Things Americans Obsess Over That Puzzle the Rest of the World

Young woman at beauty treatment clinic


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Young woman at beauty treatment clinic

The American Way

In many countries, Americans are painted with a broad and not-so-nice brush. We are loud, opinionated, and a little too casual in dress and manner. So, it’s no wonder that the rest of the world side-eyes Americans about what we find attractive in looks, attire, decor, and much more. Experts, academics, and well-traveled people shared their observations and experiences about what American preferences make other people across the planet roll their eyes.


Related: The True Origins of Classic ‘American’ Foods

Closeup of a woman in white jeans on a field background.
Iuliia Komarova/istockphoto

Surgically Enhanced Butts

Toronto-based plastic surgeon Dr. Martin Jugenburg of the SixSurgery Clinic operates globally, so he has experience with plastic surgery preferences worldwide and is often asked about this topic on social media. “Large buttocks, thick thighs, and a thin waist is a trendy silhouette in America, but less so in Europe and Asia,” he said. “European women like the curves, but not the excessive buttock sizes that many women in America desire.”

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a dog in a wedding dress posing outdoors

Dressing Up Dogs

Have you bought a dog tutu or a sassy Carmen Miranda get-up for your canine companion? Americans are the worst when it comes to doggy dress-up, said Isabel Ludick, marketing director at DoggieDesigner. “Americans spend the most money on their pets annually. No other country comes close to the United States. Americans are the only people who seem to enjoy dressing their animals up in human-like clothes: jackets, jerseys, booties, and tutus. Sure, other countries also dress up their pets, but America is the front runner when it comes to pet fashion.”

Related: The Most Popular Dog Breeds in America

Modern sunbed in a beauty salon

Extreme Tans, Fake or Otherwise

British expat Nikki Webster has a travel blog and a lot of insider intel on appalling American behaviors, at least to Brits. Her blog, Brit on the Move, is full of insight into what the British find odd about their cousins across the pond. For example, she said, “Lots of cultures tan, but nowhere near as obsessively as in America. And while tanning beds may be on their way out, spray tans are still in, as are self-tanning products.”

christmas lights house
Thomas De Wever/istockphoto

Over-the-Top Holiday Light Displays

The love of festooning a lawn and house with seasonal lights and doodads for any holiday appalls Britons, Webster said. “We've all seen ‘Home Alone’ and ‘National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.’ People who don't live in the States assume the decorations on display are over the top — that is, until they visit and see for themselves. Regardless of the neighborhood or income levels, Americans go all out for Christmas, if they celebrate.”

Beautiful tourist traveling and enjoing busy city life of New York City.

Casual Clothing for All Occasions

Adam Garcia, CEO at The Stock Dork, said Americans take the casual attire trend a bit too far. “How people dress in America is very different from the way people dress in other cultures. For example, Indians and Pakistanis get culture shock when they visit the United States for the first time and see people wearing shorts everywhere. There’s a differentiation between casual, semi-formal, and formal dressing in most cultures, which is done according to the occasion. Americans, on the other hand, are proud to be casually dressed everywhere.”

Attractive lady checking her beautiful smile in mirror

Ridiculously Perfect Teeth

Brit expat Webster said that residents of the U.K. find our obsession with straight, white teeth alarming. "This is a global running joke. How do you spot an American abroad? From their teeth! Conversely, Americans are appalled at the condition of the rest of the world's teeth. And only in America is it normal for kids to get braces 'just because' or preemptively."

Woman planning to have a breast implant

Round Breast Implants

The most popular shape of breast implant in America happens to be round, like a Tupperware bowl — a Yankee dead giveaway. "Typically, more American women prefer the rounder, 'fake' look," said Dr. Jugenburg. "I often hear patients say things like, 'If I paid for it, I want people to know I got them done,' whereas European and Asian women typically prefer a more teardrop, natural-looking shape to their breasts."


Related: Easy Ways to Keep Up With the Kardashians for Less

Breast Implants

Enormous Breast Implants

In addition to noting a difference in shape preference, Dr. Jugenberg said American women choose bigger breast implants than women outside the U.S. "The average breast implant size in America is larger than what one may find in Europe or Asia," he said. "Almost 20% of American patients choose large implants compared to about 3% of European patients."

Flag of Great Britain II

Foreign Accents, British in Particular

Have you noticed Americans love their British weathermen and those accents in general? ”One thing that Americans find attractive more than any other culture is a foreign accent,” said Amy Pritchett, a relationship science analyst for ”The British accent is associated with status and wealth. British characters are always intelligent and fashionable, and Americans think British people sound ‘smarter’ and find them sexier because the media industry has positioned them this way. There is also no denying that an upper-class British accent has a beautiful elegance to it, and even the lower-class accents have earthy sounds to them.”

Woman with protective mask receiving treatment in hair salon
Group4 Studio/istockphoto

Blond Hair

Blondes are an American fixation, said Dawn Clemens, founder of Larwe Hair. “The number of natural blondes in the world and America itself is ridiculously low, but the trend has always held a special place in Hollywood and the country itself.” she said. “The obsession is associated with men who find blondes more attractive and younger than women with darker hair colors. This is not the case with most countries, as Asian and Latin countries prefer darker-haired women, therefore, confirming that blond women are the norm in the U.S.A.”

American Hot Rod

Expensive Luxury Cars

Euros and Brits love their cars, but you won’t see many low riders or pumped-up pickups and flames on fins in the old country, according to British expat Webster. “Cars and specifically car rims! How many times have you seen an $80,000 car parked outside an apartment? Or outside a house worth not much more? Americans are obsessed with cars. People outside of America would not dream of having that much money invested in a vehicle.”

Aesthetic corrective treatments. Filler injections

Pouty, Overinflated Lips

Lips blown out of proportion are all the rage — but only in America. “American women like a fuller mouth than their European and Asian counterparts,” Dr. Jugenberg said. “In the last decade, lip filler has risen about 50% in America since 2000, likely thanks to Kylie Jenner and her infamous pout. This is not to say that these American beauty trends cannot be found outside of North America. However, if you were to scan through social media accounts of plastic surgeons from around the world, this is a pattern we find.”

Satisfied woman looking in mirror check face after beauty treatment

Excessively Tight Face Lifts

The penchant for face modification is over the top in America, according to Webster’s British-influenced observations. “Over-the-top facelifts are another American giveaway. Now, when I say over-the-top, I am talking about the type that makes a face look like it's blasted by the wind from a 737 jet airliner. Overstretched, fake, and overdone. So tight that a smile looks painful.”

An American flag proudly displayed.

Flags and Patriotic Decor

Patriotism on steroids and flags galore are attractive decor to the average American. But to Europeans and Brits, they're a bit cringy, Webster said. "Flags — where do we start with this? The flag obsession is everywhere, from cars to houses, boats, and back. And it's not just the U.S. flag — it's the football flags, the Confederate flag, the school flag. No other culture is as obsessed with flags as America."


Related: Old Glory: The American Flag’s Most Iconic Moments

Skin care business

Heavy Makeup

Jack Miller is the founder of How I Get Rid Of, and in his work has picked up that people outside the U.S. find the American love affair with makeup to be off-putting. “Most of my female staff members always ask me why American women go all out with their makeup. They notice it both on TV and the streets during their respective visits to the country. I don’t have an answer for this other than it’s always been this way, I guess, dating back to the old-timey era of the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner.”

Asian senior adult female is talking to African American senior adult man and woman in grocery store
Courtney Hale/istockphoto

Talking to Strangers

Most Americans think it's a good idea to chat people up. Not so elsewhere, said Alice Anderson, founder of golf website How She Golfs. "While this is considered friendly in America and can be attractive to some people, many foreigners see it as offering way too much information to someone you don't know. It's not uncommon for an American to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation."

Getting ready to go out

Wearing Pajamas in Public

People roll out of bed and enter the public realm wearing jammie pants in America, but Sofie Parker, a wellness expert for Inboard Skate, said: "British people are appalled by the fact that Americans find it okay to wear PJs in public. When I was in Europe, I always had to dress up, even when I'm just getting coffee from the shop across the street. In America, nobody's going to stare at you even if you wear lounge clothes outside."


Related: Pajamas, Sweats, and Leisure Wear Perfect for Working From Home

Fingernail decorations

Elaborate Manicures

According to wellness expert Parker, the bedazzled, inlay decals and holiday-themed nail art trends are over the top in America. "In America, nail salons are always full on the weekends. We like to get our nails done, whether it's a simple manicure or having long acrylic nails. My British husband just doesn't find it attractive, and it seems impractical to him why we put so much effort into our nails when they're just going to grow back."

Waxing keeps it smoother for longer
katleho Seisa/istockphoto

A Lack of Body Hair

The American preference for hair removal isn't a universal one. Travel expert Webster said it's only Americans who prefer "shaving all hair — underarms, bikini, and legs, etc. Some cultures shave, some don't. However, in America it's a norm to shave any hair except your head hair."

French fries fry in hot bubbling oil

Deep Frying Everything

Adanna Jideofor, an African woman living in America, has found that Americans love to deep-fry everything. “From fish to bread to chicken, just name it,” the public relations manager for men’s clothing brand Oliver Wicks said. “I find this food habit weird and scary at the same time, especially with the rising cases of obesity linked to the excessive consumption of junk food. Frying is quite common in Nigeria, but we don’t deep-fry as much as Americans do. We do more boiling and roasting of food. The most bizarre fried thing I’ve observed Americans eating is deep-fried butter. Like why would anybody eat that? Yuck!”


Related: The Best Fried Foods Around the World

double cheeseburger with tomato and onion

Huge Portions of Food

Fast food portions in the United States are of great concern to Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor at New Mexico State University who has a doctorate in public health. “In Europe and Asia, the portion sizes are much smaller, and we do not see these jumbo-sized burgers or beverages. It surprised me initially when I came to the U.S., because I had never seen so much incentivization of junk food given the high burden of obesity in the U.S. We seem to love large-size meals as long as they are cheaper, and in many instances, the companies also encourage bigger, cheaper meals. Unfortunately, many developing countries are now copying these trends.”


Related: Unhealthy Habits You Need to Rethink

Pizza with a Stuffed Crust

Pizza Overloaded With Toppings

John Capo, assistant professor of communications at Lycoming College, is an Italian-American and Brooklyn native who discovered his American pizza preferences had little to do with the real thing. “I participated in a student exchange program, and my Italian host family brought home a pizza. It had the thinnest coating of cheese, a little basil, and absolutely no toppings. The whole thing was so unassuming. This is how Italy does pizza, and ever since my trip, I've chuckled every time I'm stuffing my face with the Deep-Dish Double Crust Extra-Everything Hold-Nothing Baconator from whatever pizza shop happened to be open at 2 a.m. Ever since my trip to Italy, I know real pizza. American pizza, you are no real pizza.”


Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Pizza Joints Across America

Woman eating burger and fries delivered at home alone
Stefan Tomic/istockphoto

Eating Out All the Time

Americans live to eat out or get takeout, and journalist Christina Kumar said most Indians would not be impressed. “Cooking is passed down generationally in the Indian culture. It's a safer and healthier way to eat, since the ingredients and cleanliness of the food are controllable. I will eat out more often, since I was born in the U.S. and it is more common. I am still able to eat healthily. However, Indians prefer to dine at home.”


Related: Takeout Meals Made Cheaper at Home

Night out with the girls

Celebrating Halloween

Khubchandani and many of his foreign peers are perplexed that some Americans find it attractive to dress as a sexy nurse on Oct. 31. "Many of my immigrant friends and distant family members in the U.S. and Asia still do not understand the concept of celebrating Halloween," the professor said. "Is it religious? Is it spiritual? Is it holy? What surprises people is that in a country that leads in science and research, people observe Halloween to ward off ghosts. Many in India are also doing the same now, especially the younger generation with a heavy American influence and cultural exchange."


Related: Vintage Halloween Photos That Will Haunt You

bullets and gun on black velvet desk
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Many Americans find guns sexy or attractive and covet them, causing less-enamored Americans some real distress. People outside the U.S. tend to agree. "People ask me about the fascination of Americans with guns," Khubchandani said. "Every time we have a mass shooting, I get texts and messages — what is happening in America? Relatives in the U.K. and India are always perplexed about this, but I understand it better now with my line of research in violence prevention."

Family time is fun time

Working Constantly

Vacations are for losers in American culture, and taking off for weeks at a time is an unattractive Euro thing. “Taking vacations is a rare occurrence. But vacation time to get away from the office for a few weeks and even months is popular outside of the United States,” said Charles McMillan, the founder of Stand With Main Street. “Taking time off in America, on the other hand, is frequently viewed with guilt. Outsiders find our collective workaholism perplexing.”

Related: Mistakes Americans Make When Traveling Abroad