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The Amazingly Odd Things Americans Do

The U.S. as a nation literally represents a melting pot of cultures, behaviors, norms, beliefs and people. As a result, it is quite possible to travel a couple hundred miles or even just a few city blocks and be surrounded by an entirely different aspect of life, people and practices. However, there are still quirks and behaviorisms that, despite centuries of immigration into the country, make Americans extremely unique compared to the rest of the world. And those are not automatically led by the automatic zeal of democratic freedom and similar grand statements either. In fact, many are very mundane but stand out immediately when seen in other countries as Americans travel. Here are 30 unique habits, behaviors, norms or ideas we take for granted, but raise eyebrows elsewhere:

Using “How Are You?” as a Greeting

When people greet each other around the world the basic communication starts of with some form of a hello. However, Americans have an odd, interesting norm that is learned from a young age that it is entirely okay and allowable as a formal greeting to ask someone how they are without meaning it. We say all the time, “How are You?” as a polite form of hello with no expectation whatsoever to get an answer much less even hear specific information. The greeting began decades ago, and it actually was answered with a “Fine, how are you?” as a response. However, in recent times that has entirely dropped and it’s now just an empty question that puzzles the heck of out everyone not from the U.S.

Avoiding Vacation

Germany and France, for example, practically have a season of mandatory vacation six to eight weeks out of the year. They plan for it, have regular locations far away from home and on the coast or camping, and get detached from the hectic life at least more than a month every year. In the U.S., we are workaholics in comparison. It’s considered even abnormal to take a full two or three weeks of time off and could hamper a career in some corners.

Daring to Smile at a Stranger

We generally think its perfectly normal and friendly to smile at strangers to come across as non-threatening and disarming. This welcomes engagement and at least a nod or smile back. In other countries such a direct connection might actually scare people to turn and walk away, or be seen as suspicious and avoided.

Commercialization of Lawyers

U.S. lawyers market as hard as any business in the American market, which is absolutely a no-no in other countries and cultures. Instead, they build a profession by reference and networking. Here, we have them on commercials as common as car sales.

Super-Sizing Everything

Americans are big on extra helpings, especially with fast food. So extra-size drinks, double size orders and additional add-ons make us feel like we are getting solid value for what we receive. Elsewhere in the world is considered rude and selfish to go back for seconds or expect large sizes and drink refills, even if one paid for the value. Much of this has to do with a different aspect growing up in many cultures that did not have the large grocery stores, fast food venues and massive consumerism so normal in the U.S.

Daring to Drink from Cheap Red Throwaway Cups

Young people with plastic cups at party

It’s actually a rare thing to drink from a cheap, throwaway plastic cup when people are out on a picnic, hosting friends over in the backyard or meeting up for casual get togethers. However, in the U.S. the red plastic cup is ubiquitous with BBQs, picnics, beaches and more.

Using Bland Currency

Take a close look a currency around the world and one will realize it’s pretty darn colorful. American dollars, on the other hand, are monochromatic, uncreative and downright boring. It doesn’t mean they are worthless. In fact, U.S. dollars are still one of the strongest currencies worldwide. We just can’t come up with a vibrant currency, even with our newest version of dollar bills.

What in the World are Cheerleaders?

We know what cheerleaders are in the U.S., but they really do represent an odd sideline behavior not seen in other countries. Some would never allow it due to cultural or religious restrictions, but others see cheerleading as having nothing to do with a sport and wouldn’t think of trying to either. Americans, however, see cheerleading as normal as apple pie.

Our Coins Don’t Make Sense

Most coinage around the world focuses on a number value. 10 Euros, 1 Yen, 5 Rubles, etc. Our coins use odd names that, aside from the quarter, don’t really tie to their monetary value. It puzzles the heck out of folks who struggle the first few days trying to remember what each name means. Why is a dime smaller but more than a nickel? Why is a penny brown? Why is a half-dollar almost the size of a regular dollar coin, and why are their two or three different dollar coins? American money is, no surprise very confusing outside of the U.S.

Living with A/C

The world is full of a lot of hot places. Even more challenging, a lot of places are humid and hot. Americans, however, have conquered zones where the summer gets up to 140 degrees with the amazing but mundane creation of the air conditioner. We’re odd birds in this respects. In most place around the world people learn to live with the heat. Americans bring their environment with them instead.

Verifying One’s Drinking Age

We make a big deal in the U.S. about making sure a person is 21 and older before buying alcohol. Elsewhere in the world, folks can start drinking at age 16, and most places don’t bother asking for ID. If a person has enough backbone to come up to the pub or bar and ask for beer or similar with the money, they are served. Part of our age-related focus steps from our Euro-Christian background and fixation on liquor, but part of it is also a compromise between allowing drinking and many elements in the U.S. who would like to go back to Prohibition.

Our Darn Coffee-to-Go Fixation

This probably goes in line with not taking vacation much, but we just can’t sit still and relax much, and that includes how we drink our coffee. Taking coffee on the go is very much a norm in the U.S., but in Europe, for example, one drinks coffee at home, at the office or in a café. Folks definitely don’t walk around with coffee in a paper cup very much.

We Don’t Shut Down at Night

In big cities around the world there are sections and areas that do stay open late into the night, usually for bars and entertainment. However, you can go to just about every town and neighborhood in the U.S. in 2020 and you’re bound to find an all-night fast food joint or gas station open. And we treat Sunday as a regular business day. Other countries actually outlaw being open after hours except around the airports.

Our Restaurant Drive-Throughs

The U.S. is physically a very big country, and from the beginning of the 20th century it became married with the automobile. Entire cities have been planned, built, changed and rebuilt based on vehicle traffic versus any other form of transport. No surprise, we like to eat in our cars too, and that created drive-throughs, a unique American invention. One will be hard-pressed to find a drive-through elsewhere in the world, although some countries with new city expansions are experimenting with the idea.

Really, Really Big Grocery Stores

The U.S. was famous for decades with its grocery stores, symbols of American consumerism. Then we invented big box stores. Now we have big boxes for food, for hardware, for clothing, furniture and even stores for just jackets and coats. The idea is so catching, big box stores have been showing up in Europe as well as China. No surprise, now we have super-store complexes that are even bigger.

Being Overt With Our Flags

After World War II many countries purposefully avoided strong displays of flags and flag banners on a regular basis. They were seen at parades and on special holidays, but general posting of a country’s flag was seen as a sign of extreme nationalism in many countries and avoided for decades. The U.S., on the other hand, treats it as normal and even very patriotic to fly our flag every day of the week and year, regardless of the reason.

Our Habit of Eating Big

Our eating sizes are no surprise. In addition to expecting large sizes, we eat a lot of food on average too. The amount of food the average American eats is twice the food eaten in most of the world. We also have a heavy diet of processed food and protein. Most other parts of the world focus on grains and vegetables and fruit. No surprise, we produce bigger people on average, but we also have more health problems that are diet-related. Many outside America wonder why we eat the way we do as a result.

We Expect Servers to Hover

Go to a restaurant in other countries and you’re lucky if you see the waiter twice. Our waiters in the U.S., even in basic diners, are checking on patrons and how we’re doing at least five times in a sit-down if not more.

Our Pharmacies are Big Too

Going to get medicine outside of the U.S. often involves finding a universal sign of a pharmacy, usually a pestle and mortar. Once inside, the office is about the size of a small room, maybe even a small closet. So pharmacies in the U.S. are a shock. Either they are mini-malls of their own with just about every general store item in them or they are included in a giant grocery store. Either way, it’s easy for a foreign person to get lost looking for a pharmacy here.

Water is Taken for Granted

We are surprised eating out if we don’t receive our complimentary glass of water both when we sit down as well refills during the meal and at the end, if not a cup of coffee to boot. Water isn’t so plentiful elsewhere, so it surprises visitors why we insist on keeping them hydrated to the point of running to the restroom.

We Love Our Ice

Along with water and our cold drinks, ice is also an expected norm in the U.S. One of the oddest things people experience then traveling to Europe, for example, is asking for a drink and being served a soda with no ice at all. Ice, however, isn’t a universal add-on to a drink, and many restaurants worldwide don’t even have an ice-maker to provide it.

We Value Tipping and Honor It

While hotels around the world expect tipping from customers as a norm, it is not necessarily a standard as much as it is in the U.S. We often hold to a standard of 15 percent for good service and more for large groups. But this is not common internationally. In fact, some places do not allow tipping at all, building it already in the price of service.

We Have Amazing Trust in our Credit Card System

We treat our credit cards like cash, handing it to anyone we need to as payment without a clue what they do with it when we aren’t looking. Foreigners are extremely protective and possessive of their cards in comparison. Where fraud, unfortunately, is common in the U.S., and a replacement card can be had in days, it’s a much harder process in other countries, similar to how cardholders were treated in the 1970s in the U.S.

We Have So Many Darn Choices

Whether it’s clothing, food, TVs, computers, artwork, music, furniture and more, we are buried with choices. Gone are the days of 1950s marketing where you can have any color you want as long as it is white or black. This isn’t the case elsewhere. Many cultures and countries focus on providing on one choice, or a few at most, the better ones with quality versus and array of so-so.

Commercialization of Drugs

Our drugmakers get to have commercials and heavy marketing in the U.S. too. Ulcer medicine is a great example, along with heartburn and anti-depression. In Asia and Europe, however, drugmakers aren’t visual to the public, and prescriptions don’t come with heavy branding.

Our Classy Pajama-Wearing in Public

Yes, that’s a joke. As the U.S., we might be the only culture in the world daring enough or silly enough to wear our pajamas out in public like regular clothes, including fuzzy slippers. While this primarily a teen or college age thing to do, it’s extremely rare worldwide. They look at Americans and shake their heads.

We Have Really Big Roads

Given the size of American cars, it’s not a surprise our roads are big too. Five-lane highways and similar are not uncommon all over the U.S. How we manage to still have traffic-jams is another mystery, but to folks from other countries our roads are huge compared to what they typically drive on.

What’s With Our Bathroom Stalls?

Go to a public restroom in another country that is developed and you will notice that the stalls and stall doors provide a solid privacy. Our bathrooms, regardless of gender have stalls with enough gaps between the walls and doors that one can see inside. Whether its an intentional design to allow spotting problems or plain weirdness, our bathrooms have less privacy by function, period.

Our Wine Bottles Are Weird

We have 3-liter bottles for American wine which is very much an oddity anywhere else. It’s not that our wine is bad. In fact, we have a large number of award-winning wine brands. We just like bigger bottles, which is unheard of elsewhere.

Our Love Affair with Frying

Every county fair that comes up, we have a wonderful trend of frying all sorts of foods. Twinkies, pickles, fruit, and all sorts of meats, we fry it. Some experiments shouldn’t happen, period, but Americans have a wide menu of fried food we love to eat and eat a lot. While frying food is not unique, and can be quite common in some parts of the world like Asia, we have perfected fried food to an art.

As noted at the beginning, even with all our melting pot consolidation, as Americans we have some quirks rarely found anywhere else in the world. And that makes American culture stand out on its own, even when made up of a constant mix of people from everywhere else over generations.


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Remains of An Aristocracy Found During Unearthing Of 1000-year-old Viking Vessel

Jess

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What historians once deemed as a small grave is actually a prestigious Viking death commemoration. Excavators discovered as they plowed through the ship burial area, not with any expectation of making such a grand discovery.

The finding occurred in Norway, in a region encompassing the Gjellestad Viking ship grave. The archaeologists used radar scans to puncture the ground where they saw a vast amount of conventional monument items related to grand feasts and a spiritual network of extraordinary prestige.

The significant discovery has debunked the original belief that the burial area was simple and is instead a representation of the affluent Viking lifestyle in the region.

The Find

A grand dining hall, remnants of three communal village houses, 13 small grave piles, and a shrine were all seen perched in the area around the historic burial ground. Historians only ever discovered one other commemoration of death in Norway before this finding. Scholars believe the current grave dates back to the decline of the Roman Empire in the Western Hemisphere. Scandinavian archaeologists document burial grounds as significant, considering it dates back to BC era dwellers of the peninsula.

A large portion of the findings is currently on display in museums across the country. The treasures on display include weapons and personal items of jewelry, all dug up by scholars and apprentice excavators.

The archaeologists believe that politicians should consider a find of such magnitude in the political arena to establish Norway’s power based on its historical connections. They think that’s the very reason the Vikings did a ship burial in an area where other burials had taken place, to establish authority. Ship burials were a sign of status in the Viking era, and the battle for power was rife during that time.

Great accomplishment

Norwegians could not have asked for a better find than a burial ship with many artifacts still in good shape. The only three ships excavated in Europe are on show at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. Already, the city is making preparations to house the Gjellestad ship, which was buried more than 12 centuries ago. The burial may have occurred about ten years following the Viking era’s crash into volatility with the invasion of an English Sanctuary.

The government wants the ship to be unearthed quickly due to its significance and that it is the first Viking ship to be dug up in over a century. Additionally, the ship is rapidly decaying due to fungus developing within the wood framework. The government has given one and a half million dollars to assist with expediting the project.

Smithsonian believes that the fungus issue came about due to farmers building drainage pipes across the shipping area, unaware at the time of the ship’s presence in their fields. The lines caused air to seep into the soil, which led to fungus growth. The digging situation was in the mid-1900s, so the boat has been rotting for about a century.

Once the excavation goes as planned, historiography could determine the exact type of ship it is, meaning whether it was used for transportation, to carry out raids, or for trade purposes. The historians already know it is not one of the largest Viking ships, especially since it’s smaller than the two famous Viking ships previously found. They are, however, convinced that it is still not in the small category with a measurement of 60 feet in length.

They are making every effort to excavate the ship intact and preserve as much of it as possible. The find will be an enormous deal internationally and could boost Oslo’s tourism once it goes on display.

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Tribes in the Amazon Excited to Protect the Rainforest With Advanced Drones

Shannon Jackson

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You don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist to understand that illegal logging and deforestation are enormously damaging to the planet and our environment. While we see attempts at restraining deforestation and illegal logging in many countries, some places have been less-than-lucky. In fact, we can point to one of the most important natural areas on the planet for a prime example of abuses against indigenous tribes the land that they call their home.

Let’s take a trip over to the Amazon Rainforest to explore how the WWF and the Kaninde Ethno-Environmental Defense Association are working together to fundamentally change the complexion of the Amazon Rainforest, the realities of illegal logging, and how indigenous tribes are fighting for their rights the entire way.

The Amazon Rainforest had shrunk by an incredible 519 square miles in the month of July 2019 alone. Since then, analysts have estimated that more than 20k square miles of Amazonian rainforest are eradicated every year due to existential threats from climate change, deforestation, and illegal logging. This is particularly problematic in Rondonia, a state in Western Brazil that has decided to fight back against the damage being done to the environment.

In the state of Rondonia, five indigenous tribes are working together as one in alignment with anthropologists, specialists, foresters, and biologists. Their goal is to create a Defense Association for the environment that utilizes not just civil activism, but also elite new technology to track and condemn poachers and illegal loggers. Thanks to the Kaninde Ethno-Environmental Defense Association, tribes have been able to use HD drones to log the GPS coordinates of illegal sites, including nut tree stands which are particularly valuable in Brazil. The Uru Eu Wau Wau tribe has even utilized GPS technology to stop poachers from attacking and harvesting vulnerable animals such as the harpy eagle.

The harpy eagle is considered a neotropical subspecies of the eagle. Known in North America as the American Harpy Eagle, this bird is considered one of the most powerful and largest of raptors in the entirety of the rainforest. Continued poaching and deforestation have put this wondrous animal on the backburner, leading potentially to the destruction of their species. Poachers in the Amazon have used the forest to track these birds and poach them for their own purposes.

While poaching is a huge issue within the Amazon, a bigger problem has been the illegal logging and wildfires that have been so widespread over the past two years. Wildfires have turned ranches and forest to ash, leaving behind pastureland left for farmers to take advantage of while leaving the rainforest to burn.

Felipe Spina Avino is a conservation analyst for WWF-Brazil and it has been through her work that drone-training has risen in the region. Avino has helped to pioneer the drone-training program that has helped indigenous groups to track these issues while utilizing their ancestral knowledge of the region to protect it from outsiders. Avino would go on to explain that the footage captured via drone would be sent along to authorities where pressure can be brought from the top-on-down to the poachers and illegal harvesters.

The drone project that Avino has helped to cultivate costs less than $2,000 for all of the equipment and training that a group needs. Through programs like this, tripes like the Uru Eu Wau Wau are finally getting back some measure of power over their land, their history, and the future of their ancestral home. The COVID-19 pandemic has only furthered the challenge that the drone project has undertaken, but success has already been shown in areas around Brazil!

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Rescued Cats and Inmates Transform Lives Together in New Prison Program

Kevin Wells

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Is there anything purer than the love of a pet? When your cat or dog comes up to you and shows affection, it can be almost impossible not to let out an audible d’awww. Our cats and dogs love us more than we can understand, so it stands to reason that they’d be beneficial in therapeutic settings. Cats can’t really judge a man based on their wrongdoings, but they can definitely accept pats and offer emotional support to those in need. Where does our conversation lead us? To a new program that may change the way that we look at prison reform, the FORWARD program!

The FORWARD program is an acronym that stands for their mission statement, Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation With Affection, Reformation, and Dedication (FORWARD). The goal of the program is to bring shelter cats to the Pendleton Correctional Facility for therapeutic treatment. The inmates will play with and care for the cats as they wait to be adopted by their forever family on the outside of Pendleton. 

We already hear people at home asking, “Why should inmates get to play with cats?” While this may feel like a valid question, the truth is a little more complex. Rehabilitation should always be a priority when it comes to the industrial prison complex. With the FORWARD program, inmates in a Maximum Security Prison are granted unrestrained and non-judgemental love and affection from the cats in exchange for adhering to the rules of the program. This feedback loop rewards good behavior with more good behavior, creating a cycle that is positive for everyone involved.

When cats are brought into Pendleton as part of the FORWARD program, they are placed in a massive sanctuary that is brimming with structures to climb, posts to scratch, and hideaways to sleep in. Anthony LaRussa has been helping to pioneer the program at Pendleton and he said, “We’re able to give back, and not just for us — but for the animals, too.” 

One of the biggest issues plaguing prisons in the United States is the recidivism rate. The recidivism rate shows that inmates are leaving prison behind only to relapse and end up back within the system. Prison pet programs were initiated in the 1980s to curb recidivism and has since grown to embrace cats, dogs, and horses within the prison sanctuary system.

Studies have shown that pet programs such as FORWARD are incredibly effective and popular with inmates and researchers. Studies have shown that caring for pets in prison can increase both self-esteem and self-efficacy while underscoring the importance of empathy. In fact, some studies have even shown that pet programs are fantastic for helping offenders to improve their emotional maturity and employability once outside of the prison program.

 The bare facts are that pet programs have continued to improve interpersonal relationships between officers and offenders in prison facilities while also improving the likelihood of success outside of them. Pet programs shouldn’t be looked at as anything other than an extension of other recidivism-focused services. With the wildfires that have been raging across California, we have even seen offenders take up jobs as firefighters in order to give back to the community while showing the importance of reformation from within the system.

The final point we want to underscore regarding this story is just how dire the animal shelter system in America is. More than 7.2 million animals enter shelters nationwide every year. Programs like FORWARD not only help offenders, but they also do great things for animals that need help, as well!

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Tasmanian Devils Make Historic Return To Mainland Australia After Missing For 3,000 Years

Kelly Taylor

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Tasmanian devil which was believed to be extinct has made its return to the forests of Australia. This is the first time the animal has been spotted since over 3,000 years ago.

This return is seen as the first move in the new plan to take Australia back to its flourishing wild life it once had. This was contained in the statement given by the nonprofit Aussie Ark and its partners Global Wildlife Conversation and Wild Ark.

Furthermore, Aussie Ark restated its plan in bringing back Australia’s ecosystems that existed before the pre-European settlement. This new plan will ensure the habitat is free from feral predators.

Aussie Ark has nurtured over 390 Tasmanian devils, in a manner that promotes natural behavior in the animals. This will help them settle comfortably when released to the wild.

And this year alone, Aussie Ark has followed through with its mission. 26 Tasmanian devils have been released into a 400-hectare wild sanctuary. But there are bigger plans by the organization. There is the intent of introducing two batches of 20 Tasmanian devils each. If this goes as scheduled, offsprings will be produced by the devils culminating in a growing population.

This reintroduction is a welcome development, and as native apex predators and being the largest carnivorous marsupials, they help limit the dominance of  other felines and foxes over endangered species.

They are also hunters and with their hunting skills, they keep their habitat clean and safe from harm.

With their reappearance in the wild, this serves as an indication that Australia is keen on its mission of “rewilding”.

Previously, Tasmanian devils were wiped out from mainland Australia due to the introduction of dingoes which hunted them in packs. Just like wolves.

They were only safe on the island of Tasmania, a place the Dingoes never got to.

In the island of Tasmania, a deadly disease called Devil Facial Tumour completely destroyed up to 90 percent of the Tasmanian community. Now, only 25,000 devils remain on the island.

The Tasmanian species Aussie Ark has reintroduced will be subject to intensive monitoring. Using surveys, radio collars fit with transmitters and camera traps, this will enable researchers to know how the animals are faring. 

It will also help to disclose the problems the animals face in their new environment, feeding habits and their mode of mating.

This information will guide subsequent animals that will be released on Tasmania and on the mainland.

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New Discovery Reveals Old People Are Now Stronger When Compared To Those Who Lived In 1990

Kevin Wells

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A new study from Finland has looked into the probability of older people of this current time being more stronger and vibrant compared to people of the same age 30 years ago.

Quite strange, given that life expectancy becomes lower each year yet this finding was made possible from a study carried out at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland.

The research looked into the mental and physical abilities of Finnish people between the age of 75 and 80 to people of the same age in the 1990s.

“Performance-based measurements describe how older people manage in their daily life, and at the same time, the measurements reflect one’s functional age,” says the principal investigator of the study, Professor Taina Rantanen, in a statement.

It was discovered men and women that fell into these ages had faster walking pace, improved reasoning and muscle strength plus their working memory are much better than people of the same age born earlier.

These differences were not however noticeable in lung function tests.

“Higher physical activity and increased body size explained the better walking speed and muscle strength among the later-born cohort,” says doctoral student Kaisa Koivunen, “whereas the most important underlying factor behind the cohort differences in cognitive performance was longer education.”

Postdoctoral researcher Matti Munukka added, “The cohort of 75- and 80-year-olds born later has grown up and lived in a different world than did their counterparts born three decades ago. There have been many favorable changes.

“These include better nutrition and hygiene, improvements in health care and the school system, better accessibility to education and improved working life.”

The findings revealed longevity is supported by an increased number of years in lived with satisfactory functional strength in old age. This could justify why there’s been a slower rate of change as we advance in age.

“This research is unique because there are only a few studies in the world that have compared performance-based maximum measures between people of the same age in different historical times,” says Rantanen.

“The results suggest that our understanding of older age is old-fashioned. From an aging researcher’s point of view, more years are added to midlife, and not so much to the utmost end of life. That’s hopeful news for us all.”

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