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15 Little Things About America That Drive Tourists Crazy

There are lots of great places to see in America, but visiting our beautiful country can be very stressful for some foreigners.

We like to do things a little differently here in the land of the free, and that rubs certain people the wrong way. Here are 15 things that simply confuse tourists:

1. The Metric System

Countries that don't use the Metric system.

The won't admit it, but a few countries still use feet and inches to measure height, and pounds for weight, but pretty much everything else has changed to the metric system. Most visitors will have no idea what to expect if you tell them it's 80 degrees outside, or that they need to walk "5 miles down the road." Why are we still using the Imperial system again?

2. Filling glasses with ice

Sure, there's nothing more refreshing than a tall glass of sweet tea filled to the brim with ice on a summer day, but why do we load our glasses with ice the rest of the year? Even in the winter a restaurant will serve you a soda chock full of ice, a uniquely American habit.

3. We take credit

In most countries, carrying a little cash around in your wallet is a necessity. Odds are that something, from a parking machine to a small store, will only take coins and bills. Not only is credit accepted in America, most places will still let you get by with just a swipe and a signature, while other countries use a chip and PIN code.

"Even a small picnic I went to, which had an entry fee, had some sort of mobile app and a device attached to accept credit cards," remembers a recent immigrant from India. "It was amazing."

4. Big portion sizes

Yes, everything's bigger in Texas, but a plate of food at an American restaurant is nothing to sneeze at. On average, Americans chow down on an extra 500 calories each day compared to countries like Mexico and Spain. The Japanese eat nearly 900 fewer calories than we do every day. Tourists are often surprised to find they need a doggy bag to take their meal home.

5. Tipping

Another problem that pops up when foreigners visit our restaurants: tipping. Every coffee shop, restaurant, hotel and even barber shops in America will ask you for tips. America is one of the few countries where this habit persists, and it means a lot of extra math and confusion for tourists.

What part of American TV annoys tourists? You can probably guess...

6. Commercials

Tune into an hour of American TV and you'll probably catch 20 minutes of commercials, which is enough to drive visitors bonkers. Most countries have no commercials, or rules requiring them to be much shorter. Plus, typically American ads like ones for doctor's offices, lawyers and prescription drugs seem bizarre in the rest of the world.

7. Our cab drivers

Yes, there are taxis in other countries. In fact, the word "taxi" is the same in at least 30 different languages. But the quality of our cabbies leaves something to be desired. In London, cab drivers study for years to take a test called The Knowledge to memorize the city's streets.

Meanwhile, a Russian travel advisory had this to say about America's taxi drivers: "Taking a taxi is not always convenient, as most American taxi drivers are recent immigrants who speak English poorly. It often turns out that the tourist knows the city better than the taxi driver."

8. Prudishness

Americans like to think of ourselves as an open and welcoming society, but nudity is still taboo. Most countries show nudity on regular TV channels after a certain hour, and while nude beaches are an oddity in America they're common throughout Europe. This leads to a lot of confused travelers.

"Bathing topless or without a shirt is forbidden," Switzerland warns its citizens about America, while Germany explains that "even changing clothes on the beach, can be construed as indecent exposure and therefore may cause problems."

9. Return policies

This one is actually a welcome change, but it still leaves foreigners scratching their heads. America's stores are world-famous for their lenient return policies. Nordstrom once returned a set of snow tires that were bought in a building their company had purchased.  This generosity is unheard of in other countries, where the go-to rule is "buyer beware."

10. We're very protective of our lawns

While lots of other countries share our love of gardening, Americans take their front lawns very seriously. New immigrants and tourists wonder why we spend so much time keeping them green and trimmed, and don't seem to appreciate why walking all over them can get you in trouble.

"Take good care of flowers and trees, etc." warns one Chinese tourist guide.

11. Our country is huge

American states compared to countries of similar size.

Visiting "distant" relatives in France or Britain might mean sitting on a train for a few hours, but in America it normally involves and epic road trip with your family packed into the backseat. Before they arrive, many tourists underestimate just how long a cross-country tour will take.

12. Our friendly attitudes

The stereotype of the rude American tourist still lingers, but most visitors actually find us a little too agreeable. Smiling cashiers who ask you about your day are unheard of overseas, and even strangers will smile at you as you walk down the street. How weird is that?

13. Everyone owns a car

Well, almost everyone. Based on the number of cars per 1,000 people, 8/10 Americans drive a car or live in a family with multiple cars. Meanwhile only about 6/10 Spaniards drive and just 5/10 Brits do. Along with bikes, most foreigners rely on forms of public transportation like trains and buses, which are much rarer stateside.

14. Less than half of Americans have passports

Where is our wanderlust? About 40% of people in America have a passport, and the number drops even lower when you subtract immigrants with foreign passports or dual citizens. It makes sense, since our country is so big that lots of people live their whole lives without visiting anywhere else.

15. Air conditioning

Sure, AC is a godsend, and it's the only thing that makes life livable in our scorching summers, but tourists used to milder climates aren't prepared for pumped up AC systems in every mall or office building. Lots of Americans get used to wearing blankets at work, which is definitely not common around the world.

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