10 Things the World Would be Surprised to Learn About the USA


Americans have gotten a lot of flack around the world lately – some of it quite justifiably, we must admit. However, the United States is not a horrible place, or an evil dystopian fascist empire trying to take down the rest of the world (…yet). Most Americans are strongly against racism or any other kind of discrimination. While we get a lot of grief for our involvement in other countries’ foreign affairs, and our own domestic politics at home, there are many positive things about the United States that would surprise most foreign visitors.

10. Most Americans Don’t Own Guns

When you ask most people from other countries for an American stereotype, the one that comes most readily to mind is that Americans are all toting guns, and carrying them all over the place. Most people find this rather alarming and think that Americans should cool it a bit on their gun obsession. However, the truth is that like many stereotypes, there may be an element of truth, but it has been cartoonishly inflated beyond reason. America does have an estimated 265 million guns owned; however, this figure isn’t as alarming as it sounds when you realize that roughly 50% of these guns are in the hands of only 3% of the population. These so called “super-owners” sometimes have a hundred guns or more. Actually… OK, that does sound fairly alarming, but in a much different way.

The actual percentage of the population that owns guns is about 55 million, which is a much smaller percentage than many would think. Most of these gun owners only own one to two guns for personal defense or hunting. And, while most people think of Americans as gun-toting maniacs, many Americans don’t bother with carrying their weapon concealed, but just keep it at home for protection. Guns simply aren’t nearly as common in the United States as most people imagine them to be.

9. Americans Surprise People From Other Countries With Their Relentlessly Positive Outlook On Life

Americans are sometimes described as boisterous or loud when they visit other countries, but among the more positive traits, Europeans and others have said that Americans surprise them with their sunny outlook on the world. Even though many Americans may consider themselves cynical, most Americans still believe that if they get lucky, or just play their cards right, they could be the next millionaire, and that everything could be looking up any day now. Americans always expect things to get better, and never stop believing it will happen. This really all comes down to the American dream, that if you work hard enough in America you can become more successful than your father, and your child more successful than you, and so on.

On the other hand, many others, especially from European countries, look at things differently. They consider themselves more realistic and grounded, and while they aren’t exactly depressed about it, they believe they recognize the world for what it is. They know that many things won’t actually change, and believe it is better to stoically accept what you really cannot alter. It astounds many Europeans how much Americans believe that almost anything can be fixed if you try hard enough.

8. Americans Are Far More Personable And Friendly Than Many Cultures Expect At First

Rumors have spread around the world about the United States of America being racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and many other kinds of phobic. Some people are afraid of traveling to the US, and some visitors expect that they will be treated unkindly, especially the more “foreign” they look. However, most Americans are really not racist, and even many of those who are partly got to where they are out of ignorance (which doesn’t excuse it, of course). Many racists in America have never really met anyone from the race they claim to dislike.

Americans tend to be a friendly and inquisitive lot, who like to get to know strangers and new cultures, and tend to get on well with new people overall. This means that even an American who may be casually racist will often be quite friendly to foreign visitors, and sometimes will quickly change their mind when they realize just how similar the visitor really is as a person, and how little really divides us. Because Americans are so curious, it will often quickly turn to trying to learn as much about this new culture as possible, and see what interesting new practices they might add to their own.

7. Americans Are One Of The Most Charitably Giving People In The World

Americans are sometimes called selfish by other nations in the world because of how much they complain about taxes and social programs. It astounds many countries, especially in Europe, that Americans will fight so hard against any government program that provides assistance to poor people, or people with disabilities. However, what many foreigners do not realize is that while some Americans may just be greedy, many are standing on principle and simply disagree with the way things are being done. Americans are very proud and independent – they really don’t like being told what to do by their government.

Americans are incredibly giving and one of the most charitably giving people in the world – they will also rush to the blood banks after any kind of major disaster. However,  many Americans believe that personal, individual American charity will always perform better than that done by the government. They would rather have more of their own money to donate where they think it is needed most than have the government making that decision with more of their tax dollars. Most Americans would give their left arm, they just think they should choose who to give the arm to instead of giving it to the government to distribute the arm as they see fit.

6. In General, Americans As A Whole Are Much Less Judgmental Than Many Cultures

Many people actually expect Americans to be quite judgmental when they visit, often due to many stereotypes about Americans and race. However, this is actually often quite the opposite. Now, America is a big country so there will always be some people who are judgmental or rude and even extend this behavior to visitors from other countries. Most Americans, though, actually tend to be less judgmental than many other countries. Many countries have strict social customs, styles of dress, or behavior codes that have built up over the years – some social rules can be quite strict, and cause a lot of problems if you break them.

However, in the United States, everyone from a high powered CEO to a blue collar sanitation worker is really on the same social hierarchy in almost every place in the country aside from private clubs or organizations, and everyone is treated the same. While the occasional person may judge you for your religion, there really aren’t that many restrictive social rules besides being polite, so you can mostly just be yourself and get away with it. In many countries self expression can easily be a faux pas, but in the United States of America, it is encouraged to be yourself and most people will praise you for it instead of judging you. Even most Christians in the United States, while encouraging you to join their religion, take the adage of “judge not” very seriously.

5. Freedom Of Speech Is Considered Truly Sacred In The United States Of America

Many people who visit the United States, or even talk to Americans online, are surprised by just how vociferously Americans will defend their right to freedom of speech. Even though the rule only applies to the government not directly doing anything to squelch your speech as a citizen, people will get angry about it in comment sections, private message boards, social media, any kind of private group in real life, and literally anywhere you could attempt to apply it. And even though free speech doesn’t apply to most of these places (at least, not protected free speech – you’re welcome to say anything you like, but aside from as it pertains to the government, you don’t have freedom from consequences if you tell your boss what you really think of him, for example), Americans will still generally agree that free speech should be a right everywhere, if possible, even if not mandated by the government.

Some people may think this is going overboard, because it allows harmful speech, but Americans believe that free speech is important for more than just stubborn tradition. Americans believe that if you start having arbiters decide what speech is and isn’t okay, you will almost certainly end up with unfairness and people not being properly heard, because no human being is truly impartial no matter how hard they try. And while damaging ideas can get into the public sphere easier with truly free speech, those who believe in free speech believe that if an idea is bad, it can and should be hashed out and taken down in the public sphere. If it is truly bad, it will not hold up to scrutiny, and public debate will only cement that further in the minds of anyone who was not sure about the issue.

4. America The Country Gives More Foreign Aid Than Any Other Country In The World

America is often criticized for getting too involved in the affairs of foreign governments, usually in a negative sense. In short, the United States of America has been accused of overthrowing governments, assassinating leaders, installing their own puppet governments, secretly supporting fascist leaders, openly supporting fascist leaders, and everything else imaginable that you could think of. Right now, especially because of heavy-handed involvement in the Middle East, the world’s good will towards the United States is at an all-time low.

However, the truth is that while the United States sometimes gets a little more militarily involved than it should, this is partly because the USA is involved almost all over the world, and is involved far more than for just military reasons. The USA is giving aid to a lot of countries in the world at any given time, and we have an incredible amount of our citizens volunteering to help people in other countries. In recent years, we even saw an uptick of older people, even older couples, joining the Peace Corps to help people in developing countries. While it doesn’t make up a large portion of our overall GDP, it is a significant amount of money to the countries we are helping, and we have been steadily giving aid, even to some countries we are not always on perfect terms with, for a very significant period of time.

3. Americans Love Trying Out New Cultures And Blending Their Food And Practices Into Their Own

For a country that many people have begun trying to stereotype as xenophobic, they forget that the United States of America is the original melting pot of the world, and is probably more diverse than any other country to this day. While there are many racists in such a large country who have apparently also forgotten that the USA has always been a melting pot, we also have an incredible amount of different people and cultures living side by side. Americans may love their independence and their American Pride, but they also love trying out food and cultural practices from other countries.

Americans will happily take an excuse to start celebrating a new holiday, or add something new to a holiday they already celebrate, and adding something from another culture makes Americans feel even more American. The American melting pot is a way of life and Americans make it a matter of habit to incorporate anything new from other countries whenever they can. As we mentioned earlier, even many xenophobic Americans simply haven’t met many people who don’t look like them, and being very curious people, they will often end up putting aside their casual racism as they ask questions and listen with fascination for the answers about the culture of a people wholly different from their own.

2. The Amount Of People Who Own A Car Surprises Most Visitors To The USA

When people visit the USA from other countries, especially from Europe, one of the things that surprises them most is that nearly everyone owns a car, and those who don’t are trying to get their license or save up to buy one. This is such a huge cultural shift that many Europeans find it particularly jarring, as they are used to most people using public transportation, with car ownership being fairly rare. However, this cultural difference is fairly easy to explain. Europeans are mostly concentrated in cities that are extremely crowded, and have very comprehensive public transportation systems. Gas is extremely expensive, and parking is hardly even a thing, so most people don’t bother with cars.

However, in the United States of America, car ownership is almost a necessity in most places. Most places do not even have adequate public transportation, and even in those that do, it is hardly comprehensive enough for most people to give up car ownership altogether. Americans also simply do not like public transportation because they enjoy their independence. Americans are quite friendly people and will smile at others randomly at the store and strike up a conversation in line, but they like control over their own destiny, and would prefer not to give it to another driver, or to a mostly automated train.

1. When You Enter A Business In The USA During The Summer, We Blast The Air Conditioning

In most countries, if you enter a store during the summer it might be a little cooler, or there might not be any serious air conditioning at all. A store is a place to shop, not a place to enjoy a nice, cool, relaxing time. Stores need to make money as well, and blasting air conditioning around a store is going to cost a lot of money, especially with the doors opening and closing all the time. It is fairly reasonable that many places in many countries either leave it on low, or may just open windows and use fans if it is a fairly small establishment.

However, in the United States of America, air conditioning is pretty much mandatory for any business during the summer that wants to have any kind of (good) reputation. And you can’t just leave it on low, you have to put the air conditioning on high and blast the fans. Especially at big box stores, when you enter a building in the USA during the summer, you will be hit with an arctic blast so fierce that if you came in sweating, wearing only a t-shirt (and hopefully some pants, of course), you may soon find yourself shivering like crazy, trying to adjust to the rapid temperature shift. This may sound crazy to people from other countries, but Americans like their creature comforts, and if one store didn’t blast the air conditioning, consumers would take advantage of the free market and find another store that did.

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