This Irish Traveler Shares the 15 Things That Surprised Her About America

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We read a lot about Americans traveling the world – sometimes their experiences are great, and sometimes they’re amazed at how disliked we can be in other cultures. It’s rarer to read what travelers from other countries might think about us…and Irish writer/traveler Benny Lewis doesn’t pull any punches!

Caveat: This person spent a good amount of time (nearly a year total) in various cities, but almost all of them were a) large urban areas and b) on one coast or another. So, I guess if you live in flyover country, you can assume this might not apply.

#15. Why is tipping a thing?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“Instead of getting tipped they earn a wage like everyone else — and do their job, and if they do it bad enough, they’ll get fired. But apparently not pestering you every minute and not smiling like you are in a Ms. World competition means you are “rude.”

#14. Wasteful consumerism

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“What makes it worse is that these people sometimes claim to not have much money, and Apple products are added to their “necessities” list. The person I bought my iPad from sighed when I told him what I do, and he said he wished he had the money to travel. I wish he had the common sense to realize that if he stopped wasting his money, he’d have plenty left over.”

#13. You want to see my what?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“I’ve even seen 60-year-olds get ID’d. Nowhere else in the world do they ID me now that I’m clearly in my 30s. A few times I haven’t had my passport (the most important document I own that I really don’t want to get beer spilled over) in my jeans pocket and have simply been refused entry.”

#12. The rat race

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“Despite all the false positivity, I find Americans to be generally the most stressed and unhappiest people on the planet. Despite all the resources, and all the money they have, they are sadder than people I know who can barely make ends meet in other countries but still know how to live in the moment.

This rush to the finish line or to have a million dollars in your bank account or to get that promotion, and to have that consume your life, is something I find really sad.”

#11. Assuming America is the best

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

“America is indeed a better place with a higher standard of living than most of the world, but free speech and tolerance for all is the norm in the Western world as a rule, not just in America.

There is no best country.

I think patriotism is an excellent quality to have, and we should all be proud of where we were born. But nationalism (believing other countries are inferior) is a terrible quality.”

#10. The word ‘awesome’

Photo Credit: Workopolis

“I really hate the word awesome. It used to mean “that which inspires awe,” but in the states it means nothing! It doesn’t even mean good — it’s just a word — a filler, like “um” or “y’know.”

#9. Tax not included

Photo Credit: Compliance Signs

“I don’t give a flying toss how much YOU get — I want to know how much I have to pay! How much money … do you want me … to hand to you? Do I really have to spell this out?”

#8. Stereotypes are not cool

Photo Credit: Rappler

“A few others I’ve gotten include:

How was the boat ride over here? (Surprised that we have airports in Ireland — I must have arrived in rags in New York’s harbor of course.)
Too many people insisting Ireland was part of the UK. They actually argued it with me!
Did I have to check my car for IRA bombs when I was growing up? (Uuuugh … so many things wrong with this!)
Surprised I knew more about technology than they did. Aren’t we all potato farmers in Ireland?”

#7. The Jesus thing

Photo Credit: The Eggplant

“Even if I’m not religious, it’s up to everyone to decide what to believe. I find religious people in Europe to be NORMAL — it’s a spiritual thing, or something they tend to keep to themselves and are very modern people with a great balance of religion and modernism.

But I can’t stand certain Christian affiliations of religious Americans. It’s Jesus this and Jesus that all the bloody time. You really can’t have a normal conversation with them. It’s in-your-facereligion.”

#6. Mo’ money, mo’ problems

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“I met far too many people who were more interested in their bank balance than in their quality of life. People richer than I can possibly imagine who are depressed. More money seems to be the only way they understand how to solve problems. They don’t travel because they think they need tens of thousands of dollars (which is just simply not true, as you can read it in this post here), and they don’t enjoy their day because they may miss out on a business opportunity.”

#5. What does a smile mean, actually?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“When you smile all the time in public it means nothing. Apparently a smile releases endorphins, but if your face is stuck that way, I’m sure your dreams of a natural high will fade soon. I’d rather focus on trying to make my life better and have reasons to smile than lie to myself and the world.”

#4. Dear God, the advertising

Photo Credit: Topanga Chamber

“I feel like scraping out my eyes with toothpicks when I’m forced to endure advertising in America. Make it stop.”

#3. The obsession with ancestry

Photo Credit: Smarter Hobby

“Every American you meet is not actually American. They are a fourth Polish, three-seventeenths Italian, 10 other random countries, and then of course half Irish. Since Ireland is more homogeneous, it’s hard for me to appreciate this, so honestly I don’t really care if your great grandfather’s dog walker’s best friend’s roommate was Irish. I really don’t.”

#2. No pedestrian crossing

Photo Credit: Smithsonian Mag

“You can’t do anything without a car in most cases. With rare exceptions (like San Francisco or New York), all shops, affordable restaurants, supermarkets, electronics, etc. are miles away.”

#1. Crazy portion sizes

Photo Credit: Business Insider UK

Any time I ordered even a small portion I’d be totally full. Small means something different to me than it does to Americans. If you sit down in most places and order anything but an appetizer or a salad, you will eat more than you should.”

h/t: Business Insider