koreans a fair skin is a quintessential element of beauty. As far as I know, this is true in many Asian cultures, and no, it's not because Asians want to look more like Caucasians. The fair skin=beauty concept predates Asia's cultural exchanges with the West and reflected in ancient art, literature, etc. (Think the Japanese Kabuki dancers and their pale-white facial makeup.) Koreans frequently describe a beautiful person with such phrases as "skin as fair as white jade (백옥같은 피부)," etc. Koreans (especially women but men as well) spend a sizable sum of money to keep their skin spotless and white, and Korean women avoid direct sunlights like a plague. To me, this view extends to the white people as well. I think they look more beautiful in their natural skin tone and definitely less attractive when they are tanned from a prolonged exposure to the sunlight. I've never understood the logic behind the tanning salon or sunbathing. Maybe it's just me.

    2. Deodorants and BO. Let's be honest. American people smell funny. I'm not being racist, it's science. "One study suggests that body odor is genetically determined by a gene that also codes the type of earwax one has. East Asians (those of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese descent) have the type of sweat glands that even after hitting puberty still don't produce the chemicals found in the perspiration of other ancestral groups. East Asians evidently have a greater chance of having the 'dry' earwax type and reduced axial sweating and odor. This may be due to adaptation to colder climates." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_odor. Koreans have dry ear wax and they don't have what the Americans call "BO" plain and simple (although Koreans are sometimes accused of sporting a different and maybe equally pungent kind of odor). Watching my American friends (especially girls) applying this waxy substance under their armpits everyday was a severe culture shock to me.

    3. American males' overt display of masculinity and conversely ridiculing and belittling of anything that is perceived as even just a little tiny bit feminine. American "dudes" are obsessed with things that are macho and manly. They're not allowed to be seen wearing even a hint of anything pink, they're not allowed to tear up while watching a weepy movie (actually they're not allowed to watch anything weepy period), they can't show any emotion, but instead have to always stay tough and buff and ripped, etc. So, the natural reaction of any American guy visiting Korea for the first time is how "weak" the men are in Korea, how feminine and svelte (and "so gay") they are with their colorful sweaters and dandy eye glasses, etc. Though I appreciate the American machoness to a certain degree, sometimes it's suffocating and sickening to be honest.

  50. WOW just goes to show ... how people EVERYWHERE are so picky and silly about how other people live smdh

  51. Well as a portuguese I can say the biggest shock in the U.S. was to see price tags without taxes, first time in a NY store I thought the clerk was trying to rob me, and so I didn't do my purchase (I went back the next day to forgive myself but I still looked like an asshole anyways).

    Also strange was to ride the subway, not because it was overcrowded, not because of the pickpocketing, not because of the strange people, but because of the smell... That never happened to me in Portugal, I mean I understand some of the carriages have been in use for many decades, but are they ever cleaned?

    Coke on every meal, this is true even for my american friends and costumers in Portugal, who take coke on every meal except breakfast. I personally don't like coke, but that isn't the problem, my problem is how can you taste an amazingly fresh fish with all the sugar from coke?
    More amazing even is when they look at me like I'm a lunatic for drinking wine at lunch, like two (normal) glasses would leave me drunk...

    Ketchup sauce on 90% of the food. Man, seeing people dropping ketchup on beautifully cooked pork or beef hurts my soul. Seeing people dropping ketchup on fish kills me a little bit.

    Huge food portions. Listen, I love to eat, I do, it's one of my most nurtured pleasures, and I eat a lot but I was absolutely embarrassed by the portion sizes when I was there, I literally send back half of the portions I was served, and not because I didn't like the food. (american cooking is kind of underrated... mainly because of what you sell in other countries, but there are really good places to eat actually).

    Chain food places. I'm with someone up there, independent restaurants for the win.

    Football... Man, I like to see american football, I do... but the name thing bothers me... a lot... Most europeans have the same problem. I hate talking about football only to hear "Ah, you must mean soccer", no, I mean football, the world means football, you mean soccer. To the same extent, the thing you call football I call handegg, would you accept it? I doubt it.

    Obnoxiousness. This is not only american but it is the place where I felt it the most.
    (Long example: "Do you like band x?" "Yes, love them, their 3rd song on the unreleased mixtape that no one ever heard about is pure heaven." "what about their song y" "ah no, that's mainstream, actually everything besides the song I refer is crap and every other example you give me will just be ridiculed, even if 20 minutes ago I was singing to the tune you just referred, when the dj played it.")

    How religion is the base of everything and politics are not discussable, because you are a foreigner so you're just too stupid to understand what you are talking about. And how every point of view that goes against what the other person is saying is just anti-american and communist. ("Communist" as an insult is the american equivalent to "neh neh neh neh neh I don't want to hear it" in any other place in the world when talking to any 5 year old).

    And this wasn't a cultural shock, I was kind of expecting it, and I must admit, it grows into you. How New Yorkers are rude as hell, but stupidly nice within their rudeness... How should I put it... I was asking for directions to the Village Vanguard, and this old guy looked at me top to bottom, whispered "fucking tourists", asked me "do you understand english or are you just going to make me loose my time?" and proceeded to point it in the map and explaining me 3 different routes to get there making me repeat them so he made sure I understood. In the end he asked me "where are you from?" I said Portugal and he said, "you'll be safer if you say you are brazilian." and laughed. Gave me a story to tell...

  52. You know what's odd to me about Korean food?

    Boiling soup in a stone pot. It's like I need to order my soup an hour before I intend to eat it. :)

  53. If I had to say anything, it would be the sweetness of everything. No, seriously- WHY DO AMERICANS ADD SO MUCH SUGAR TO EVERYTHING?! If it's something that's 'implausible' to add sugar too, than it's salt. -.-

    When I popped a chocolate bar in my mouth when I first came to America, I swear I got cavities. The chocolate in Korea was much.... less sweet. And actually chocolate-y. Here, I could only taste the sugar in them .

    And why is it that every doctor in the USA seems to say something along the lines of

    "No, just stay in bed and take this cough syrup which may or may not be of help to you."

    When you have a cold? I want my pills of heaven which cured any kind of cold I had in 2 days flat. I do not want to stay in a bed for a week with a sore throat when I have much better things to do.

    Eh, moved to Canada now, but both still hold true.

  54. I love this post. I'm American born and raised. But I still find things strange:
    -seems like the rest of the world is perfectly OK viewing our American movies and TV shows with subtitles, and listening to our English lyrics but I ALWAYS hear this "you listen to Korean and Japanese music? But it's not English. Do you know Korean and/or Japanese? I can't listen/watch anything I can't understand"

    Seriously this is one of the most ANNOYING conversations I am forced to have. I wanted to punch something when Psy got so popular and my coworkers immediately turned to me "so this is the stuff you like?" I like 6 kpop groups... SIX. The "stuff" I like is whatever I like regardless of language. I like japanese rock and American rock the best. Stop generalizing. It is an ANNOYING American habit.

    -our portion sizes. I can't even finish half a meal.
    -no tax on the tags (I actually remember asking my parents about this when I was little)
    -frankly....our obsession with wanting to know what the world thinks about us... and then dismissing their views when we don't like what we hear
    -We (myself included) can name every single country our family originated from before we came to the States. And HOW MUCH of it (I.e I am 1/4 Italian; 1/4 Portegese, 1/4 Polish. The rest is British, Spanish, French, and Lithuanian....)
    -ok yeah the fact that everyone else uses the metric system and we don't is strange (though I admit to having issues with converting some measurements)

  55. Coming from France several years ago, in Canada many things sounded weird... Today, there are some issues with:

    *Unhealthy food and beverages! To find "Tang" powder here was incredible when it is stricly forbidden back to my country.
    *Distances!!! Leaving in a village far, far away from services with no access to public transportion.
    *Waste: paper plates, plastic forks, styrofoam cups... not really eco-friendly!
    *People calling you by your first name... even if they don't know you! Now, it's fine but when arriving it sounds... weird.
    *Religion: secularity was the norm in my country of origin and nobody understands why I am not interested in going to church, so they tried and still are trying to convince me.

    Sorry for my poor english!


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