15 Common European Quirks That Confuse American Visitors

Written By Wise Healthy n Wealthy

When Americans venture into Europe, it’s not just the sights that amaze them—it’s the cultural differences that often leave them shocked too. Based on online discussions, here are 15 puzzling aspects of European life that catch many Americans off guard:

15. “Bidets.”

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“Those aren’t unknown, but it’s true they aren’t common. But I do know people who have them in their homes.”

“I finally switched during the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of Spring 2020. I feel so unclean sh****** anywhere else.”

14. “Walkable Cities.”

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“More specifically – not just cities but basically every single town having walkable areas. I knew coming to Europe that the cities would be like that, but living here has shown me that it’s everywhere where people live. We’re pretty aware of terrible diets leading to obesity in America, but not having the ability to walk anywhere doesn’t get talked about nearly enough as a contributing factor.”

13. “Paying to Use a Toilet.”

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“Italy has a lot of pay toilets.”

“It’s a great idea because a) it pays for itself re: cleaning and maintenance and b) no junkies and crazies inside.”

12. “Work-Life Balance.”

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“Going to Europe and then coming back to Texas and visiting our corporate offices in Dublin, London, Paris.

Yes the European working hours are different. But it seems there’s more of a balance and respect for personal time and medical time or absence. Vs in America working yourself to the bone.”

11. “Mayo with french fries.”

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“I’m in the US but have cousins in Holland. They introduced me to this years ago and it’s pretty awesome.”

“The irony of Americans putting mayo on everything EXCEPT french fries.”

“Wait till you try a blend of mayo and ketchup. Called fry sauce in some places.”

10. “The maternity leave.”

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“An entire, paid year?! I get that they can channel more money into that stuff since the US has military needs paid for, but that’s still pretty impressive.”

“Up to two years in my European hometown. Currently living in the US and there is no chance I’d ever have a child here. No proper leave and having to pay for giving birth and daycare? No thanks.”

9. “Universal health care and free college.”

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“Providing healthcare to sick people without bankrupting them.”

“What is this health care you speak of? Also I don’t understand this ‘free.’”

“It’s technically free, but you still have to pay the administration fee, at least in germany for the LMU. It’s only 85€ though.”

8. “dd/mm/yyyy.”

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“YYYY-MM-DD. I’ll accept nothing else.”

“I just encountered this one yesterday from a colleague located in Germany. She asked me to relay a message to a colleague here in the US as she was logging off for the day. As part of her message, she included the term CW 34. I had never heard that before and she was logged off before I could ask for clarification. Upon googling the term, I realized she meant the 34th Calendar Week of the year. I was blown away.”

7. “Passenger trains.”

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“We have trains. They are just mainly for freight. Long distance passenger trains are a bit of a hard sell because of the distances involved and the convenience of the interstate highway system.”

“In Europe, most rail traffic is passenger. It’s conveniently built that way. In North America, rail traffic is immensely stacked in favour of freight, so passenger traffic might be held up for hours waiting for a scheduled freight train.”

6. “Tips are optional.”

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“I went to a bakery in the US recently to buy ONE loaf of bread, and at the end of this one-minute exchange, the girl at the counter turned her iPad around to ask for a tip.”

“As a German, tipping requirement at restaurant is a mystery to me. I have never done that and it’s super uncommon in Germany because the staff is paid by the restaurant owner.”

5. “Coalition governments.”

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“As an American, this wins for sure. Everything else I’ve seen is self-explanatory but this is a truly alien concept.”

“The current coalition in the Netherlands is made out of three parties.”

4. “Not worrying about wild animals while hiking.”

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“In most of Western Europe at least, needing to carry bear spray or whatever is just not a thing. Our “wildlife” such as it is pretty tame and sadly any wilderness we have isn’t really wilderness on the scale of N America.”

“In my state (Connecticut, between Boston and New York) our local wildlife organizations go back and forth on if we have bobcats/mountain lions or not. We do, and plenty of bear.”

3. “5 weeks of vacation.”

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“Getting sick and not using vacation days. Getting sick on vacation and using a doctor’s note to get the vacation days back.”

“Six weeks’ vacation as paid time off and another 6 or 7 weeks sick pay…”

2. “Bathroom doors with no gaps.”

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“This completely baffled me on my US trip. It’s not just in this or that location which had a construction error or really had to go for the cheapest option, it’s virtually everywhere. Why do Americans want to watch each other ****? Even their coworkers in a nice office building?”

“…As someone with IBS I loathed American public toilets. Was always extremely stressed when I had to use them. What’s the point of even having a door if you can still see someone through it?!”

1. “Prices already include taxes.”

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“I’ve lived in Australia most of my life, but I spent a few years living in the US when I was young. I vividly remember having saved up for a Wii game I wanted, going down to the electronics store with my 50 dollar note, and trying to buy the game with a “$50” sticker on it, only to get to the counter and find out that it actually secretly cost more than that (and the guy at the checkout was pretty rude about it too). I had to go home empty-handed cause I didn’t know enough about US taxes when I was 12.”


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