Different cultures have varying approaches to life. Travelers may stare wide-eyed at perfectly normal practices in the country they’re visiting while locals wonder what the problem is.
It’s always entertaining to gain insight into our cultural differences, learning that different doesn’t always mean wrong or bad.
While scrolling through Reddit, I came across a question on the popular r/askreddit sub asking American users to describe uniquely European habits they just don’t get.
Everything, Including the Kitchen Sink
One American Redditor expressed bewilderment at what Europeans take with them during a move. They specifically called out Germans, saying they take their entire kitchens with them when they move house. ENTIRE KITCHENS! They take the sinks, cabinets, stove, dishwasher, and everything else, leaving just another empty room with exposed pipes.
Others chimed in to say that it’s not just Germans. Redditors called out the Dutch for taking the flooring and the French for taking all the fixtures, including mirrors, towel racks, and light fixtures.
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Have you ever visited a European grocery store’s “American” food section? It’s like stepping into a mirror world of American staples. Things are almost right, but off in weird ways.
One user specifically called out hamburger-flavored Cheetos, while another pointed to canned cheese. They’re things that people who only know the most basic stereotypes of America would assume Americans eat.
Hugs vs. Kisses
The European face-kissing tradition is odd to some, and others think it’s even weirder that they’d rather give cheek kisses than a hug.
“I’ve always found it weird that a lot of them think hugging is more intimate than kissing someone on the cheek,” admitted one American user.
European users have the opposite stance. “I’d rather lightly touch someone’s cheek with mine rather than press my ENTIRE body against someone’s else for the typical North American hug. I’d rather not touch anybody who is not a close friend actually!” exclaimed a user from France.
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No Personal Bubbles
Europeans aren’t as keen as Americans on personal space. Americans tend to stay at least an arm’s length away from each other while in checkout lines or on public transit. Of course, we understand that’s not always possible, but when space is available, we use it.
Europeans don’t have the same tendency. Many Americans expressed confusion at Europeans who would stand right behind them in line, oblivious of the need for personal space.
Others pointed out that the preference depends on the country. Nordic countries enjoy personal space just as much as Americans, while French and German people don’t consider it.
Americans who work year-round with nary a break find Europe’s summer closures frustrations. Some countries mandate an entire month off for workers, which is great for work-life balance but rough when trying to find a doctor or other essential service.
Most said August is the prime closure time, so not the best time to plan a trip to European countries. Some have rotating closures from June through August to ensure some essential services remain open year-long.
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Paying for Public Toilets
The excess availability of restrooms in the country spoils Americans. Outside major cities, travelers can pop into any gas station, fast food joint, or big box store to freely use the utilities. Many towns have free public toilets as well.
This isn’t the case in Europe. Users must pay to use the restroom everywhere, from gas to train stations. Most restaurants allow paying customers to use it for free but will strictly enforce the “customers only” rule.
Paid restrooms do serve a purpose. The money pays for janitorial staff and supplies like soap and toilet paper, meaning most European bathrooms are clean and well-stocked. We can’t always say the same for public toilets in the states.
Most Europeans speak 3-4 languages, an impressive feat to many Americans who only know English.
European schools emphasize learning language, but many users pointed out that it’s essential. European countries are so close together that it’s far more likely you’ll encounter someone who speaks a different language there than in the US. Although Dutch is the primary language of the Netherlands, citizens living closer to Germany speak a lot of German, while those closer to the French border need to be fluent in French.
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Leaving the Babies Outside
In Scandinavian countries, leaving babies outside in strollers is common, even when the temperature dips below freezing.
Users explained that it was common throughout Europe until recently. One user said it was common in Bulgaria in the 80s. “If a baby cried, it was normal for anyone passing by (from an old man to a high school student) to just approach, pat the baby until the baby would calm down, and then keep on going their way,” they said.
Americans have long lost the sense that “it takes a village” to raise kids and are overly suspicious of any stranger coming into contact with their child.
Europe’s Schengen area grants free travel across borders to most European Union member countries. Americans, who are used to long lines and border checks while visiting our neighbors, are shocked at how easy it is to travel from one country to another.
“I’ve been traveling Europe by train for about a month and a half or so now. Don’t think I’ve shown my passport once,” said one user, expressing how easy it is to travel through Europe.
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Some Europeans serve dinner between 9 pm and midnight, leaving Americans starving. Our dinners are typically between 5 and 7, and we don’t want to wait hours for the evening meal.
Many northern European countries agreed with Americans, while those further south enjoyed later meals. Users also discussed the differences in work times and wake-up times, with one user from Europe shocked that anyone had to start work before 8 am.
Our Differences Bring Us Together
The great thing about the internet is that it allows us to discuss these differences, gaining a deeper understanding of the cultures and values of those living on the other side of the planet. This thread offered a fascinating look into how people of different cultures approach their lives and provided food for thought for Americans on positive changes we could make to improve our society.
Overall, we learn our differences aren’t all that different. We may go to bed at different times, speak different languages, or take more with us when we move, but we’re all still human and want the best for ourselves and each other. Our commonalities are far more important than our differences, don’t you think?
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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.