What am I making a big ceremony out of and not even aware I'm doing it?
October 5, 2016 4:29 AM   Subscribe

So, in a discussion I observed that wrapping packages was a pedestrian task which the Japanese have elevated to a high art. Which immediately made me wonder, what sorts of things am I doing that I'm actually overdoing or that I culturally expect to be overwrought? That people from other places would peg me as as someone from the US or even the midwest because of what I pay extensive attention to. What about other places? What cultures think a job done right is worth overdoing?
posted by Kid Charlemagne to Society & Culture (82 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Well, there is the "Minnesota goodbye." Which is a five to twenty minute leave taking, with hosts following guests, sometimes out to their car!, talking over the visit, compliments, last minute topics of conversation, etcetera. I actually caught myself perpetuating this cycle the other day. My young son had a friend over, and this kid was getting picked up. They both said "bye" and my son kept playing. "No no," I whispered, "you have to walk him to the door and greet his mom and keep chatting and waving until the car leaves!"
posted by Malla at 5:21 AM on October 5, 2016 [56 favorites]

This has been discussed on metafilter before, but I grew up in the midwest and have always considered it a normal thing to give first-time visitors a tour of your home. Which, you know, is pretty weird when you think about it.
posted by something something at 5:34 AM on October 5, 2016 [76 favorites]

Not you personally, but your country makes a much bigger deal about elections and campaigning than is usual in most other places.

Also, my impression from the Americans I know is that children's homework (having times for it, supervising and checking it, and even having homework at all) is a way bigger part of life and more structured than in most other cultures.

Western English speaking countries tend to make a bigger deal out of learning foreign languages than other places, where it's just a thing that naturally happens due to immersion and/or intermarriage and/or as a part of schooling just like other school subjects.

Finally, western industrialised counties make more of a ceremony around the lead up to giving birth - classes, hospital tours, birth plans etc.
posted by lollusc at 6:17 AM on October 5, 2016 [15 favorites]

Oh, and cycling, probably, if you do it at all. Most parts of the US, people who cycle have special clothes they change into, and have regular maintenance rituals and schedules for their bikes, and accessories, etc. even training plans to get and stay fit for cycling. In places with more of a cycling culture, you probably have a few old bikes outside and you hop on one in your street clothes and just do it.
posted by lollusc at 6:21 AM on October 5, 2016 [44 favorites]

posted by stray at 6:25 AM on October 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

Having people over to your house: in many cultures, it's a very casual thing, where people will just pop by and it's not a big to-do, though often in these cultures, there is an expectation of being given something to drink and at least something to snack on, and people will gossip if your place is messy. Whereas in most urban Western cultures I've experienced, there's somewhat more formality to having people over - people don't come over without an invite, it's often under the guise of a dinner party or something like that. Even close friends who are casual with each other often won't go to one another's houses without an invitation or at least some notice.
posted by lunasol at 6:27 AM on October 5, 2016 [23 favorites]

Many of my European friends have been surprised to hear that Americans really have graduation ceremonies just like in the movies.

In the northern European countries I've been in, they don't seem to have a high school graduation ceremony at all. In some cases, the end of high school seems to be marked solely by students cramming for the school-leaving exam which will allow them to go to university (or not). Families might have private parties, but there aren't big school-wide celebrations, and people certainly do not put on a cap and gown and march into a gymnasium to get handed their diploma.

Universities seem to have small ceremonies or celebrations by department, because here you apply to a department, not just a school (sort of the way American graduate schools work). My husband says at the end of his degree, they had a little celebration where he put on a nice shirt and a pair of slacks. I don't even know if they handed out diplomas, or if they just had a department dinner.
posted by colfax at 6:46 AM on October 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Some US-ian habits and "everyday" chores I have discovered other cultures find to be a little overboard:

-Daily and luxurious showers

-Laundry: considering clothes to be 'dirty' and in need of a wash after you wear them once without doing anything actually involving dirt/sweat; fabric softeners, using a clothes dryer for everything.

-Eliminating odors: scented candles, scented soaps, potpourri, scented trash bags, Air Wicks, Febreze, etc. etc. etc.

-Lawn care; aspiring to own a house with a giant yard that requires endless maintenance to keep the lawn green and lush like a golf course

-'Pet culture,' or the amount of money spent and obsessing/care we do for our pets, which I think not only marks someone as a wealthier Westerner, but also someone who did not grow up in a rural, farming environment (my friends with a farming background can not figure out why anyone would pay good money to take a cat to a vet).
posted by castlebravo at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2016 [42 favorites]

As a Canadian, I am in awe over how big a deal Thanksgiving is to a lot of people in the US. It is our thanksgiving this weekend, and yeah, we're going to have a meal with family but... that's it. No biggie. But in the US it seems like it is a bigger deal than Christmas.

Dedication and investment in crafts/hobbies. I am entirely guilty of this. I spend a huge amount of my time, energy, and money (not to mention space in my home) devoted to my various crafts and hobbies (namely sewing, knitting, and cross stitch). People having "craft rooms" is not at all unusual and for some it is a "of course you need a craft room" type thing, but when you think about it it is entirely a luxury and pretty ridiculous. But people just.... never question it.

Kid's birthday parties have gotten absolutely ridiculous. The huge numbers you are expected to invite, the expectation for elaborate activities and treat bags and fancier and fancier cakes etc. It has become more about parental showing off and one-upsmanship. Screw it. Two years ago I put the kybosh to it, told my son to pick his 3 best friends and we took the four of them out for bowling, lazer tag, and pizza. Super chill and easy going, no big fuss, WAY less expensive, and those are the kids he would have been playing with during a big party regardless. My kid loved it and didn't miss all the big crowds and ridiculousness. And since we did it other parents in our loop have breathed a sigh of relief and started doing the same.

People are incredibly worked up these days around revealing the gender of their baby.

Also, Black Friday comes to mind.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:00 AM on October 5, 2016 [23 favorites]

Setting the table for dinner perhaps.
Putting on makeup.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:08 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick. I have never heard of a Minnesota Goodbye until this thread, and just googled it. My husband does this and it makes me crazy. Whenever we go anywhere I have to say I want to leave at least an hour before I really want to, just so we can start saying goodbye. He even did it yesterday in the dog park, where there were only two people. It took an hour to leave. He also gave our dog the opportunity to say goodbye for an hour too. To two dogs. We live in Pennsylvania and he has never been to Minnesota. THAT I KNOW OF.

Sending Christmas cards. It is a huge deal to some people and the only time they connect to other family members. Around here people print out, and include, "newsletters" which are full of family updates. Also with regards to cards....just giving them with gifts. There is really no reason to include a card when a tag with your name on it will suffice, or you can just hand someone a gift and they know who it is from because...um...you just handed it to them.....but again, like wrapping paper, you can thank Hallmark and the like for perpetuating the elaborate measures we "should" go through to present someone with a gift...the tissue paper, the ribbon, the bow, etc.

Upkeep of grass if you own a home in the US. The time, the expense, the noise, the smells, the angst. It's GRASS.
posted by the webmistress at 7:11 AM on October 5, 2016 [32 favorites]

I'm not sure whether this is a midwest thing, or just a personal/family thing, but: celebrating birthdays of adults. Somewhat elaborately. As in, beyond maybe your spouse/child/friend says "happy birthday" and you say "thanks".
posted by Juffo-Wup at 7:12 AM on October 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

The recent (?) phenomenon of kindergarten and elementary school graduations, maybe? It's a departure even from when I went to school in the USA...

What about Christmas shopping? Is there a "Black Friday" outside the USA?
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:34 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, on the other side of things: Germans, Austrians, Belgians and recycling. In America, we recycle about 34% of all our waste. The Germans recycle 62%, the Austrians 63%, and the Belgians 58%, and if you move there, you can really tell.

In Germany, my apartment buildings had a long row of trash cans in the inner courtyard all neatly labelled: green waste (i.e. garden waste, vegetable food scraps), paper/cardboard, white glass, green glass, brown glass, plastics, and garbage. In Belgium, you get a set of colored bags: there is a green bag for green waste, a blue bag for some plastics, a pink bag for other plastics, a brown bag for regular trash, and you are expected to put your paper out in cardboard boxes or paper bags.

In train stations and other public buildings in all of these countries, I always see three trash containers in a row: for paper, for plastics, and then everything else. There are glass collection bins scattered through the cities too for green, white, and brown glass.

In Germany, every plastic or glass bottle you buy costs an extra 50 cents, which you get back if you bring the empty bottle back to the store to recycle it. In Belgium, the citizenship test apparently has questions about how to recycle properly on it.

Everyone around me who is a native of these 3 countries seems to think that the system is obvious and self-explanatory, but I still find it a bit complicated sometimes. People are not shy about telling you that you're doing it wrong though if you make a mistake.
posted by colfax at 7:37 AM on October 5, 2016 [15 favorites]

In my community the first day of school was always a significant day. Everyone walks to school and gathers outside, people take pictures of their kids (in new back-to-school clothes, shoes, and backpacks) either at home, in front of the school sign, or most commonly both. Lots of parents gather to talk and catch up as the kids line up and file in.

My family has some German heritage so we also prepared Schultüten for our kids when they started 1st grade. More photos and etc.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Obsessing about the temperature, storage, age, best before date, provenance, proximity, cross-contamination, preparation and disposal of all food items times infinity. See every "can I eat this?" Ask ever.
posted by billiebee at 8:02 AM on October 5, 2016 [20 favorites]

> Many of my European friends have been surprised to hear that Americans really have graduation ceremonies just like in the movies.

Prom, Halloween. Alien imports, in the UK at least.

Thanksgiving still hasn't broken through here. Black Friday is meeting stiff resistance.
posted by Leon at 8:03 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by bluebird at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

Prom. My Canadian high school class of 1996 did have a year-end dance, but it was not a huge thing, I didn't go, I know many people who didn't go etc. The whole American prom thing seems very weird to me.

Also, agree with the rituals around babies and weddings. My wedding was quite small and cost less than $5000 for the whole thing, including a brunch the next day. I see a lot of stuff online about engagement photos and bachelor parties and it seems like such a to-do. And people on the baby boards talk about their 'maternity photo shoot' and 'coming home outfit' etc. So much ceremony! I'm from a culture that doesn't do baby showers. The first one I ever went to was as a working adult, for a co-worker.
posted by ficbot at 8:10 AM on October 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Any event to which you go in a limo. Extra points for stretch limo.
posted by Dragonness at 8:12 AM on October 5, 2016

Some people have intensive hair-care rituals or skin-care rituals. I have a checklist - soap, shampoo, conditioner, facewash must all be used before I turn off the shower, get out of the shower, towel off, medicated face cream, goop in hair, blow dry, makeup. But I hate every minute of it, the checklist is so I don't go off to work looking unprofessional or skip a day on the meds so my rosacea freaks out. Ritual would be if once a week you have a leave-in conditioner, and a body scrub that you do while the conditioner is soaking, or if there's a particular order you do your toiletries in that isn't just practical but is somehow satisfying.
posted by aimedwander at 8:15 AM on October 5, 2016

taking rodents to the vet
posted by Morpeth at 8:20 AM on October 5, 2016 [8 favorites]

Prom, and promposals!! It blows my mind that teenagers are spending hundreds of dollars to ask a date to prom.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:21 AM on October 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Tailgate parties before football games?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:27 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Christmas presents.
Christmas cards.
Or cards for anything ever. Why are there so many cards? I would prefer food.

I guess you could say, food. It drives me crazy when I go to a party and the focus is around alcohol, and not food. How are guests going to be happy when they are not fed?

Alcohol, pre-gaming, drinking during dinner or when going out for dinner. Why not just pay money on good food?
posted by moiraine at 8:27 AM on October 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

The SAT.

Preparing for the test using multiple test prep books, private tutoring, group tutoring at companies dedicated to test prep; obsessing about test scores; taking the test multiple times; researching colleges to try to ascertain their positions on the importance of test scores on admissions; reading books that publish lists of average test scores for every college in the country; the College Board (the company that administers the test) changing the structure and content of the test; the continuing public discussion of the importance and the cultural biases of the test.

The intensity of the obsession about the SAT varies regionally (and individually, as some students don't care about all this nonsense) but when it gets intense, it gets really intense. Some people pay others to take the test for them, and students have tried to steal tests to prep the night before. Kids take Adderal and other similar drugs (sometimes they have a legit prescription, sometimes they get it from friends or dealers) to better study and focus while taking the test.

Also, beauty pageants for very young little girls.
posted by danabanana at 8:28 AM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My mother is from western Pennsylvania (which is culturally Midwestern, IMHO) and does the "Minnesota goodbye," which is probably more broadly Midwestern than people realize. Oddly enough, since moving to the Midwest myself, we rarely do it, because most of the people we see off are not Midwesterners.
posted by tully_monster at 8:31 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

The SuperBowl. There's as much attention given to it as many countries give the World Cup or Olympics. More than any other annual American sports championship.
posted by JawnBigboote at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Southern people really go HAM on introductions. Where are you from, how long have your people been there, where's your family from, what ethnicity are you, do you know my second cousin Becky from the next town over...I grew up on the West Coast and find it equal parts annoying and rude (even if they do happen to know the one person you know in their hometown, who cares?!?) but I try to be understanding and remember that it's how you show you care about people and are interested in them in a different culture than my own.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:38 AM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Breakfast and lunch. For most of us here in the Netherlands, breakfast is bread or cereal, maybe with an egg; lunch is bread. If we want to be fancy about it, we add soup. Of course, you can have elaborate lunch dishes at restaurants, but most people, most of the time, just have some bread with cheese, meats or other toppings.

Oh and cake is a special treat and a sometimes food, that you have with coffee or tea on occasions like birthdays. Never a dessert. Who wants cake or pie when they've just had a meal?
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:57 AM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Women's hair prep.
posted by bq at 9:00 AM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Epiphany is a huge deal in many predominantly Catholic countries (and, in England, as Twelfth Night) with huge parties, processions, gift-giving, etc. In the U.S., it's just the day we take down the tree.

For devout high-church Protestants and many Catholics, Advent (a time of soul-searching and preparation for the coming of Christ, a bit like Lent) is a bigger deal than Christmas. The Christmas season properly begins on Christmas Eve and ends with the Epiphany. It's very weird, because we're just cranking up when the rest of the country, enslaved as it is to the retail calendar, is already taking down the decorations.
posted by tully_monster at 9:00 AM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are you thinking specifically American or generally?

I never noticed how much Danes sing until my non-Danish partner remarked upon it.

We dance around the Xmas tree and sing psalms/trad Xmas songs for at least 35-40 minutes before we settle down to unwrap presents. Every big family holiday get-together has singing. Big birthdays has occasion songs specifically written for the day, then passed around to the 50-100 people presents who all join in. The New Year is welcomed with a song. Mornings at school start with a song.

There is a lot of specific singing & then there is all the occasional 'biking down the street' singing.
posted by kariebookish at 9:15 AM on October 5, 2016 [36 favorites]

> Families might have private parties, but there aren't big school-wide celebrations, and people certainly do not put on a cap and gown and march into a gymnasium to get handed their diplom

In Denmark the graduates hop on big trucks and drive around town in their studenterhue, getting drunk.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:20 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

In Denmark the graduates hop on big trucks and drive around town in their studenterhue, getting drunk.

After they've sung the traditional graduation song.
posted by kariebookish at 9:24 AM on October 5, 2016 [33 favorites]


It's an Irish tradition to wear masks actually. But for children mostly and you're supposed to dress as something scary, traditionally to scare away the ghosts. Halloween being an adult holiday too began in US colleges as far as I can tell.

Dressing up in costumes as an adult in general is a US thing that so spreading. 20 or 30 years ago no self respecting adult in Europe would have dressed up in a costume for any reason hardly. Americans love their costumes.
posted by fshgrl at 9:25 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Have to agree with Halloween. When I was a kid (in the UK) Halloween was about as big a deal as Shrove Tuesday or Harvest Festival. Yes we'd do some activities at school, we bobbed for apples and told ghost stories at Brownies, but it was pretty minor compared to Bonfire Night a week later. Definitely no parties or fancy dress or trick or treat.

We have imported a lot of US customs around Halloween, but then we've imported Proms as well, and we don't even graduate High School here (most people go to sixth form, but that's often part of the same school).

Black Monday/Friday/whatever isn't a thing here either, despite Amazon's best efforts. "Black Xday" is how we refer to stock market crashes.
posted by tinkletown at 9:30 AM on October 5, 2016

It may sound stereotypical, but I guess that's the point: Barbecue in Texas. Both in the backyard and at a BBQ joint.

It's not at all uncommon for people to know and taste the difference between different woods, and even different levels of dryness in the wood. It's also not uncommon for it to be a topic of conversation - recipes, procedures, temperatures, when or whether to wrap (a Texas crutch), airflow characteristics of your smoker, etc.

There's also a level connoisseurship that would probably seem excessive to an observer. There are rules about the thickness and optimal tensile strength of a slice of brisket (3/8", should hold together under its own weight, but offer little perceptible resistance once pulled on). The origin and provence of meat is becoming a bigger deal.

It's a status thing too. If your ribs at your friends' last barbecue were just kick-ass, it'll be a topic of social conversation for some time, and you will be the meat-king. Topics of debate may be deferred to your judgement. Other barbecuers will make sure you get some of the burnt ends or pope's nose or middle ribs.

It's a magical land.
posted by cmoj at 9:51 AM on October 5, 2016 [11 favorites]

People in Minnesota will go to great lengths to avoid taking the last piece or morsel of food. There is an article about it here. I know that's also done in some other places, the article mentions Germany, but it must seem strange if that isn't part of your culture.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 9:54 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Pledge of Allegiance and other flag-related ceremonies.

(Note: I was a Boy Scout, JROTC officer, and owner of a home with a flag out front. I am pleased to handle my flag respectfully, but I recognize that very few places have such reverence for the national symbol.)

Also: flag pins.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:00 AM on October 5, 2016 [11 favorites]

In Minnesota, you have to offer visitors & family food, and they have to refuse it the first and second times. The third time they can accept ("just a bite"), though by then usually a cup of coffee is ceremonially equivalent to eating.

I mention this because it's a regional quirk, but people really do make a fuss about it. (Maybe only older people now, though?)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:02 AM on October 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah I was going to mention the U.S. flag code, which not everyone adheres to, but some people really take seriously. My parents have a spotlight on theirs, as required if you don't take it down at sunset. I've been told that national flags in private residences are fairly rare in other countries.
posted by AFABulous at 10:03 AM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Being public about your religion seems to set many Americans apart from many other people.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:04 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

American in Berlin: customer service. Oh how I miss the kinda intrusive but totally lovely chatter about my weekend with the Trader Joes checkout people! I used to hate it but now I miss when waiters pop by to see if I need anything. So, yeah, friendliness to strangers?
posted by athirstforsalt at 10:07 AM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My mother is from western Pennsylvania (which is culturally Midwestern, IMHO) and does the "Minnesota goodbye," which is probably more broadly Midwestern than people realize.

For what it's worth, my [Jewish] family calls it the "Jewish goodbye." Surely there are people who don't do this but I'm guessing there are a lot of different groups who have laid claim to it.
posted by telegraph at 10:11 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

In the UK it is compulsory to talk about the weather in great detail, typically in three broad sections: recent weather, current weather, and predicted weather. When I was a child, the weather forecast was by the far the most important segment of a news broadcast, not only to learn about the upcoming weather for our area, but also to observe the forecast for other areas of the country, which in turn would precipitate (sorry) all manner of dicussions along the lines of, "those guys over there are colder/ hotter/ wetter/ dryer than us, with or without snow" etc etc, which in turn gives rise to a fourth broad section for discussion - when the first three run out of steam but you don't have the wherewithal to wrap the conversation up - which is *everyone else's weather*.
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 10:17 AM on October 5, 2016 [15 favorites]

Tailgate parties before football games?
The Superbowl

Everything about American football, really. Fantasy football leagues, marching bands, cheerleaders, Homecoming, all the industries and sub-industries that have grown up around it. It's something you don't notice till you ask yourself "What would go away if football was never a thing?" and my god, it's so much activity and multiple subcultures that would never have existed. It's too much, in every sense of the word.

On a smaller scale, we absolutely in Texas do the home-tour thing. It's kind of a way of showing people where the bathroom is/making them feel at home. But also bragging. It does ensure that you will clean the house really well before a party. Also it provides openings for conversation: "I love that rug color! Where did you get those drapes? I have that exact same bookshelf!"
posted by emjaybee at 10:39 AM on October 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

AFABulous: "I've been told that national flags in private residences are fairly rare in other countries."

It's an easy way to immediately tell whether you are in Canada or the US. Americans have flags and/or the flag colours everywhere compared to Canada. Residences, businesses, cars, and public spaces. I haven't travelled out side North American so it could be Canada is especially unflaggy but it is a stark difference between the two.
posted by Mitheral at 10:43 AM on October 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

That thing about posing your babies with little signs on each months after they're born, and then continuing it with elaborate signs for the start of each year of school? That's sprung up in the last few years and always seems super weird to me.
posted by MsMolly at 10:55 AM on October 5, 2016 [15 favorites]

"I've been told that national flags in private residences are fairly rare in other countries."

Swedes fly their flags at home and wear flag pins, I can tell you. Hell, I see them here in Seattle, too.
posted by trinity8-director at 10:57 AM on October 5, 2016

And Norwegians seem fairly pro-flag as well.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 11:01 AM on October 5, 2016

ZOMG, gift giving! Jumping Jeebus, people in (at least some parts) of the the US agonize over and feel compelled to give people gifts for the slightest reason. It's like a flavor of OCD or something.

When did compulsive gift giving become a thing? Hope it isn't contagious.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:03 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Car culture - spending a high percentage of income on a car, taking on a loan for a car, using the car to drive a mile or less, drive through food/pharmacy/grocery stores.
posted by pintapicasso at 11:08 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also - having a baby opens up about a zillion expectations and dumb crap (design a nursery! You need a changing table! Fanciest car seat/stroller you can afford! Natural birth is best! A trillion doctors appointments! Freaking maternity clothes!) I'm tempted to tell everyone I have a stomach tumor and then waddle outside to deliver the baby my goddamn self.
posted by pintapicasso at 11:13 AM on October 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

Well, there is the "Minnesota goodbye."

New York Jew here. I grew up with the saying: "WASPs leave and don't say good-bye. Jews say good-bye and don't leave." Anecdata is not data. Old Jewish sayings, however, are the very best data.
posted by The Bellman at 11:16 AM on October 5, 2016 [33 favorites]

I wouldn't say it's universally American, but I've noticed among many people an elaborate tradition of Talking About Your Stuff. If, for instance, a coworker shows up in a new outfit, the following is supposed to happen:

1) I notice it's a new outfit, and ask about it.
2) Other person tells me where she got it, and what a bargain she got.
3) I say something admiring about how it looks.
4) She then tells me her entire rationale for choosing that style, color, etc. If she had any concerns about buying it ("I wasn't sure I had any shoes that would go"), those are enumerated.
5) I counter with a similar story about some outfit or purchase of mine.
6) She tells me about other bargains available elsewhere.
7) I tell her about other bargains available elsewhere.

This conversation should ideally last for about 20 minutes. It can also cover new cars, appliances, really any kind of purchase. The bargain is the most important point. People around me seem to love to brag about bargains.

Unfortunately, I completely suck at #1, so the ritual tends to crash and burn when I'm around.
posted by JanetLand at 11:36 AM on October 5, 2016 [29 favorites]

Competitive school sports, generally.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:44 AM on October 5, 2016

I would also add for other cultures - it seems Europeans (particularly the 'Romantic' countries, France, Italy, etc) have much more elaborate dining out practices, where it is more of an event in and of itself and you set aside several hours to leisurely drink, eat, and chat. The French have a known 'cafe culture' that centers around this.

In the US, often going out to eat is something you do before a larger event (like going to a sports game or a movie or a concert) and it is more efficient, with people asking for the check immediately once they are done eating, so they can go on and do something else.

Brits and tea time, although that might be more historical now.

Bathing is often ritualized in lots of cultures: saunas in Finland, onsen in Japan, hot springs in Iceland.
posted by castlebravo at 11:44 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

The whole baby thing. Not revealing the name of your baby (WHY?! Will the Wee People steal it away if they know it's name? What the hell? How did that even start?) And then these elaborate birthday parties for toddlers with the super expensive fancy dresses and gifts and professional photographers etc. The kid isn't even capable of comprehending anything but "Oh my God, so this is CAKE!"
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:50 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

As Ms Molly said above, the month by month baby photos with props, and the first day of every grade photos with props...and generally the proliferation of family photos and professional photo sessions. Engagement photos, pregnancy photos, professional infant photos, regular yearly pro photos. To me, it's a lot.
posted by vunder at 11:50 AM on October 5, 2016

I don't know if this is particularly American, but I was raised in Asia and Europe so these things stand out to me as things Americans make a big deal of:

- Multilingualism
- Related to #1, travel (especially 'exotic' locations and Europe)
- Early-term miscarriages (and the concept of rainbow babies, rainbow baby photoshoots, etc.)
- Pre-school and kindergarten waiting lists
- Any sort of graduation prior to college
posted by Everydayville at 11:52 AM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Another on the baby front: Gender reveal parties is a fully other level of pageantry.

(As for not revealing the name - that's just because other people are completely incapable of keeping their opinions to themselves before the baby is both - they are somehow much more able to do so after the baby exists and is named.)
posted by vunder at 12:05 PM on October 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seconding weddings. And engagement rings, the whole diamond thing.
posted by M. at 12:15 PM on October 5, 2016

> …, Halloween. Alien imports, in the UK at least.

In your part, maybe. We guised in Glasgow every year. You might give a couple of days' thought to your costume, but you were more concerned about learning your joke/song/skit. But this Halloween "season" nonsense was right out.
posted by scruss at 12:49 PM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My list as an Indian who has lived in the US for the last 9 years of things I notice Americans making more of a fuss over than others:
The process of selecting a party's candidate for an election aka primaries
Flags everywhere
College visits and tours by prospective students
Hydration (like you have to have 8 glasses per day, endless conversations about whether you've had enough to drink that day or not)
Engagement rings and the diamonds in them
Women changing their name after marriage and all the bureaucracy surrounding that
The disposable coffee cup dance
Mattresses and pillows
Graduation ceremonies agreed
Hiking/camping and all the gear associated with that
Feeding children
posted by peacheater at 1:02 PM on October 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

moiraine is on the nose about alcohol vs food.

I like food. The end.

If you read any contemporary British middle class fiction they are full of quasi-erotic descriptions of alcohol, and then the main character buys ready meals (not that there's anything wrong with that, but you're never even told what the meals are) or picking an old banana out of a bowl for lunch.

The tel3mum used to starve me before those rare occasions I got invited to a party because she said the English always serve a lot of food. Then I would get one and a half salted peanuts all evening. Turns out there's an upside to being out with the out crowd, in that you can stay home and eat.

I propose a toast to unpopularity. [chunk] [buttering sounds] crunch crunch crunch
posted by tel3path at 1:02 PM on October 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

High school as a phenomenon in general (the proms, graduations, TV shows and movies, the whole culture of people talking about whether they loved or hated high school...).

Regular manicures/pedicures for women. There's a nail place on every block in many American cities.

The intense DIY culture even when there are options to buy or hire help and the work is not particularly creative. Which on the one hand is admirable, and on the other hand, seems like a huge hassle.
posted by redlines at 1:29 PM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Americans have flags and/or the flag colours everywhere compared to Canada. Residences, businesses, cars, and public spaces.

This is blatantly false. The exact opposite is true. No country I have been in is as obsessed with their flag as Canada. In fact it's a constant presence in exactly the places you've described-- everywhere. It just is EVERYWHERE. If you're at someone's place and need a spare t-shirt to sleep in they'll pull one out and it has a flag on it. Broke your key chain? They have a spare one, it has a flag on it. Need to use a pencil? You can have one from this pencil cup with a flag on it. I've never seen so many people who have actually tattooed their flag onto their bodies. All the houses in my family's neighborhood has a Canadian flag painted onto the curb -- I suspect the city did it. If you go to Whole Foods there's a nice "souvenir" section by the door loaded with all kinds of junk with the flag on it. When I was in high school every other kid had a Canadian flag patch ironed onto their backpack. They weren't even traveling anywhere. Canadians just love displaying their flag on the bags, it gets carried everywhere, lots of people will end up seeing it, it's ideal and the constantly present reminder of who they are.
posted by Blitz at 1:43 PM on October 5, 2016 [14 favorites]

> In your part, maybe. We guised in Glasgow every year.

Somerset had Punkie Night. But the American version is a very different beast, I think.
posted by Leon at 1:50 PM on October 5, 2016

My American MIL completely changes her decor according to the seasons, then more specifically to any national 'holidays' up to 4 weeks in advance. September through January is a festive time at that house! Valentines Day, 4th of July, Easter. At first I thought it was a quirk of hers, then I visited the homes of other women around her age and saw this was definitely a regular thing. Then I took a trip to Kohls (a US department store) and saw all of the holiday-themed tea towels, placemats, photoframes, doormats...

It is a LOT of effort. I applaud her for her dedication to it. Most people I know in my home country barely even acknowledge Christmas, let alone any other holiday.
posted by BeeJiddy at 2:00 PM on October 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Christmas season properly begins on Christmas Eve and ends with the Epiphany.

Christmas season ends on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, about a week after the Feast of the Epiphany.

The Pledge of Allegience for sure (seriously, you have small children taking loyalty oaths every day?).
Pretty much everything Americans do in High School
College applications
College itself (turning it into an "experience" and the student's whole life, rather than just the thing they do to get an education that is part of their lives at the time)
Placating and dealing with health insurers
Elections and Voting (meaning not that there's a whole focus on voting (as opposed to not), but that voting seems to be a thing that requires jumping through a lot of hoops and is more difficult than necessary.)
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:09 PM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another one: local news. Americans seem way more informed about the exact number of murders, robberies and assaults that occurred locally than others. Even minor news items seem to get a lot of attention of they happened nearby.
posted by peacheater at 2:12 PM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

No country I have been in is as obsessed with their flag as Canada.

Wales. It's never hard to tell if someone from Wales lives in your neighborhood.
posted by fshgrl at 2:19 PM on October 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

From the perspective of someone working in a public garden:
Professional photography for the following events:
Late in pregnancy maternity stuff
Pregnancy Announcements
Sex of child pregnancy announcements
First Birthday
Second Birthday
Sweet sixteen
posted by sciencegeek at 2:33 PM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

In most non-US countries, it's much more common that kids eat smaller portions of the same foods the adults are eating, versus special child-friendly food.
posted by kickingtheground at 2:39 PM on October 5, 2016

The trouble you guys go to producing those Christmas cards that are photos of your children looking sickly-sweet perfect. Baffling to me. It's Christmas. I want a badly-produced painting of a robin or nothing.
posted by penguin pie at 2:56 PM on October 5, 2016 [23 favorites]

In Denmark the graduates hop on big trucks and drive around town in their studenterhue, getting drunk.

They do this in Sweden, too, and in midday, often, a silly hour to get shit-faced. I could tell it was graduation season in Stockholm when I heard loud, thumping music from my apartment for a long time before the huge trucks drove by. They were decorated with birch branches and filled with screaming, drunken new grads wearing their distinctive caps and swanky new outfits. Invariably someone dies every graduation season by falling off a truck or under a truck or getting squashed between a trailer and something else. This year a 19-year-old in Visby lost his life, which is tragic. Of course, prom-night and graduation party accidents happen in the US as well, only usually in a more individualistic way (as befitting our culture) and without the birch-branch decor. The Swedish celebration is big, I am told, partly because it dates back to an era when graduation from gymnasiet (link in Swedish) was for elites only.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:27 PM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's only in America I've noticed people are compelled to acknowledge a sneeze with a "Bless you." Trivial compared to a lot of the stuff upthread, but it's definitely an example of making a lot more out of something than necessary.
posted by Rash at 5:23 PM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dressing up in costumes as an adult in general is a US thing that so spreading. 20 or 30 years ago no self respecting adult in Europe would have dressed up in a costume for any reason hardly. Americans love their costumes.

Adult Halloween is a relatively new thing here in the US as well, at least as a widespread thing. Even when I was in college 20 years ago, it wasn't a big deal for young adults, but by the time I reached my late twenties it had become expected for adults to have party plans on Halloween.
posted by lunasol at 5:58 PM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Italians/French and their long, formal meals. I went to a work meeting at a conference center in Italy. In the US or other parts of Europe, you'd expect dinners at a place like that to be buffet-style, and then there would be some sort of evening event/social activity. At this place, it was at least 45 minutes between courses and dinner took upwards of 3-4 hours. I think what someone said upthread about dinner being the main event of an evening in Italy was right on, because after a 3-4 hour dinner you're not up for much else! My family had a similar experience at a Christmas Eve dinner in the South of France - I think it was 8 courses and went until 1 am.

Americans: apparently we are obsessed with ice. My British colleague thought it was hilarious that they even tell you in hotels where you can find ice, just in case.
posted by lunasol at 6:06 PM on October 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

My British SO says, quite often, that he moved to the US so he could have lots of ice in every glass Of water he wanted.*

Also just that water and ice would be served to everyone at an eatery just as a baseline, that's a pretty American idea.

*he worked in France and Spain and didn't like the long formal eating culture but I suspect it's mostly cause he couldn't get really cold drinks.
posted by The Whelk at 12:40 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Bit late but I thought of another one. The ritual house or apartment tour after someone buys (or even rents a new place). Generally where I come from, no one expects a tour of the private spaces, like bedrooms, as they seem to here.
posted by peacheater at 8:12 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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