Giving Thanks: Why Foreigners Find America Amazing

Photo by karen roach / Shutterstock.com

A few years ago, there was a question on Quora.com that asked the following: “What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America?”

Many people answered, and each reply was like a thread in a tapestry of the things that make our country unique, provided by those who first experienced the United States when they or their relatives arrived at our shores.

Thanksgiving is the perfect day for such a reminder of how lucky we are to live where we do.

I sifted through the extensive list of responses and pulled quotes — particularly those concerning money — that I found interesting, thought-provoking, charming or otherwise noteworthy.

Not all are flattering, but many are. Here, in their own words, are things about America that foreigners find amazing:

We’ve got a big country

“Foreigners cannot believe how vast the country is. I am from the West Coast of the U.S., and my Italian relatives come here thinking they can visit me in Seattle, plus also see New York City, Miami, the Grand Canyon and Hollywood all in a week — by car.”

Our priorities are different

“At least until the 1980s in Guyana, dog food was not a thing that existed. Dogs got table scraps and mostly were outside. They are surprised by how in America, people actually avoid feeding their dog ‘people food.'”

“There is almost no public transportation except in a few large cities. People actually have to have cars to get places. Cars are necessity, not luxury.”

“Bottles of water. For some reason, people carry huge bottles around. And the funny thing is, there’s a (refrigerated) water fountain in almost every corridor.”

“Biased media: Political bias, economic bias, geographic bias, etc. Clear misuse of freedom of speech. If all I hear is inaccurate news, my perception of the world will be grossly inaccurate. How hard is it to realize this?”

“The U.S. preserves its nature: I was thrilled to see how far ahead America is in preserving its beautiful nature. Absolutely terrific, kudos to you guys.”

We have some weird rules

“Coming from India, I found it amazing the way traffic behaved without any intervention from traffic policemen. Just everyone following the rules.”

“You’re not allowed to just cross the road when it’s safe? Crazy. You’d get nowhere in a city like London if you had to follow the rules you do in the U.S. No one believes you can get arrested for crossing the street.”

“An intern at work was saying he couldn’t go to the pub with us. I assumed it was because he was allergic to something or religious or something. It turns out he wasn’t 21. So you can vote, get married and serve in the military but can’t have a beer? Seriously?”

“The credit system in America will create a numerical value (credit score) to assess everyone’s financial fitness. No one know how the score is calculated but you need that to get a loan… or two… or three… and beyond. The irony: despite all this credit score stuff, 2008 Financial Crisis still happens.”

We’re heavily into ads

“My God how do people watch anything on TV in America without going insane? We watched half a movie, about an hour in length, but it took nearly two hours due to the adverts popping up every 8 or 9 minutes for 6 or 7 minutes. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but it was the same adverts EVERY TIME.”

We’re both friendly and trusting

“The niceness of strangers. Nicest people in the world, even in New York, which is supposed to be one of the rudest cities in the world.”

“In bars I’ve been in the situation where everyone hands over their credit cards and the bar staff keep track of how much everyone has spent and will hand you back a bill at the end of the night. This doesn’t happen anywhere else. In England you’d not trust the bar staff to do this at all — they’d probably steal your card.”

“Every cashier will greet you with “How are you today? You find everything okay?” with a smile, and you’re quite thrown off the first few times.”

“There is no culture of philanthropy in Russia and many view American philanthropy either as a waste of money or as some intricate plot to get some additional benefits.”

“That Americans make what they call ‘friends’ in a matter of minutes — and ditch them just as fast.”

“How people feel it’s important to immediately know your first name and use it.”

“Two of my friends were visiting from Moscow, and they quickly grew to appreciate the concept of valet services. Voluntarily giving your car keys to a complete stranger is a risky proposition in many other countries.”

Some stuff is cheap, some expensive

“Petrol is around $9 a (U.S.) gallon in England. No one from England can believe how cheap fuel is in America. Stop complaining when it’s $3.50 a gallon.”

“The cost of health care in this country is insane. It seems that all aspect(s) of health care (are) designed with ‘patient must be insured’ assumption — read: charge as much as possible. Any uninsured small procedure will leave a lasting impression in your financial health for many years to come.”

Family life is different

“Many Americans would rather stay in a hotel, or at least the Americans we know. Guyanese people (or at least my family) think it’s strange that you would pay money when you have relatives to stay with, even if you can afford it.”

“Many children, even in well-to-do families, work in fast food, car washes and do a lot of other things to get money and it is not an embarrassment.”

“You haven’t spoken to your family in more than a month?”

“The children here are allowed to do whatever they want, without corporal punishment, and are largely disrespectful to their elders. In Philippines, there were four generations of one family living under the same roof — sometimes the same bed. Here, children leave home and put their parents in nursing homes.”

We have it pretty darn good

“I’ve noticed that most Americans roughly have the same standard of living. Everybody has access to ample food, everybody shops at the same supermarkets, malls, stores, etc. I’ve seen plumbers, construction workers and janitors driving their own sedans, which was quite difficult for me to digest at first since I came from a country where construction workers and plumbers lived hand to mouth.”

“I don’t think there’s any such thing as a car seat in India. And parents carry their children mostly, most people can’t afford strollers here.”

“How well elderly live, even those on SSI and Medicaid. How many services are available to them.”

“My Russian in-laws were shocked when they found out that we get packages left on our doorstep and no one steals them. They were also shocked by buffets. My father-in-law told everyone back in Moscow, ‘No, really! You just pay to enter!'”

“The typical supermarket has at least a hundred varieties of frozen pizza, 50 brands of trail mix, etc. I was just astounded by the different kinds of products available even at small gas station convenience stores.”

“The cashier gave me an empty cup when I ordered soda. The concept of virtually unlimited soda refills was alien to me, and I thought there was a catch to it, but apparently not.”

“Why individual houses are so large? We always get into discussion that house is not just a shelter, but also a manifestation of one’s financial achievements.”

“My garbage disposal eats better than most of the children in the world.”

What do you think about the way people from other countries view ours? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Things I Always Buy at Costco
8 Things I Always Buy at Costco

From bacon to birthday cakes, here are my favorite deals at the popular warehouse store.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco
7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

The 14 Most Deadly Car Models
The 14 Most Deadly Car Models

These vehicles are involved in fatal accidents at least twice as often as the average car.

9 Things You Should Never Pay For With a Debit Card
9 Things You Should Never Pay For With a Debit Card

Use your debit card for one of these expenses, and you could risk your bank account balance, your credit score or even identity fraud.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money
17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money

You probably don’t realize these items are worth decent cash.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable
10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.