10 Facts About America That Make No Sense to Foreigners

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America. It’s one of the biggest countries on Earth, both in terms of population and sheer size. It’s the planet dominating superpower; the heaviest hitter where culture is concerned; a place known by nearly every single human on the planet… and, to all but the 4-5% of humanity who live there, it makes absolutely no gosh darn sense.

See, despite its cultural clout, America still seems deeply weird to foreigners. And we don’t just mean people who come from repressive kingdoms and tin-pot dictatorships. Europeans, people from Southeast Asia, Australians and Brits all find yuge chunks of life in the good ol’ US-of-A beyond comprehension. If you were born stateside, the following might not seem super crazy to you. But trust us, every single foreigner is reading this with their jaw dangling open and their eyeballs popping out.

10. US Toddlers Shoot One Person a Week

Americans sure love guns. The US has the highest rate of gun-ownership on planet Earth, and the least-restrictive gun laws (only Switzerland comes close). That’s all thanks to the 2nd Amendment, which has been the subject of near-constant debate since being written.

But it’s not the sheer number of guns in America that really astounds foreigners. It’s the crazy things that leads to. Things like US toddlers shooting one person a week.

There’s literally no other country on Earth you could write that sentence about. Even countries that are swimming in guns, like Serbia, Norway, and Switzerland, don’t have toddlers blowing one another away. To be fair, they have tiny populations, but, to be even fairer, c’mon buddy. US toddlers have shot on average one person a week (including themselves) for the past two years. Even warzones don’t have numbers like that.

More bizarre still, America keeps on arming its toddlers. In 2016, Iowa made it legal for babies to handle loaded guns. That’s right. The guys in the Hawkeye State elected to arm the very babies that are trying to shoot them. How’s that for hubris?

9. Bestiality is Still Legal in 9 US States (but premarital sex is outlawed)

Despite this being 2017, plenty of US States still have sex laws on the books that are… unenlightened, to say the least. And by that, we mean they were seemingly written by two guys named Festus and Bubba while necking with their pet hog Clancy.

Incredible as it may seem, there are nearly ten US States where it is still legal to have sexual intercourse with animals. We say ‘nearly’ ten, because one’s the District of Columbia (not a state, kids!). The other nine are Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. In addition, plenty of states still only consider bestiality a misdemeanor.

This would be odd enough if the US was a spectacularly licentious place, but it’s not. In addition to allowing you to marry your bestest sow, four states still outlaw either premarital or extramarital sex, or co-habiting with your partner prior to marriage. While the laws are effectively never enforced, the fact they’re still on the statute books attests to America’s unique mix of religious piety and deep-seated desire to mimic the guys from Deliverance.

8. The Highest Paid Public Employee in 39 States is a Sports Coach

Go to any other country in the Western world – Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, wherever – and the highest-paid public employee will be someone working in a selfless capacity. They’ll be the guys and gals running universities, or public hospitals, or the local council. America, though, laughs in the face of such devotion to the public good. Instead of rewarding headmasters or doctors or teachers, the highest public pay package in 39 states goes to sports coaches. Specifically, guys coaching football or men’s basketball.

We’re not talking comparatively small sums, either. The salaries involved would be enviable in the private sector. University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, for example, rakes in over $7 million, plus bonuses, likely making him one of the highest-paid public employees not living in a corrupt dictatorship. For those from outside the states, this seems less extravagant, and more like an absolute inability to get priorities right.

Only Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New York, Nevada, New Hampshire, Vermont and both Dakotas refuse to award their highest public pay packet to a football or men’s basketball coach. Interestingly, both Hawaii and Vermont, as you’ll remember from a second ago, still technically allow bestiality. We’re really not sure what to make of that.

7. Over Half of All Americans Don’t Hold a Valid Passport

In 2014, polling company YouGov revealed only 8% of Britons had never left their country of birth to travel abroad. While this is maybe not all that super-impressive (Britain is tiny and France is close), it puts the US to shame. The same poll found only 50% of Americans would admit to ever having left the country. That’s nearly 160 million people who have never been to Canada or Mexico, let alone Europe or Asia.

For people who were born in Europe, that’s almost like saying you’ve never seen a glass of water. The idea of not going abroad from time to time is alien. In places like Germany, over 90% of the population hold a valid passport, and you better believe they use it.

But that’s Europe, we hear you cry, it’s a small continent with, like, a bazillion countries. Well, first, we’re pretty sure you’re exaggerating there, bud. Secondly, look at Australia, a country nearly as big as the US, and more cut-off from the rest of the world. According to official data, one third of the population goes abroad every single year. That compares to 50% of Americans over their entire lifetimes. Clearly, the US is a travel-averse country.

6. 30% of Americans Prefer Saving Money to Vital Medical Treatment

Compared to other developed nations, healthcare in the US is expensive. You can blame that on too much Obamacare, or not enough of it, but the fact remains that public systems, private systems, and public-private systems elsewhere in the world all deliver better service at lower cost. This alone can seem staggering to foreigners. Then there’s the American attitude to health. Faced with a serious illness or injury, around 30 percent of Americans would rather walk it off than pay for treatment.

This… simply doesn’t happen elsewhere. Norway has the second most-expensive healthcare in the world, and pretty much no-one there avoids necessary treatment. Japan has an insurance-based, private system with payments often covered by employers, just like the US, and people don’t skip out on medical care. To find other people choosing money over hospitalization, you have to leave the developed world behind and start poking around in poorer countries where wages are low and healthcare unaffordable.

We’re not trying to rag on American healthcare here. America has some of the best doctors and hospitals going. But the idea that you’d choose money over health (or that you’d have to choose)? To non-Americans, that’s insane.

5. 7 States Have Custody Rights for Rapists

OK, let’s turn to some really, really dark stuff now. There exists a certain subsection of guys who like to rape women. Occasionally, this results in their victims getting pregnant. Depending on where they live and their religious convictions, the women may then decide to carry the baby to term. Now, here’s where it gets creepy. In around 7 states, it’s perfectly legal for the rapist-father to sue for custody of his newborn child.

Imagine that for a second. You’ve been violently assaulted, gone through the hell of guilt and self-recrimination, been courageous enough to bring the resulting baby into the world… and now you’re forced to watch as the D-bag who hurt you decides he wants to be a father to your son/daughter. Well, if you live in Alabama, Mississippi, Maryland, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wyoming or Minnesota, that can totally happen.

In addition, there are 20 more states where it might be legal. In Indiana, for example, you can only block the rapist from seeking custody if you remember to do so within 3 months of your baby being born. This is some seriously dark stuff, and we guarantee that if you mention it to anyone from elsewhere in the developed world, their jaws will drop so low they hit the ground. Sure, some Middle East states may have even-worse laws, but that’s not really a benchmark to aspire to.

4. America Has More Self-Identified Patriots than Anywhere Else on Earth

In July 2016, Gallup released the results of their yearly patriotism poll. They found 52% of Americans call themselves “extremely patriotic”, the lowest level in polling history. The news triggered a slew of introspective articles by American writers, wondering what had gone wrong. For those reading elsewhere in the world, it felt like stepping through the looking glass. 52% is such a good score it leaves other countries eating the USA’s dust.

Such levels of patriotism simply don’t exist in the rest of the developed world. In a similar survey by YouGov, only 13% of Brits thought their country was “the best in the world.” That was the highest score in the EU. Germany and France got only 5% each. The second and third highest-ranking countries globally, India and Australia, scored 34% and 36%. But the US? The US busted through the 40% mark, with an additional 32% claiming America was at the very least “better than most other countries.”

For the majority of foreigners, the idea of showing US-levels of patriotism is simply alien. You will never see a flag in every yard in any other country on Earth. But that’s the US public for you: optimistic to a tee. Even if they’re unhappy with their current government, folks still believe that the idea of America itself is worth believing in.

3. Americans are More Likely to Get Bitten by Other Americans than Rats

The stereotype is that Americans likes three things: football, fast food, and violence (often all at once). It’s true that America’s murder rate is crazy-high. It’s also true that the national sport is getting drunk and starting bar-fights. But surely it’s not as bad as all that?

Well, we hate to break it to you, but this arresting statistic says otherwise. If you live in America, you are more likely to be bitten by another American than you are by a rat.

To be clear, this isn’t because US rats are particularly docile or rare on the ground. Cities like New York are completely infested, and people get bitten all the freakin’ time. There are over 40,000 rat bites recorded in America each year. The only trouble is, there are at least 45,000 human bites recorded right alongside them.

Again, this is a freaky fact for Americans, too. But, also again, it’s just something that doesn’t happen in most other countries. Sure, drunks in Britain like to hit each other, and Italian soccer hooligans are violent as heck, but biting enough people to outstrip rats? It’s something we can’t imagine happening anywhere else.

2. Americans Take ‘Fast Food’ Extremely Literally

The US is the birthplace of fast food. It’s the nation that brought the world the drive-thru, perfected the snack, and coined the phrase “lunch is for wimps.” Foreigners know all this intellectually. But confront them with a statistic like the following, and it’ll still blow their minds. Americans, you see, are the 3rd fastest eaters on Earth. On an average day, Americans spend only 74 minutes eating, nearly the lowest in the world.

That’s only slightly over 20 minutes each for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and far less if you include time put aside for eating snacks. If you live in the USA, this probably doesn’t seem so weird to you (the working lunch is an American specialty), but if you live elsewhere… man, you’re probably wondering how the heck they do it. In France, the average eating time is 135 minutes a day. In Turkey, it’s 162 minutes. Even in Japan, where people work far longer hours than in the US, they still manage to put aside 117 minutes a day for chow. The only other countries to spend as little time eating are Canada (72 minutes) and Mexico (under 70 minutes).

This is probably to do with both the American hard work ethic and fast food culture, which prioritizes productivity over relaxation. The same can be seen in a related statistic on cooking times. Nowhere else on Earth do people spend as little time cooking each day as in America.

1. Government Departments Have Official Advice for Reporting Elvis Sightings

One of the things foreigners know about the US is that it’s full of wackos seeing wacko things. There’s a reason The X-Files was so popular 20 years ago. But it’s one thing to hear about guys filming shaky footage of Bigfoot on their cell phone. It’s another entirely to hear that actual US government departments have official advice for reporting Elvis sightings.

Here, for example, is a link to the Federal government’s official website for copyright. Hover your mouse over the link. See that it ends .gov? It’s impossible for anyone not representing a government entity to register a .gov address. This site is legit. It’s part of the Federal government, and paid for by taxpayers’ money. And it includes official advice on how to copyright your sighting of Elvis.

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This isn’t a joke section put up by some lighthearted bureaucrat indulging a whim. It’s completely, mind-bogglingly serious. Which means the government was getting deluged with enough requests about Elvis sightings that they went to the trouble to post official advice about it. OK, say it with me now, altogether: only in America.


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9 Comments

  1. I have actually left the country without a passport. Before 9/11 you could travel freely between the US/ Canadien border with a mere certificate of birth. I have one now but I can see why Americans wouldnt need one. A lot of great places to travel just within our borders.

  2. Cynthia Simpson on

    I live close to Canada so I want to travel there. I lived in Japan as a youngster while my dad was stationed there, but that was back in the early 1960s and I’m sure things have changed greatly since I was there.

  3. Re # 7: Perhaps inhabitants of Australia earn more money than Americans do. Perhaps getting a passport is easier for them. Perhaps they have more time off. Perhaps they don’t have to jack with long, ridiculous security lines at airports that make air travel an absolute nightmare. Perhaps they don’t have airlines gouging them financially for what used to be standard amenities like a blanket. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

    Just because 50% of Americans have never left the country doesn’t mean they don’t like to travel. The USA is a huge place with a lot to see… why leave it?

    Just sayin’! 🙂

    • Dingus the Dingo on

      CJB, easy to find out if you search. Australian average wages are high, but US average wages are higher (though it’s always hard to compare due to taxation and cost of living differences).
      On the second point, I think it’s about the same.
      Yes, we have more time off (but tend not to use it).
      I don’t think air travel is a s bad as it is in the US, but still not fun.
      Yes, airlines gouge (the take their queues from the US) but are probably not as bad.

      As per your last point, it’s quite valid. Same argument is made here though. Travel when you are young is kind of a right-of-passage in Australia, so I think there is a cultural difference.

    • I agree. I have 5 cruises all over the world under my belt with the wife. Our best cruise? To Alaska!!! Second best trip–we drove from Houston to San Francisco and back last year (over 5000 miles in 3 weeks) and didn’t even get heartburn — year before last my wife went to Mexico and came back to 3 days in ICU with the “Bug”.
      We took a cruise all over Europe in 2011. Three weeks and a dozen places—most places we ran into the most rude people on the planet. A bus driver in Rome kicked us off the bus at the airport–our ticket said we paid $100.00 to go to the Marriott hotel but he said “not my problem–get off”.
      We had to pay another $60 for a cab ride to hotel. In fact the best tour we had was the Vatican–believe it–the very best guide WAS AN AMERICAN who retired from Army and lived in Rome….otherwise I have come to really dislike the people who stiff us at every turn:–the cruiselines, the guides, etc.

  4. Hey Ken! Stay to hell out of Canada – you cannot even spell Canadian. Yeah, America is all you will even need. It’s so great.

  5. Oh, and another fact: AMERICA refers to all of the Americas, not just the USA. There’s North America, Central America, and South America with many countries within each. At worst you are Upper Mexicans and at best you are Lower Canadians. Your downfall is just beginning with your new Commandant Orange Julius Caesar. Good luck!

  6. One thing I find about foreign places is the way they treat tourists. I have been to many foreign countries. I find most either rude, try to screw tourists, have hundreds of beggars selling schlock merchandise. NO wonder Americans don’t want to live or visit other countries. I remember only one experience I had in Europe worth its money–$80.00 my wife and I paid a guide to go thru the Vatican in Rome–GUESS WHAT?–HE WAS AN AMERICAN….
    I found Rome was about the worst place for tourists and some blame was on the travel agency and some on the travel guides…
    So all and all — AMERICA is SO GREAT…who needs expensive countries who want to rip off Americans who go there to enjoy friendship and spend our money. BTW: As an American I think Euros and others are weird–they all seem to live in small mega-ugly apartment flats and don’t have cars..I will take the USA with its beautiful homes, parks, and shiny cars all over the place…

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