82 things that are weird, worrisome, or wonderful about America

by | Sep 8, 2014 | Pop Culture


As American as, well, you know.
US Department of Agriculture / Flickr Creative Commons

Just as Dorothy discovered in the land of Oz that life is bigger than her backyard, through travel around the world – or sometimes just to a different part of the city – we, too, find that people do things differently – sometimes in strange (to us), comical or beautiful ways.

Since returning after the last two years abroad, I’ve been bombarded by cultural phenomena that stir up many different feelings: proud to be an American, head-shaking shame, or brow-furrowing confusion.

No country has a monopoly on goodness, truth, or beauty, and we probably all have our cultural elements that seem downright bizarre to someone not from there.

I here offer my own list on what has stood out to me since being back in the States. I’m not saying what I think is good or bad, for what is wonderful to me might be worrisome to you and just weird to another person. This is simply a list of things that you’re probably not going to find in many places outside of the U.S.

1. Extreme couponing

2. Rotating hot dogs and taquitos at gas stations

3. Prom, elaborate prom proposals, homecoming kings and queens

4. Y’all

5. Grinding

6. Having so much stuff that you have to rent a storage unit

7. “Saving room for dessert”

8. Flags everywhere – shirts, hats, bikinis, cemeteries, boxers, various desserts, outside of Perkins, on the moon

Deep fried....everything! nicholaspollock / Flickr Creative Commons

Deep fried….everything!
nicholaspollock / Flickr Creative Commons

9. Funnel cakes, cotton candy, deep fried Oreos/candy bars/pie/butter/bacon cinnamon rolls/peanut butter banana cheeseburgers

10. Mission trips

11. The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and all our national parks

12. That Hawaii and Alaska are states… and what’s the relationship with Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam? I never know exactly.

13. Cowboy hats and belt buckles

14. 24-hour stores that sell things virtually no human has ever thought of purchasing at 3:00 AM

15. Pumpkin spice everything

16. Intentionally misspelled businesses, brand names, and musicians: La-Z-Boy, Kwik Trip, Quik Trip, Froot Loops, Snoop Dogg, etc.

17. Eating competitions

Cannoli eating competition Paul Stein / Flickr Creative Commons

Cannoli eating competition in New York.
Paul Stein / Flickr Creative Commons

18. Weight loss competitions

19. Drinking water from the tap

20. The smell of a Subway sandwich that fills a room

21. Girl Scout Cookies

22. Marathons, triathlons, 5ks, 10ks… for a cause

23. Frozen yogurt, cupcakes, cronuts

24. The names Aidan, Jayden, Cayden, Hayden, and Braden

25. State license plates

A map of license plates Josh Kellogg / Flickr Creative Commons

A map of license plates
Josh Kellogg / Flickr Creative Commons

26. Ketchup, peanut butter, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing

27. Doggy daycare

28. The meat dress of 2010

29. Spinning, CrossFit, yoga, pilates, yogalates, Farrell’s, Zumba

30. Watery coffee

31. The Oscar Mayer weinermobile

32. Vitamin and supplement stores, GU, protein shakes

33. Eating turkey, deep frying a turkey, turduckens, the annual presidential turkey pardon

34. Wearing hats indoors

35. Kale, quinoa, chia seeds, kefir

36. Taco Bell’s quesarito, Taco Bell’s “fourth meal”

37. Calling oneself “Irish” when your family has been in the U.S. for 170 years

38. BuzzFeed posts like “How To Get Fat Without Spending Any Money

39. Sales tax not being included in the price tag

40. Wall Drug

41. S’mores

42. Ice in drinks

43. Being obsessed with the college from which you graduated

44. Payday loan stores

45. Huge portions at restaurants, throwing out large amounts of food

What...no fries? Erik / Flickr Creative Commons

What…no fries?
Erik / Flickr Creative Commons

46. Using a card to pay for everything

47. Spending $50,000/year on college

48. Soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, flax milk, and 20 kinds of milk milk

49. Political ads that start months before an election

50. Pickup trucks

51. Free online streaming

52. Staying at hotels even when visiting relatives

53. Lots of personal space

54. The Texas Prison Museum

55. Worrying about being politically correct

56. Wisconsin cheeseheads and those foam finger #1 things

57. Diners

58. Snuggies, footie pajamas

59. Going to class or riding on an airplane in pajamas

60. Dependence on GPS

61. “The world’s largest ____” e.g. ball of twine, letter M, rocking chair, etc.

62. Keg stands, beer pong, power hours, red solo cups

63. Political prayer breakfasts

64. Big Gulps, unlimited refills, and being given a cup to fill yourself – for less money than a bottle of water

NY Times Crossowrds Brian Aydemir / Flickr Creative Commons

NY Times Crosswords
Brian Aydemir / Flickr Creative Commons

65. The New York Times Crossword

66. Prevalent free bathrooms

67. College sports, March Madness, mascots, cheerleading, and tailgating

68. The Kardashians

69. Wooden houses

70. 473 kinds of breakfast cereal at Walmart1 and being able to buy guns at the very same store

71. Dependence on cars

72. Las Vegas

73. Items shipped within days, getting packages outside our homes and no one stealing them

74. Saying “um” and “like”

75. The Mall of America

76. NPR

77. Fruits and vegetables that don’t really taste like real fruits and vegetables

78. Groundhog Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween

79. Carhenge

Carhenge. Yup, it's a thing. Chris M Morris / Flickr Creative Commons

Carhenge. Yup, it’s a thing.
Chris M Morris / Flickr Creative Commons

80. Beyoncé

81. The Scripps National Spelling Bee

82. The frequent use of “awesome”

Are there things that you think are weird, worrisome, or wonderful that are uniquely American? Leave your ideas in the comments section below.

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  1. Seriously, I just checked walmart.com

Michael Rossmann, SJ

mrossmannsj@thejesuitpost.org   /   @RossmannSJ   /   All posts by Michael