15 Ridiculous Ways the World Misinterprets American Culture

Have you heard any misconceptions about American culture? For example, I have repeatedly heard misconceptions about America not having a good cheese selection because people believe we only eat Kraft American cheese slices and cheese out of a can. Trust me, not all of us eat that “cheese.”

After someone asked an American internet forum, “Immigrants currently living in the U.S., how greatly do you think people in your home or the rest of the world misunderstand American culture?” Here are THEIR top responses. 

Immigrants Are Not Expats — They Are Americans

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Someone explains that U.S. immigrants are not expats. America is home. I like that. America is the only country where after your immigration, you become American. For example, you will never become Chinese or Indian, regardless of immigrating there.

1. America’s Mental Health Problems Are “Made Up”

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While I’ve never heard this before, someone notes that several countries believe the U.S. “makes up” depression and other mental health issues. One explains meanwhile that their country has absurdly high rates of alcoholism, people taking their own lives, and an enormous stigma discussing mental health issues, but still suggests Americans’ are “faking it.”

2. Homosexuality Is American

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OK. This one made me laugh out loud. Did you know that there are people in other countries who believe that homosexuality is strictly an American thing?

Someone elaborates: “Homosexuals are apparently a U.S. cultural phenomenon and would otherwise not exist.” A second user admits a friend asked them: “Why are there so many gay people here? We didn’t have them in India.” Um…

3. Owning a Car Means That You Are Wealthy

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Did you know that some people believe everyone in the U.S. is rich because they own cars? An Indian immigrant explains: “Many people associate owning a car with being rich.

This stems from how things work in India (where owning a car is not the norm, and cars aren’t necessary like in most parts of the U.S.). Also, only the upper middle class owns cars in India. This gives people the perception everyone in the U.S. is extremely well-to-do.”

4. America Lacks Family Values

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Have you heard that Americans don’t have family values? A user clarifies: “This notion is due to the fact that most kids in the U.S. go out on their own after they turn 18, and they don’t necessarily take care of their parents when they age.

What is not well understood is that Americans, in general, are fiercely independent.” Put another way, many cultures are collective, and Americans are an independent culture.

5. Americans Live in Big Cities

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Another misconception many immigrated Americans have witnessed is the notion that all of America is like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C. Pop culture and media have helped create this facade.

6. America Is a Land of Extremes

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A user says perfectly, “In my experience, people abroad fail to understand that America is a land of extremes. For every true statement, there is a contradictory statement that is equally true.

For example, America is riddled with guns. We have the highest gun ownership, at 120 guns per 100 people. Number two is the Falkland Islands with — half. Yet, most of my friends have never seen a firearm that wasn’t in a museum or safely holstered by a police officer.

So which is it? Are we gun-crazy or not? Depends. Both of these are representative of a common American experience. Both are true. That’s hard for folks in most other countries to grasp.”

7. Americans Are Racist

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While racism is a significant issue in America, numerous immigrants confess it’s minimal compared to the rest of the world. Someone elaborates, “The United States is quite diverse and, in my opinion, very not racist compared to other countries. The only reason we have cultural and racial conflicts is because we have people of different races here.

All my friends and relatives in Taiwan think it’s just a sea of white people and then me, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. You wouldn’t believe the racist stuff they say about dark skin and Southeast/South Asian people in East Asia. That would NEVER fly in the U.S.”

8. American Youth Sports Culture

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Have you ever thought about the American culture of youth sports? I hadn’t. But one person suggests, “How big (and toxic) youth sports culture is. Recruiting ranking sites for middle schoolers. 20,000-seat stadiums for high school football teams. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit etc. College sports might as well be professional sports now that NIL is a thing.”

9. Americans Don’t Know Poverty

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There is a common misconception that Americans don’t know anything about poverty. There is the extremism of being homeless and even living in tents. However, many poor Americans have jobs and are a paycheck away from this reality.

One notes: “There are poor people in the U.S., and they’re not as ‘easy’ to spot as they are in developing countries. Hence, why I think most people think everyone in the U.S. lives a fancy middle-class life.”

10. Americans and Substance Abuse

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While substance abuse is a major thing, it’s not as hush-hush as some of the world believes. “For all the hoopla about the War on Drugs, drug use among Americans (and in my experience especially American teens) is rampant,” explains one. “What I found to be a cultural shock was how casual people were about it.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the biggest drug users in my High School were the ones that had it seemingly all together. Swim team captain, IVY league bound, popular, and attractive.”

11. Americans Choose to Live Paycheck to Paycheck

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Multiple people explain that their home countries have a misconception that Americans live lavish lifestyles at the expense of never saving for the future. However, one explains: “Not all Americans are rich and splurge on luxuries: In India, there is this notion that Americans voluntarily spend and live paycheck to paycheck because they want to enjoy life.

Some of it is true, especially among young folk but for most, it isn’t a choice but more like people have to. I read somewhere that if you have >=$100 in your bank account, your net worth is higher than 25-30% of Americans.”

12. Americans Are Obese

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It’s no surprise that people around the world believe Americans are obese, but there is a large population of fit Americans too. “In my home country, many people are a few pounds overweight, but there are not many obese people. Meanwhile, in the U.S., you see heavier people. But there are also people in the U.S. who are very fit.

The misunderstanding around obesity is connected to the stereotype of U.S. Americans eating hamburgers, hot dogs, and BBQ. This might be true for some people in the Mid West, but many of my friends are migrants too and eat poke, Chinese food, Mexican, Creole, etc.”

13. Americans Don’t Use Their Public Transportation

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Sorry to be the one to have to tell you, but Americans do not have access to it, and is so large we need vehicles to get from point A to point B without it.

Someone shares: “Public transportation truly sucks compared to my home country and most countries. And most larger U.S. cities are not very walkable or bikeable either. Cars and parking spots take up so much space, and cars are so much bigger than in my home country.”

14. American Health Insurance

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While much of the world understands that the American healthcare system isn’t great, they don’t know the depths of how bad it truly is. A forum member elaborates: “Health insurance is expensive, which is true. The care is neither better nor worse, but in my home country, there is no co-pay or deductible, and every doctor must take every insurance.

Nobody is afraid that cancer treatment will financially ruin them. There are no GoFundMe pages for medical treatments or funerals. I don’t think people in my home country understand how big of a part of U.S. society donations are.”

15. American Women Are Promiscuous

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Have you heard that American women get down? An American immigrant states that his country believes: “American women are promiscuous and throw themselves at every guy.

I’ve lost count of the number of friends who asked me, ‘So.. how many girlfriends do you have? Girls must be fawning over you!’ No amount of explanations would satisfy them as they were convinced they were right.”

12 Stupidest Things People Brag About Like We Are Supposed to Be Impressed

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What is the stupidest thing people brag about? I’ll go first and say when Americans brag about not tipping. I understand tipping culture has gotten out of hand, but if you’re in a sit-down restaurant and don’t tip, you’re a jerk, and it’s nothing to be proud of. After someone asked for other examples in an online forum, here are THEIR top responses.

20 Skills People Born Before 1990 Possess That No One Uses Anymore, Do You?

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I love reminiscing about the good ole days sometimes, and that is how I stumbled on this fun thread in an online forum: “People born before 1990, what trivial skill do you possess that no one uses anymore?” Here are some of their best answers! Do you remember?

15 Jobs That Women Admit Are Automatic Deal Breakers for Dating Them

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Are there any professions that would make a person undatable for you? You’re not alone. A man recently asked women in an online forum, “What job would a man have that would be an automatic deal breaker for you?” Here are THEIR honest confessions.

Top 12 Most Racist Disney Classics That Are Better Left in the Vault

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Exploring film history often exposes tales of awe, imagination, and cultural shifts. Did you know that there are racist undertones in many Disney classics? It makes sense as progress evolves throughout the decades, but it’s cringe-watching it now. Here is a look at the most racist Disney films.

Things That Donald Trump and His MAGA Cult Ruined for the Rest of Us

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What did MAGA ruin for you? I’ll go first and say relationships. Family and friends I have known for years revealed a side to them I didn’t realize existed or represented their thoughts on things like the rights of people of color.







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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and Jesus.