Americans Are Sharing Commonplace Realities About Life In The US That Feel Like Pure Fiction To Non-Americans

Unless you've lived in or spent significant time in the US, there are probably some aspects of life in the states you find seriously confusing. So, redditor u/MyUsername245 asked, "What is a fact about everyday American life you have had trouble getting non-Americans to believe or understand?" Here's what people said.

1."My brother-in-law is British, and the concept of large-scale collegiate athletics was astounding to him. He can't understand how 100,000 people will attend a college football game with others still tailgating in the parking lot."

Hands holding an NCAA basketball tournament.

2."Homecoming is a distinctly American tradition lots of non-Americans don't understand. It's basically a dedicated football game intended to invite previous alumni back 'home.' Many schools hold their class reunions on homecoming weekend so alumni attend the football game to support the team and to see old classmates. It's usually fun for the whole community. The traditions will vary from school to school and state to state, but that’s the general idea."

Students dancing at prom in the movie "Greece."

3."That yellow school buses are real, everywhere, and lots of states (if not all of them) have laws against driving past a school bus that's dropping off kids. Non-Americans seem to have their minds blown by this information."

Kids running to a yellow school bus.

4."How much laws vary from state to state. It was really fun explaining to a British kid in high school that Massachusetts and New Hampshire have opposite laws on a lot of things despite the fact their capitals are only 70 miles apart."

Zendaya looking confused.

5."That our police cars are black and white. I dated a British guy, and he was in awe seeing the real-life black and whites. He thought they were only in movies."

A cop standing by his car raising eyebrows.

6."That we're not all obese and eating fried butter, fried Oreos, and fried everything all day long."

Khloe Kardashian eating a salad.

7."That we don't take minimum vacation, sick days, and maternity/paternity leave by choice. We are only given minimum leave. On average, most Americans get eight sick days and two weeks of vacation for the entire year. Many dads don’t take paternity leave, and if they do, it is rare because most can’t afford to. Burnout culture is very real in the US."

Dwight from "The Office" talking about vacation.

8."The fact that it's very normal to have lunch at your office desk. A long leisurely lunch means you’re at work longer. Almost no employers offer paid lunches. A 90-minute gourmet feast in the middle of the day means I have to be at work later into the evening when I could be spending that time with my family. Also, having a good meal during the work day is kind of a waste. I'm not going to fully appreciate something tasty until I’m free. I might as well cram down calories as fast as possible and get to the end of work sooner."

Kate Hudson eating a sandwich at her desk.
Paramount Pictures

9."The importance of high school sports. My high school built an entire complex for our soccer and football teams. But our choir department didn't have enough funding to have a single concert."

Gabrielle Union cheerleading in "Bring It On."

10."I think a lot of non-Americans don't actually comprehend just how much most Americans rely on cars to get around and how little we can generally walk to places. It is not like most people choose to drive everywhere, but rather, we literally can't do anything else but drive in a large majority of the country. When I lived in a suburban area in Georgia, the closest supermarket was a 20-minute walk away."

Ansel Elgort driving a car.

11."Student loans. I was having a conversation with an international friend of mine about the cost of education abroad, and it was incredible to see just how different our bases were."

A graduating college class.

12."How powerful and wild the weather can be in much of the US. A bit of bad weather in the UK ruins your day plans. A bit of bad weather in the US can be lethal without proper shelter."

A garden during a hailstorm.

13."I have a Belgian coworker who genuinely did not believe that many Americans don’t have a passport and don’t travel internationally. To him, crossing an international border is such a regular part of life. He could drive for eight hours and cross a dozen borders. I don’t think he could grasp the idea of driving for eight hours and still being in the same state."

A young man making a confused expression.

14."Just how empty parts of the nation are. Sure we have dense cities, but we also have massive swaths of country with zero development, no roads, no structures, nothing."

A wheat farm in midwestern USA.

15."I've had trouble getting people to understand just how many churches there are in the US, and the variety of them. I'm originally from a small town in Kentucky of around 500 people. There are probably eight or nine churches, and half of them are different kinds of Baptists."

Old clapboard white rural church.

16."Despite the common misconceptions of 'American food,' the US has incredible cuisine, not just junk food. We have amazing locally available produce and fresh meat, and we have no shortage of excellent chefs and restaurants. The idea that we eat everything with Cheez Whiz really bothers me."

A woman eating a crab leg at a fancy restaurant.

17."The sheer size of the country. It's understandable, considering that even a lot of Americans don't understand the difference in scale between the east coast and, say, the Dakotas."

A long, scenic, empty road.

18."Taxes are, in fact, taken out of your paycheck here in the US. Not when we do our taxes, there are a ton of different credits and deductions that determine your actual tax rate. So you have to make sure you picked the right things when you entered your information with your employer or you may have underpaid or overpaid. Plus, if you have additional income from other sources, that would need to be taxed. And some deductions aren't captured by your employer — for example, I can deduct childcare which lowers my taxable income. But I have to show actual expenses at the end of the year."

Ron Swanson explaining taxes.

19."How truly rural some parts of the US are. Rural Europeans are like, 'What do you mean not all your roads are plowed, you have no cell service, and it takes hours for an ambulance to reach you?' The urban/rural divide is much less of a big deal there in many parts of Europe."

A rural road covered in snow

20."That the US has a TON of really good beer. It’s understandable that foreigners believe that we only have Bud Light because of how much we export it, but there are SO many more options. The craft brewery scene in America has exploded in the last few decades."

Hermoine Granger drinking butter beer.

21."In the big cities, sure, you can get almost anything 24/7, but in most of the US? Nope. There are a ton of places that don’t have 24-hour access to stores or even fast food. I grew up in a very small town, and the only grocery store (actually located in the next town over) closed at 6 or 7 p.m. Even where I live now, I still can’t find anything open past 10 p.m. besides McDonald’s."

A store with a lit up 24-hour sign.
Youngvet / Getty Images/iStockphoto

22."Americans don't think it's normal to travel an hour or more to get to work, but it is a necessity. Have you seen the size of the US? And the cost of living? Nobody likes a long commute, but if your job is in the city and you have found affordable housing in the suburbs, commuting is a necessity."

Kristin Wiig behind the wheel of a car.
Universal Pictures

23."People not from America just don't understand how massive and diverse America is. We have 50 separate states with 50 separate governments combined into one union. Applying European ideas to America won't work mostly due to size and population. Three million more people live in New York City alone than in all of Norway."

Justin Timberlake making a mind blown gesture.

What is something totally commonplace about the US that is difficult for non-Americans to understand unless they've lived here? Tell us in the comments!