Giving Thanks: Why Foreigners Find America Amazing

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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.

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