American exceptionalism tells us America is the best country in the world.
“We’re Number One; We’re Number One!”
Don’t get me wrong, America is a wonderful country, and I’m happy to live here. However, we as Americans need to take the blinders off and realize that some countries have found ways to improve some things. We can learn from them and adapt their improved systems into our own, making the US even better.
While scrolling through the R/askreddit community on Reddit, I found an interesting question asking users to share systems, values, and ideas from other countries that they wish the US would adopt. It may surprise you to see that there are better ways of doing certain things!
A Better Tax System
The US tax system is complicated and confusing. The onus is put on the individual to determine how much they own, a feat difficult to navigate given the complex laws and varying deductions. Americans typically have to pay someone to help them file taxes, an additional burden in an already expensive country.
Many users pointed out that other countries make paying taxes far easier.
“Our (danish) government gives us a number and shows the calculations, which we can correct if we see things that are wrong/missing,” shared one user.
“I have never had to file a tax return or report my income or anything else even once. I have spent less than 5 minutes total sorting out my taxes in my life. It’s all done automatically. I live in the UK,” replied another.
Some users pointed out that the US’s complex tax system resulted from lobbying. Tax prep companies would lose money if the US implemented a more straightforward approach, so they constantly lobby against any changes.
“We have unfortunately tried this several times. Intuit (company that makes TurboTax) intervenes every time this concept gets traction to make sure it can’t happen and hurt their business,” said one user.
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Getting Home Safe
One Redditor shared an ingenious system they found in Japan for reducing drunk driving.
“In Japan, there is a service that you can call 24hrs/day that will come with 2 drivers 1 car,” they began.
The user went on to explain how the system works. “One driver drives you and your car home, the other follows in their car to pick up the driver that took you home with your car.”
Japan’s pick-up service allows people to get themselves and their vehicles home without worrying about parking tickets, double ubers, and trying to find their car the next day.
What a neat idea!
Keep Public Places Clean
Anyone visiting a public toilet in the US knows we don’t always value cleanliness. Although the US isn’t the worst offender, some countries offer superb public facilities.
Many pointed to Japan as a great example. “The clean restrooms there were amazing. I never had to clean a toilet seat to put my young kids on it. In the states? Near every time. People here just don’t care about the ‘we’ when it comes to restrooms,” said one user.
Others said it’s a cultural difference. “Pretty sure people there don’t really make a mess in the first place. Or way less. Work in retail, differently people here in the US go out of there way to make a mess everywhere they go,” stated one.
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The US lags behind nearly every other developed country in healthcare access. We could easily look to our friends in Europe or Asia for examples of how to care for our people.
“Other countries all over the world have figured out different ways to do this, so why can’t we?” lamented one user.
“Healthcare should absolutely be at the top of this list. It’s insane how bad the American healthcare system is compared to most developed nations,” replied another.
A user from Germany chimed in to share their experience. “I have been unemployed a few times here in Germany due to a disability I acquired,” they began, adding that they “never lost my health insurance or was afraid I would. People get into a situation like mine very fast and unexpected, and then losing your insurance would make it even worse.
“I was only able to get back to work due to access to proper health care and rehabilitation services. The government even paid for me to go back to school so I could make a necessary career change. The US absolutely could afford something like this too and really needs it.” they finished.
“As a non American, it HORRIFIES me when I hear of the awful stories about your healthcare,” added another user.
Teach Children To Clean
One user shared the unique system Japan implements to teach domestic responsibilities to children.
“I like how in Japan, the schools basically have the kids clean up after themselves and take care of their school,” they said. “They don’t have janitors, and children serve their peers’ lunch, too.”
The system teaches kids personal responsibility and cleanliness and saves the school money because they don’t have to hire janitorial and lunchroom staff.
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Include Sales Tax in Prices
America is one of the only countries that doesn’t list tax as part of the final price. When consumers pay for their purchases, they expect to pay more than the sticker price to account for it, which can shock foreign visitors.
“Man, I had such a hard time with this when I visited America. Maths in my head is not my forte, and I’m so used to looking at prices and expecting that to just be the price. I don’t get why you wouldn’t just add in the tax to the price. No one wants to do math unnecessarily,” said one Redditor.
Some said they like to know how much they’re paying in taxes, so like the current system, but others mentioned that some countries print both prices on the receipt, offering the best of both worlds.
Many users agreed that America’s voting system is subpar. Everything from the immense power of the two primary parties to the first-past-the-post primary system needs work.
“If you have winner-takes-all elections, you will eventually make your way to two roughly equal political parties. If we wanted to actually change it, we would have to move at least one chamber of Congress to a proportional parliamentary system,” explained one user.
Others said they’d love to see viable third parties, but we’d need to switch to ranked-choice voting, a system implemented successfully in many other countries.
“Norway had 4 parties above 10% in the last election, Sweden had 3, Finland had 5, Iceland had 5,” said one user, sharing how different voting systems can lead to broader representation.
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America’s car-centric culture fails in big cities. It causes traffic congestion, pollution, long commutes, and limits safe walkways.
Many other countries (and even cities within the US!) prioritize public transportation, creating bike paths, metro rails, pedestrian zones, and other infrastructure that limits cars but makes traveling around the city without one a breeze.
“The French do trains very well, too. There are the RER, TER, intercités, and the TGV. Even the intercités are faster and cheaper than the Acela. Each train system has a clear role and integrates well into the national and international system,” observed one user.
“I get that we are never going to have high-speed rail across the USA, but it’s pathetic that our cities don’t at least have extensive subway/surface/elevated rail systems,” lamented another.
The Spanish tradition of mid-day naps needs to come to America. One Redditor even claimed doctors support the mid-day respite.
“According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, whether you eat lunch or not, everyone requires a rest midday,” they shared.
Although taking a break in the middle of the day might be nice, some users said they’d hate it.
“I don’t want a siesta. I wouldn’t want to just do nothing for a couple hours at work, and I also don’t want to go home for a couple hours just to have to go back,” admitted one.
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Learning a Foreign Language
Children pick up language far easier than adults. Many countries require students to learn a second language beginning in primary school when their brains are wired to understand language.
In the US, kids don’t start learning a second language until high school, when it’s already much more challenging.
One user said they love for the US to start “Teaching foreign language to young students in public schools (i.e., 5yrs, k-5) when the propensity to learn language quickly is maximum,” like many other countries do.
Others shared that it’s already happening regionally.
“In my state, the kids start learning Spanish in kindergarten,” said one.
“Here in TX, there are many public schools and preschools that willingly put ESL (Spanish-speaking) kids in with the English speaking kids and teach them in both languages. It’s greatly helpful because it teaches them how to hold full conversations in another language with each other, which is something the high school level courses rarely do,” added another.
The US is Great But Needs Some Work
The US is a fantastic country, but not perfect. Admitting the imperfections is the first step to implementing positive change, and the Redditors in this thread are doing just that.
Do you agree with them that the US could benefit from adopting certain systems other countries already have in place, or do you think it’s fine the way it is?
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.