15 American Things That British People Think Are Totally Bizarre

Foreign countries mean foreign customs that might seem strange to Americans. For example, did you know that flashing a peace sign is equivalent to flipping someone off in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the U.K.?

That seems a little silly. But have you ever stopped to consider that some everyday American activities are considered totally weird by people from different countries? In the U.K., they might speak the same language, but that doesn’t mean they have the same customs at all. Those differences go much deeper than just royal family traditions. Ahead, find out some regular American things that British people find totally weird.

1. Ice cubes

glass of cola with ice cubes and a straw
They don’t really do ice cubes in Europe. | iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve ever been to Europe, then you’ve probably been served a room temperature beverage with no ice cubes. Just as Americans are bewildered by the lack of interest in ice cubes overseas, British people visiting the United States can’t understand why all of our drinks have so much ice in them.

Next: They’re not used to shopping at midnight.

2. Stores that never close

Neon orange Open 24 hours sign
They tried it, but it wasn’t worth the cost in the U.K..| wellglad/iStock/Getty Images

Run out of cheese at 3AM on your European vacation? You’ll have to wait until morning to replenish your stash.

The idea of grocery stores that never close and drive-thru everything is completely foreign to British citizens. Most European stores close in the early evening during the week and sometimes they aren’t open at all on Sundays. Tesco, the U.K.’s biggest retailer, tested the 24-hour store model in 400 locations but found that the low number of late-night shoppers wasn’t worth the overhead cost.

Next: Be careful with this common American greeting.

3. ‘How are you?’ isn’t a real question

Two female Asian friends sitting on couch having conversation
If you say anything other than “fine” or “good,” people will give you a weird look. | sjenner13/iStock/Getty Images

In America, a polite, “How are you?” has become a form of greeting rather than a serious question. British people can’t understand the tendency to respond with an automatic, “Fine, how are you?” even when your life is in total shambles.

Next: They’re shocked to find this fire hazard everywhere.

4. Outlets don’t have off switches

Hand plugging a plug into a grounded, British socket
It would save people having to buy kid-proofing gear. | Innershadows/iStokc/Getty Images

The U.K. takes their electrical safety seriously, which is why most of their outlets have off switches. This protects people against accidental electrical fires and it’s a precaution that keeps little kids from electrocuting themselves, too.

The lack of off switches on American outlets is particularly perplexing for the British.

Next: These sports teams barely make a blip on a Brit’s radar.

5. People actually care about college sports

College sports aren’t really a thing. | Patrick Smith/Stringer/Getty

There’s no such thing as March Madness in the U.K.

In colleges across the pond, college students barely care about their own sports teams. Anyone college graduate certainly isn’t paying attention anymore. The American obsession with college-level sports teams is super odd to British folks.

Next: Brits are often surprised about this weird bathroom quirk.

6. The toilets have so much water in them

focus on a toilet in the bathroom
American toilets waste a lot of water. | iStock/Getty Images

Europeans are amazed — and confused — by how much water American toilets have in the bowl.

New American homes often come standard with water-saving toilets, but the majority of public restrooms still have the old style installed. While European toilets only use 1.28 gallons per flush, American toilets may use anywhere from 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. That’s a whole lot of wasted water.

Next: They’re also horrified by this bathroom feature.

7. The huge gaps in bathroom stalls

Empty Public Bathroom Stalls
Come to think of it, it’s pretty weird. | Joe_Potato/iStock/Getty Images

Ever make eye contact with a stranger through the giant gap in the bathroom stall wall? Yeah, British people think that’s really weird.

In the U.K., restrooms offer a lot more privacy and almost no instances of accidental exposure while you’re doing your business. Visitors to America find our semi-exhibitionist toilet stalls very strange indeed.

Next: This American rite of passage isn’t a big deal in the U.K.

8. High school graduation ceremonies

They don’t do that just for high school. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

In the U.K., graduating high school students skip the pomp and ceremony and just go home after their final exams.

Next: This American trend leaves Brits in the cold…literally.

9. Aggressive air conditioning

This picture shows an AC heat pump unit outside of a home.
The chilly blast you get in the summer doesn’t happen in Europe. | iStock/Getty Images

Walk into any American retail store in the dead of summer and you’ll get assaulted by an icy blast of air conditioning. In Europe, the stores aren’t kept so frigid, and some don’t have air conditioning at all. So if your British friend carries her parka around while you’re shopping in August… that’s why.

Next: British homes don’t usually have this room.

10. Laundry rooms

Laundry Room
Most homes don’t have enough space for a full laundry room. | Irina88w/iStock/Getty Images

The British often situate their washing machines in the kitchen. And even when they’re installed elsewhere, washer/dryer combos are practically never kept in a separate laundry room.

Next: This drives Brits insane while they’re shopping in the United States.

11. The tax isn’t included in the price

It may seem like a low price, but don’t forget the tax. | Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

In the U.K., the price on the sticker is the price you pay, no matter what you’re shopping for. That’s because tax is included in the price and isn’t added on later at the register. It drives British people crazy to never know exactly how much things cost in America until they’re checking out.

Next: Here’s why foreigners are so confused about American money.

12. All the money looks the same

Most countries have colorful money. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

You may not have noticed, but in other countries, different denominations of money are made in unique colors and sizes so you can easily tell them all apart. We’re used to all our cash being green and standard sized here in the United States. But for foreigners trying to figure it out, the fact that a $1 bill and a $100 bill are practically identical could lead to disaster.

Next: People from the U.K. can’t believe we don’t have these in the kitchen.

13. No one uses a tea kettle

Electric kettles are a staple in British homes. | iStock/Getty Images

Imagine visiting a house that didn’t have forks. That’s how Brits feel when they realize that most Americans don’t even know what electric tea kettles are.

People drink a lot of tea in the U.K. and it’s fairly common to hear that someone plans to “put on the tea kettle.” Meanwhile, Americans are much more likely to make tea using a pot you heat up on the stove.

Next: They’re pretty shocked when they order this beverage.

14. The lemonade isn’t fizzy

Lemonade is kind of like Sprite in Europe. | iStock/Getty Images

Order a lemonade in the U.K. and you’ll get a fizzy, carbonated drink that doesn’t contain much lemon at all. That’s why British folks are so confused when they’re served a flat, slightly sour tasting version of this popular beverage while visiting America.

Next: Your British friends don’t expect to get this common free perk.

15. Free refills

Soda Dispenser Machine
Free refills aren’t a thing. | AHPhotoswpg/iStock/Getty Images

Maybe it’s because of all the ice.

In the U.K., you get exactly what you pay for — that means no free refills, even at McDonald’s. It’s a pleasant surprise for visiting Brits when they realize that most restaurant and fast food beverages come standard with unlimited refills.

Read more: Offensive Things Americans Do When Traveling Abroad

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