Cultural differences between countries are omnipresent and take an extraordinary number of different forms. They might range from things that are simple as what side of the road people drive on and what kinds of foods they eat on various occasions to more serious matters like the organization of the healthcare system or what kinds of political parties exist.

And these differences, each in their own way, help to give each country its own unique character and qualities.

Like every other nation, Americans have their own special cultural and societal quirks. These are things that seem perfectly normal to us and that we treat more or less like the air we breathe.

But though we treat them as perfectly normal, people from other counties might find them strange. They might even experience a bit of culture shock when they encounter them.

Here are three things about American society that foreigners find strange.


1. Pharmaceutical Ads

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We’ve all seen pharmaceutical ads on TV, online, or in other places a million times that, at some point, use the phrase, “Ask your doctor about…” This is an advertising tactic meant to get people to think about the drug. Companies hope to drive more sales this way.

Americans think nothing of this, but Europeans and other people find it totally bizarre. Indeed, in Australia, such direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals is completely banned. In most cases, this is prohibited in Canada and the EU as well.


2. The Metric System

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Europeans all find the customary measurement system totally bizarre. In the metric system, all units are uniformly divided, usually by factors of 10. There are 100 centimeters to a meter, 1,000 meters to a kilometer, 1,000 millimeters to a liter, and so forth. In the customary system, there are all sorts of odd and non-uniform conversions to remember: 12 inches to a foot, 5,280 feet to a mile, 32 fluid ounces to a quart, 16 ounces to a pound, and so on.

Americans, if they bother to defend the customary system at all, will usually say that it’s based on down-to-earth human realities, while the metric system’s very “perfection” is artificial. A foot is about the size of a human foot, for instance.

Still, almost everyone else on earth finds this weird.


3. The Two-Party System

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If you immerse yourself in the politics of virtually any European country, you’ll find an incredible welter of different political parties. Even small parties which focus on niche issues typically have at least some representation in a European parliament.

But in America, it all comes down to the Democrats and the Republicans. Other parties like the Libertarian Party do exist, but in general, especially in federal elections, the game is steeply rigged against them.