15 Things About American Homes Foreigners Think Are Strange
"What do you mean, 'There's no kettle?!'"
We live in a nation that prides itself on being a melting pot, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find plenty of diversity when it comes to the style of our homes. (For proof, see The Most Popular House Style in Every State.) That said, one thing is for certain: when it comes to U.S. homes, there are certain design features, appliances, and customs that are so distinctly—and weirdly—American they might as well be decked out in stars and stripes.
Not sure what we mean? Well, read on. We’ve compiled the top things about American homes that visitors to the United States just can’t wrap their minds around. And for more strange stateside behavior, check out these 30 Things Americans Do That Foreigners Think Are Super Weird.
Air conditioning overload
For many visitors from other countries, the American obsession with air conditioning is undeniably perplexing. While the thought of going all summer without air conditioning might seem, to your average American, like a violation of the Eighth Amendment, in many other countries—including many European and African nations—having air conditioning in homes simply isn’t a given, and leaves many visitors unprepared for the practically arctic summer temperatures in American homes.
Don’t believe it? According to one report, the U.S. uses more electricity on air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. And if you’re looking to keep your costs down, make sure you know these 15 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool Without Central Air.
Tea kettle absence
While you’re likely to find a coffee pot in many American kitchens, the sight of a kettle on the stove or countertop is undeniably less common—and their absence is nothing short of confounding.
“They’re on the level of fridges or doorbells to me,” says Redditor HomeDownTheStreet. “I’d never have thought they wouldn’t be a common thing in a household… Imagine if you learned doorbells didn’t exist in the U.K., everyone just knocked. It’d work, but just be oddly unexpected to you.”
Wearing shoes indoors
For many of those who visit the United States—or those who regularly watch American TV shows or movies—the idea that someone would wear street shoes inside is truly confusing. In much of Asia, Northern Europe, and the Middle East, shoes are removed before entering a home, school, or house of prayer, either for sanitary purposes, or as a means of showing respect. And for more ways in which we perplex the world, learn about these 30 American Sayings That Leave Foreigners Totally Puzzled.
Having an American flag out front
Though many patriotic Americans would think nothing of having an American flag waving outside of their home—many porches and railings even have a slot for one—doing so is a strange custom to many foreigners. And if you travel to countless other countries in the world, the odds you’d see a home with a national flag as decoration are slim. There’s only exception, however: When the World Cup is underway.
“In a lot of European countries, if you fly your country’s flag at any time other than during the World Cup, it has a stigma of being associated with fascists and racists. Whereas in the U.S., I’ve driven down many streets, and see the U.S. flag hanging from flag poles built into a house,” says Redditor saralk.
Identical front lawns
One of the strangest things about American homes to foreigners? “Suburban front yards,” says German Redditor Aanzeijar. “I mean, we know it from TV and films, but driving for half an hour past identical parcels of lawn, all with the same brand of lawnmower by the side…. it was surreal.”
Using a single tap
In most American homes, you’ll find two knobs—hot and cold—leading to one faucet in the bathroom. However, to our U.K. counterparts, having a single stream of warmish water to wash your hands with is nothing if not a bit strange. Across the pond, most sinks have two separate faucets—one for hot water, one for cold—the two-faucet system put in place to keep the non-potable hot water (often supplied from a storage container in the home’s attic) from mixing with the drinkable water from a city or town’s filtered main supply.
How big they are
The average single-family American home measures 2,436 square feet. And to those visiting the United States from abroad, that’s simply enormous. “Excluding crowded cities like New York and the occasional person living in their RV, houses are often really large,” says Redditor Bart_1980. “I’ve seen people complaining about their small kitchen which was as large as my living room.” And for some seriously wacky real estate, check out The Craziest Home in Every State.
Having an in-home dryer
If you number among the Americans with an electric or gas dryer in their home, don’t be surprised if visitors from overseas are surprised by this everyday appliance. While washing machines aren’t an uncommon sight in many countries around the world, line-drying is significantly more common than using a machine. And for a more creative laundry approach, here are 20 Ways to Do Laundry in Your Freezer.
One home feature that seems strange to many visitors to the United States? Your mailbox. “A coworker of mine visited the U.S. and stayed over my house from the U.K. [They said] ‘Oh my god… You have a mail box!!! Just like in the movies!’” recalls one Redditor. In many other parts of the world, letter slots in a home’s front door are the primary means of receiving mail.
Outlets that don’t have an on/off switch
Your outlet may have test and reset buttons, but the lack of a physical on/off switch might prove perplexing for foreign guests. In the United Kingdom and Australia, most outlets have a built-in on/off switch, allowing you to cut the power to a particular appliance or area of a room.
Sure, you can scrape your plates right into the sink in many U.S. homes, but that’s not a privilege enjoyed in most of the world. Though they exist in other countries, the use of garbage disposals is not nearly as prevalent in kitchens in other parts of the world—while nearly 50 percent of American homes have one, just 6 percent of homes in the United Kingdom do. And even if you don’t have a disposal at your disposal, you can still get your dishes cleaner by avoiding these 17 Ways You’re Loading Your Dishwasher Like a Total Amateur.
The amount of water in toilets
The single-faucet system isn’t the only strange feature in American bathrooms if you ask visitors from other parts of the world. The level of water in American toilets also tends to be higher than that in other countries—typically because U.S. toilets have an attached tank and use a flush model rather than a siphon one.
Sorry, cold-drink-lovers: other countries simply aren’t as obsessed with ice as those who call the United States home. As a result, you’re far less likely to find an ice maker attached to a freezer in other countries, and might get some strange looks from foreign visitors if you have one in your home—or worse yet, offer them ice that will inevitably water down their drink.
Carpets in every room
Carpet is soft, it helps to isolate noise, and it keeps your feet warm. However, while wall-to-wall carpeting may be as standard as overhead lighting in many American homes, it’s an undeniably odd design feature to many people who visit from other countries. “Carpets everywhere! Why would you want carpets in the bathroom?” asks Redditor Rytlejon.
In many parts of the world, in apartment buildings and hotels alike, elevators are just large enough for a few people. As such, the standard American elevator—with weight limits of up to 6,000 pounds and room for 10-plus riders—seems like overkill. Also, in Britain, they’re called “lifts.” And if you find yourself in one, on any coast, be sure you know about the 13 Mistakes You’re Making in an Elevator.
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