Home Lifestyle The Melting Pot: Random Things That Define The US Worldwide

The Melting Pot: Random Things That Define The US Worldwide

Darren March 21, 2023

It’s known worldwide as the land of the free and the home of the brave, but America still remains a confusing place to many around the world. The self-proclaimed ‘greatest country on Earth’ is a place full of amazing opportunities and contradictions. So today, we’ll look at random things that people outside of the United States think define America.

The world’s most influential nation has more food than it knows what to do with and the people are unique. We’re going to look at the best the U.S. has to offer as well as the stranger aspects of its society. It’s amazing what Americans take for granted that would never happen in other parts of the planet. Find out what people from other countries think truly defines America right here.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Few foods define America more than a good old-fashioned PB&J. It’s undeniably one of the most famous sandwiches in the world, but at the same time, many Europeans don’t get it. Many people across the world don’t know what jelly is. Jam is more popular in Europe and uses whole fruit instead of just juice.


According to the New York Daily News, half of Americans eat peanut butter and jelly regularly. It’s a quick and convenient snack that is popular across all age demographics. Peanut butter became popular during the 1920s because there was a meat shortage after World War I. Then it became the iconic All-American sandwich spread, where it still sits to this day.


Americans depend on cars more than most countries on earth. First, there are massive distances between cities that people from tiny European countries can’t comprehend. It takes almost four hours to drive from New York City to Washington D.C. That’s the same as driving from the top to the bottom of Ireland (via Scientific American).


Meanwhile, most cities are not pedestrian friendly and further created a car-dependent culture. There aren’t enough sidewalks and highways running through the middle of urban zones. The U.S. also lacks a high-speed train network. This forces travelers to drive or fly because the other option is the dreaded Greyhound bus.

Shopping Malls

Few things define America like the shopping mall. During the ’80s, the mall became a popular hangout spot for young people. We can see this in shows like Stranger Things as well as popular movies. These helped to enshrine the mall in American culture because it was a big part of their lives.

New York Post

But now malls are vast complexes with hundreds of shops. America has some of the biggest malls in the world and they’re also a source of national pride. There’s the iconic Mall of America in Minnesota and the American Dream in New Jersey. In sum, Americans love to shop until they drop (via Loving New York).


Many foreigners complain that Americans are too brash and loud. There’s no denying that they have a lot of confidence and aren’t shy about saying what they think. It’s also true that some of these people outside of the U.S. feel jealous about this. But confidence – real or not – is a huge part of America’s national identity.

We Are Iowa

Youngsters learn quickly that they must develop their confidence if they want to succeed in this world. However, it appears regularly in other parts of U.S. life like with the kiss cams on jumbotrons at baseball games. This is very different from other cultures where people don’t draw so much attention to themselves (via Forbes).

Imperial System

The U.S. sees itself as an inspiration for the rest of the world but sometimes it lags. Several weird things define America but the imperial measurement system is one of the most confusing. Only three countries in the world use imperial units for every official measurement. The U.S. shares this space with Liberia and Myanmar.

Reader’s Digest

Meanwhile, America is the only nation on the planet that uses Fahrenheit instead of celsius. Nobody outside of the U.S. understands this because it’s way more complicated. The overwhelming majority of nations agree that it’s easier to count in tens and hundreds. But Americans stubbornly stick to ounces and gallons like it’s the 1800s (via AS).


America is one of the most patriotic nations on the planet. This is something that raises eyebrows in other countries because they don’t have the same passion. Sometimes other people think that Americans go too far with their pride. They wear the flag on their clothes and children swear the pledge of allegiance.

Sporting News

Meanwhile, it’s almost an arrestable offense if somebody doesn’t stand and cover their heart during the national anthem. It doesn’t matter that no one can sing The Stars and Stripes properly. Military personnel also receive more special treatment than they do in other nations (via Sporting News).

Nude Prudes

Earlier we mentioned how Americans have more confidence than many other nationalities. But they’re also extremely uncomfortable when it comes to nudity. There’s no denying that many U.S. citizens fear nudity. Northern Europeans like Germans or Swedish people happily sit naked in saunas together without problems.

Bangor Daily News

But this would be the average American’s worst nightmare. The problem is that they immediately associate nudity with eroticism. This isn’t the situation in other parts of the world. Nowadays, there are many open-minded people in the U.S. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the things that define America as they struggle to shake off their Puritan roots (via Stuff).


Hollywood is one of the ultimate symbols of American glamor and success. The U.S. dominates the global movie industry and everybody tunes in for their blockbusters. Yes, China and India have bigger box offices, but they don’t resonate culturally across the world. Hollywood is one of the biggest exports that define America.


In 2023, almost 19 million people watched the Academy Awards alone. Forget the movies themselves, Americans love everything about the industry. Hollywood’s Golden Age began in the 20s and continued through to the 60s with 800 movies per year. Now that number is much lower but it retains global renown (via ABC.net).

Weird Age Limits

Another of the strange things that define America is its weird age limits. Many foreigners think it’s bizarre that U.S. citizens can’t drink alcohol until they’re 21. Most countries in Europe allow people to consume liquor when they’re 18 but some have even lower limits. Meanwhile, this is the age when the U.S. allows people to buy guns.


Furthermore, the federal system means that there are different ages for driving across various states. Non-Americans think it’s weird that they can go from one extreme to another in the U.S. Also, 20 U.S. states don’t have a minimum age for marriage without the parent’s consent (via The Healthy Journal).

Super-Size Portions

It’s a common stereotype that all Americans are fat. There are high rates of obesity across the nation because of the ludicrous food and drink portions. After World War II, agriculture flourished in the U.S. and they began using more fertilizers. This created an abundance of food and portions increased.

Delusional Bubble

Even fast food chains and coffee franchises like McDonald’s and Starbucks offer sizes that they don’t sell in other markets. Americans consume more junk food than anywhere else on the planet. They also use artificial replacements for natural products that lead to long-term health problems (via USA Today Sports).

Drug Commercials

The U.S. has an uncomfortable relationship with prescription drugs that don’t exist anywhere else. People outside the U.S. think that this is one of the weirdest things that define America. It’s impossible to turn the TV on for half an hour without seeing commercials for prescription drugs.

Commonwealth Fund

This is illegal in almost every other country on the planet but the U.S. doesn’t regulate it. That’s also why many ordinary Americans confidently tell their doctors what drugs they want. Visitors from other countries can’t believe their eyes when they see how commonplace this is (via The Atlantic).

World Police

There’s no denying that U.S. foreign policy has a massive impact on the rest of the world. But this also means that many non-Americans resent the U.S. They hate the way it acts like the planet’s police and think that this is one of the worst things that define America. On the other hand, many U.S. citizens can’t comprehend why other nations think they’re the bad guys.


The U.S. has declared war 12 times and had a hand in at least 105 conflicts throughout its short history. Meanwhile, they’ve assassinated and attempted to kill leaders across the world. America also has over 800 military bases across the globe and sells arms like a child selling lemonade (via Politico).

Spray Cheese

Aerosol cheese is commonplace across the U.S. but French people think it’s a crime against humanity. They think that it’s one of those things that define America. It’s easy to buy and consume but ultimately it has no substance. This is harsh but it’s undeniable that spray cheese isn’t great.


Europeans tolerate American cheese on a burger but this canned monstrosity is a bridge too far. They think it should be used in DIY, not in a delicious dish. Spray cheese first entered the market in 1965 and maintains its popularity. The fluorescent orange color disturbs a lot of non-Americans (via Insider).

Old-Fashioned Diners

Nothing beats a slice of good old-fashioned Americana. People from outside the U.S. love experiencing the America of their imagination. They fantasize about going into a diner where a server called Betty calls them ‘hon’ while she brings endless coffee refills. Diners were a mainstay of popular American culture, but they’re also dying.

The Span

These days coffee and fast-food franchises are replacing them. Nowadays, diner fans are trying to preserve these historical spaces. Neon signs, slices of pecan pie, and milkshakes are some great diner staples. Overseas visitors enjoy these American staples so let’s hope they continue to flourish (via Country Living).


Another positive aspect of American society is the sheer diversity within the nation. People migrated to the U.S. from all over the world and brought elements of their cultures with them. This means it’s possible to find almost every cuisine on the planet in major cities like New York and Los Angeles.

MedPage Today

The U.S. is a melting pot of cultures because it has received immigrants since Columbus first ‘discovered’ it. Occasionally this generates tensions and divisions but it’s also one of the nation’s greatest strengths. It’s one of the most amazing things that define America in the modern world (via Pew Research Center).

Weird Date Format

Sometimes it feels like Americans are trying to be different from everybody else. We’ve already mentioned their insistence on using Fahrenheit instead of celsius. Meanwhile, the U.S. also has a unique date format that irritates other people across the globe. Instead of putting the day first, America goes for the month.

Errington Thompson

Europe chose dd-mm-yyyy because it shows a natural progression of time. But the U.S. chose mm-dd-yyyy because the British colonizers brought it over. Then America decided that it liked its system and never updated it. That’s the story of a lot of the things that the “Land of the Free” does (via MIT).

The Wild West

America is a very young nation overall, so it doesn’t have the same folklore or legends of the old world. But it does have the Wild West and all of the heroes that came with it. This part of history sums up the American identity for many people. They think of cowboys like Jesse James and Buffalo Bill.


Places like Deadwood became popular tourist spots because people want to recapture this magic. Meanwhile, Hollywood churned out hundreds of Western movies because fans loved them. They remain popular today and share elements with Japanese samurai cinema (via Sega).

Alma Mater Loyalty

Americans love their colleges more than most people from other parts of the world. It’s amazing because these institutions charge tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees. But they adore their alma mater and the overall college experience. They also care about college sports more than other countries.

Sports Illustrated

College athletes play in huge stadiums unlike anywhere else on the planet. It’s remarkable but they love their football and basketball teams. Meanwhile, Americans share rooms in college with people they don’t know. This is something that no European would do unless they had no choice (via Sports Illustrated).

Black Friday

The Americans go from one extreme to another over the Thanksgiving period. Firstly, they gorge on turkey, side dishes, and pie and watch football. Then they go crazy in Walmarts across the nation and fight over discounted TVs. Black Friday is one of the most notorious days on the U.S. retail calendar because people lose control of themselves.


Nothing sums up capitalism and the American Dream like Black Friday. People from around the world think that this is one of the craziest things that define America. Some retailers tried to get ‘Black Friday’ off the ground in other countries but people don’t care the same way (via GQ).

Crazy Health System

It always shocks non-Americans when they learn about the crazy U.S. healthcare system. They can’t believe how much people pay for basic services like check-ups. The same procedure might cost thousands of dollars in America. But a European or an Australian can spend nothing depending on their situation (via The Guardian).

Health Me

U.S. critics think that a reformed healthcare system will lead to everybody walking around with hammers and sickles. This is a bizarre attitude and it’s one of the aspects of American society that foreigners can’t comprehend. Most European states have healthcare systems that help their citizens to save money instead of bankrupting them.


Americans love trucks more than any other type of vehicle. Construction workers and soccer moms alike sit behind the wheel of the Ford F-Series. The nation has adored this line of trucks for over 40 years and they’re the most popular vehicle in the U.S. Nowhere else in the world has this fascination with them.


It’s fine in states like Montana and Wyoming where people work on ranches or in haulage. But they’re a common feature in urban environments too. Other nations have legislation that dissuades people from buying trucks because of their environmental impact. But they’re one of the things that define America (via CBS News).

Incredible Landscapes

The U.S. has an amazing 63 national parks with some of the most incredible landscapes on the planet. These range from iconic areas like Yellowstone and Yosemite to lesser-known gems like Big Bend and Isle Royale. The National Park Service does a remarkable job as it preserves and maintains these natural treasures.


Modern America emerged from centuries of exploration. Many of these pioneers had remarkable relationships with the environment and its part of the nation’s story. These parks help to define America because they give it a grandeur and mystique. U.S. citizens shouldn’t take them for granted (via Thrillist).

Words in Phone Numbers

This is something that most Americans won’t realize is unique to their culture. TV commercials regularly say phone numbers but also include words like 1-800-PIZZA. Many foreign visitors don’t understand this but it’s simple. They replace the letters with the corresponding numbers on the keypad.

Phone Arena

Most countries just give the regular number but the U.S. makes it easier for people to remember. The advantage is that it’s simple but it’s also created a culture where people waste more money on TV shopping. Nonetheless, it remains a quirk of American society that helps to define them (via Travelettes).

Homeless People

Let’s caveat this by saying that there are homeless people in every country. However, visitors can’t believe the problems in places like San Francisco or New York City. Gentrification and the opioid crisis created a horrific situation for many U.S. citizens. Record numbers took to the streets because they had nowhere else to go.


Homelessness also reached record numbers in the Big Apple in 2022. Many tourists find homeless people to be intimidating despite their poverty. It’s tragic but it’s a massive problem for U.S. authorities because it damages the nation’s reputation. Only time will tell if they can stop the tide (via Fox News).

Weak Beer

Americans should look away now because they might not like this. Unfortunately, the rest of the world thinks that they’re lightweights who can’t handle their booze. The reason behind this is the fact that Bud Light is the most popular beer in the U.S. This is different from European countries where ales and heavier beers are more popular.

Washington Examiner

It also means that many American students receive a shock when they go to other countries. Maybe they’re under 21 but they can legally drink overseas. Then they consume some heavy German beers and receive the biggest hangover of their lives. It’s a common story but it’s one of the random things that define America (via Washington Examiner).


The Central Intelligence Agency is one of the most famous spy services on the planet. It has played a key role in modern American history with positive and negative results. From infamous assassinations to endless Hollywood movies, the CIA has a massive impact on perceptions of the U.S. (via The New Yorker).


Many people in other countries think that the CIA represents what’s bad about the U.S. They’ve destroyed democratically-elected regimes and replaced them with dictators. Meanwhile, some critics believe that they even had a role in JFK’s death. There’s no doubt that they’re one of the most controversial organizations that define America.

Junk Food

Americans have a ridiculous relationship with junk food that is causing a health crisis. According to one recent study, they consume 31% more processed foods than fresh produce. This is a far cry from nations like France, Spain, or Italy. They have very different attitudes toward their diets and think that all Americans are obese.

Psychology Today

Visitors can’t believe the sheer variety of junk food available in the U.S. From ice cream and waffles to waffle-flavored ice cream, the list is endless. They gorge on everything from pop-tarts to cookies and cheeseburgers. Meanwhile, they demolish the nation’s chicken population on Super Bowl weekend (via The Healthy Journal).

Unlimited Refills

America is the land of excess. Nowhere is this more evident than in fast food chains. Forget about the food because we’re talking about beverages. The U.S. has a free refill culture where patrons can take unlimited drinks. This is common in chains like McDonald’s and Burger King (via New York Post).

Free refills are available in other countries too but it began in the U.S. Meanwhile, France went in the opposite direction because it banned the practice. The European state connected soft drink refills to health issues and stopped it in its tracks. There would be a revolution in the U.S. if politicians took away their refills.


Forget about the bad food and let’s talk about the good stuff. Few cuisines define America but barbecue afficianados across the nation debate which style is the best. There are amazing offerings everywhere from Missouri to Texas. No doubt someone will comment and say their state or city has the best version.


Americans adore their smoked and slow-cooked meats. Imagine a plate of delicious brisket, sticky back ribs pulled pork pulled-pork sandwich. It’s enough to bring a vegan back from the dark side. Visitors love this part of U.S. food culture because it feels much more authentic than hot dogs or pizza (via Q39).


Sometimes it feels like America is making life more difficult for itself than it needs to be. One thing that makes every foreign visitor sweat is the tipping system. Typically, in the U.S. people tip their servers about 20 percent of the total. That’s because they don’t pay people enough money so they depend on tips.

The Jakarta Post

However, Americans also run into confusion when they go overseas. They don’t understand that other countries have higher salaries and that tipping isn’t mandatory. It’s usually gratefully received but it’s not essential like in the U.S. But there are some countries like Japan where tipping doesn’t exist at all (via The Economist).

Weird Sports

Another of the things that define America is its weird sports. Soccer is the most commonly played and popularly-watched sport on the planet. But it’s a minority game in America where three leagues dominate. We’re talking about gridiron tackle football, basketball, and rugby. Of those sports, arguably only basketball is popularly played across the world.

New York Times

Yes, baseball is common in Japan and some central American nations like the Dominican Republic. Canada also has a football league; the CFL. But it’s hilarious how the U.S. inflates the importance of the World Series and the Super Bowl. They also have business franchises instead of community clubs like other countries (via A.S).

Insane College Fees

Millions of Americans find themselves in debt because of college loans. They spend long years of their lives repaying their fees because of the crazy educational system. But many U.S. citizens accept this as a normal practice. They don’t realize that the rest of the world watches and collectively shakes its head.


Finland offers free education in world-renowned institutions. Even other countries with fees don’t expect students to pay tens of thousands per year. They believe that students should be leaving college with a bright future instead of holding them back. But this is one of the worst things that define America (via The New Yorker).

So Much Sugar

Many foreigners can’t believe the amount of sugar that Americans eat in their normal meals. We’re not talking about regular junk food here but standard breakfasts and dinners. People love drowning their bacon and pancakes in maple syrup or shoveling donuts down their throats.


Somebody also had the bright idea of putting marshmallows in sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. This is a weird one that confuses non-Americans because they don’t understand the need for it. There’s no denying that Americans love sugar as much as the French love cheese (via Delish).

The Red-Blue Divide

We’re not going to get all political here because that’s not what this list is about. But it’s one of the things that define America in the eyes of many foreigners. The Democrats and the Republicans have a duopoly on U.S. politics and it doesn’t look like that will ever change.


Some non-Americans don’t understand why there are only two major political parties in the U.S. Most European countries have coalition governments that see at least two parties unite and take power. However, the system is very different in the U.S. but it’s fascinating to people overseas (via World Economic Forum).


We couldn’t write this list about the USA without talking about guns. If there’s one thing that people think defines America it’s firearms. They’re not wrong either because there are almost 400 million weapons across the nation. But it’s worth observing that these are the legally registered ones so the number is far greater.

New York Times

There are many horror stories about school shootings and accidental deaths across the U.S. This is something that non-Americans don’t understand and leaves them shaking their heads. There’s no denying that the U.S. fetishized guns more than any other country on the planet (via Bloomberg).