25. For Non-Americans Who Have Visited The South, Say Hello To Grits
In states like Mississippi and Alabama, grits are so commonplace that you can order them at McDonald’s. They are made from coarsely ground cornmeal that is cooked similarly to oatmeal — boiled in water and then seasoned. For Southerners, grits are a staple. For non-Americans, and really anyone who is not from the South, they are atrocious.
Yummy_yummy_red_wine wrote, “Grits! Aussie here. I was in a diner in the South, maybe Mississippi. I asked the waitress what it was, and the look she gave me was uncertain and troubled. All I know is, the man next to me had a penchant for it, and the sound he was making while chewing was uncannily similar to that of a child slapping a bowl of porridge.” Dangerbird2 said, “Plain grits, especially instant grits, are nothing to go crazy over. However, shrimp and grits are amazing.” Shrimp and grits involve grilled shrimp served over a bowl of grits along with other seasonings – sometimes even gravy or Cajun sauce!
Knale agreed with these non-Americans by saying, “Grits are gross. However, I’m from Massachusetts, so I’m not breaking any laws by agreeing with you.” Maybe they’re just eating grits wrong? According to magusopus, “If it doesn’t have two parts dairy, one part animal to one serving of grits, it ain’t grits. Butter. Cheese. Bacon. Salt and pepper flavoring. Aw man. Want some grits.” On the topic of breakfast foods, mochirehabilitation bemoaned another American food by saying, “Ketchup and eggs. (I know most Americans don’t eat eggs with ketchup. But some people do.).”
The_Dirtiest Beef had a response to how some non-Americans wrote about American food: “I usually love topics like this. I enjoy hearing about cultural differences pertaining to food and stuff. I’m not one to get overly patriotic or defensive about America, but there were a few points where I read comments, and I’m like, “Hey… screw you. You don’t gotta be so mean about it.”
Marcm6246 said, “I was disgusted at the sheer size of American food when I visited Florida for the first time a couple of years back. My “small” root beer was an extra-large back in Canada, and my hamburger was almost the size of my head.” Halfoftormundsmember said similarly, “I couldn’t really get the concept of getting a huge meal at a restaurant, then taking half-back with you in a doggy bag. If I wanted the extra food for tomorrow, I would have ordered extra food. Now I feel obligated to stuff myself to excess, take a load of food with me or waste it.
And thanks to a very attentive waitress with sneaky refill skills, my gut nearly exploded from all the soda I drank! Soda is basically treated like water in some of these restaurants, but I’m used to thinking of it as something you’d pay about £1.20 for, so, like an idiot, I kept trying to finish the glass. It doesn’t disgust me, but it is a very different attitude to food and drink.”
Pn42 said, “An uncle of mine told us a story a few years ago that they looked at him like he just openly murdered someone when he ordered (can’t exactly remember) either a happy meal or a small size portion at McDonald’s in California back in the early 2000s.” And Kevin-W said, “I couldn’t believe the huge portion size that The Cheesecake Factory served when giving out just one slice of cheesecake! It was something that could easily be shared between two or three people.”
TrustmeIknowaguy responded by saying, “The reason we have such large-sized food is because of the subsidies we started giving big agriculture in the ’70s. They started producing way more food they/we needed as a country, so they started upping portions sizes to ship all the excess food. Obesity wasn’t a problem in America really until the ’80s.”
AndreasTPC said, “Not exactly food, but I tasted mountain dew for the first time a few months ago. We don’t have them in my country (Sweden), but I found a couple of cans in the imported aisle at my local supermarket. I couldn’t believe how sweet it tasted. Much sweeter than the soft drinks we have here. It tasted like someone had melted some sugar and put it in a can. The difference is probably because you use fructose instead of normal sugar. I wouldn’t say that I was disgusted by it. I finished the can. But I don’t think I’ll buy it again.”
HamatoKameko responded with, “Believe me, Mountain Dew is ungodly sweet to most Americans, too.” Regretdeletingthat said, “In the UK, the only Mountain Dew they sell is Energy, a caffeinated version that isn’t really the same. I always found the different US flavors from the import aisle delicious in a horrid way (way too sugary and syrupy like you say but still good) and wondered why they didn’t sell it here. It turns out it contains at least one chemical that’s prohibited for human consumption in this country…”
After learning that most American sodas are caffeinated, regretdeletingthat said, “Ahh, the more you know. I knew Coke had caffeine but never thought about it in anything else. In that case, I wonder if the only way they could get away with 60g of sugar and a lot of caffeine was to sell it as an energy drink here. But apparently, not all non-Americans disagree with Mountain Dew.”
EarhornJones recalled, “I’m an American and don’t drink it either, but I had an Australian colleague visit, and he drank a ton of it, as apparently, it’s his drink of choice at home. We learned later that American Mountain Dew apparently has a great deal more caffeine than its Australian counterpart. We had to deal with a very fidgety Aussie for a few days.”
19. Just A Lot Of American Food Is Weird And Kinda Gross
Tigersmadeofpaper wrote, “When I first moved here a few years back, biscuits and gravy weirded me out the most, but I have grown to enjoy it. It still looks like vomit, though. I still can’t stomach the standard supermarket bread here. It’s so sweet. The same goes for the average burger or hotdog buns. I find Americans’ need/desire to eat sandwiches with potato chips bizarre. Where I’m from, a sandwich is a meal in and of itself – it doesn’t come with aside. And potato chips shouldn’t be a side. Ever. They’re gas station junk food.
To me, it’s like getting a Snickers bar as a side. Ranch dressing. Why don’t you people want to taste the actual salad you’re eating? Flavoring everything with pumpkin around Fall. Pumpkin pie, okay, fine, I’ve learned to like it. Things I will never accept pumpkin in coffee, ice cream, pancakes, doughnuts, smoothies. Granola as a “healthy” breakfast option. It’s basically a dessert.
Tigersmadeofpaper continues, “Taco Bell. Okay, I haven’t actually tried it, but it looks so unappealing in the ads and posters in the store windows – more so than any other fast-food chain – I just can’t imagine why anyone ever would. It’s not like actually good Mexican food is expensive. One thing I think is great about American food, however, is all the regional variety. Sure, a lot of it is a bit gross and incredibly unhealthy (I can’t say I enjoyed my encounter with Jello salad), but I love that you can try new things in every city and how proud people are of their local specialties. We don’t have that back in Australia, and I think we’re poorer for it.”
Clearly, Americans are doing something right by having regional specialties, such as grits in the South and bagels with lox in New York City. Maybe people who are visiting the US should focus more on local, regional cuisine than on the hyped-up, sensationalized things like Mountain Dew and Hershey’s chocolate.
The American food that weirds out TheInsaneDane? “American breakfast cereal. It has all these different colors and weird tastes, and there are freaking marshmallows in some of it, too. That’s not ideal for a breakfast meal. No wonder why many kids struggle with obesity.” DaJoW agreed by responding, “Yeah, I never really understood that. Starting the day off with a bowl of sugar can’t be too good.” Elasticthumbtack wrote, “The marshmallows taste like dust, too, so you don’t even enjoy it. Lucky Charms specifically leaves your mouth feeling like you just ate sawdust.”
ChandraCorby said, “And the weird thing is the food companies hire highly paid chemical engineers to make that cereal. My partner, who was the female engineer of the year in college, found herself trying to figure out a way to make a figure-eight-shaped cereal where the two “O” shapes wouldn’t fall apart. This was necessary because the cereal’s mascot was going to be Scooby-Doo. She left that job rather quickly.”
16. Healthy Cereal Is Popular, Too, But Not As Much
Regretdeletingthat had a somewhat different experience and wrote, “I’m British, and I had a box of Lucky Charms for the first time last week. Disgustingly delicious, but these marshmallows aren’t marshmallows! They’re colored sugar shapes sharing a limited subset of properties that marshmallows have. I’ve never had the remnants of cereal milk dye a bowl blue before. It makes me poop green. It concerned me at first until I Googled and saw that it was a semi-common occurrence.” Some Americans took offense at the idea that super-sugary breakfast cereal is how everyone in the US starts off their day.
ZebulonPike13 wrote, “I’ll assure that we don’t all crack open a box of Lucky Charms in the morning. A bowl of Cheerios is enough for a lot of us.” Gannok replied, “I tend to like the “healthier” ones. They’ll have like dried cranberries and such in them, but even those tend to be sweetened all to hell and back. As un-American as it sounds, I don’t like the ones with marshmallows. I love me some marshmallows, s’mores man for life. But those things in the cereal box, they ain’t marshmallows. They’re sugary balls of death.”
What rjapsa found problematic about American food might surprise Southerners in particular: Sweet Tea. “It’s just iced tea with a lot of sugar mixed in (Edit: as many have mentioned below, this is done before the tea cools). It is a southern drink but has been making its way northward over the past decade. If you were to ask for “tea” at a restaurant in the South, the server would most likely ask “sweet or unsweet?”
Ashmotimbo said, “Sweet tea is a southern thing, and I’m pretty sure most southerners were drinking it while still in diapers and drinking from a bottle. I love it. My in-laws (British/Kiwi) find it sickly sweet. It’s had to be a certain tea as well, and it took me years to find it in New Zealand.” Jack324 wrote, “As an Aussie who’s spent a lot of time in the South, I have to agree with you – it’s like liquid cotton candy.”
Sweet tea is pretty much as sweet, if not sweeter, than a lot of sodas, which are already pretty ridiculously full of sugar. But how did an American respond to all of these non-Americans trashing sweet tea? A deleted user said, “I drink about a pitcher of sweet tea a day. I make my own. Every. Day. I also haven’t had a dark-colored soda (Coke, Dr. Pepper, Root Beer) in 7 years. Just a piece of advice. Don’t you EVER come to the South and ridicule our tea?
I’m frothing with anger as I type this, but I’m trying to stay calm because you just don’t know any better. It’s a HUGE piece of our culture, and you’re just fine not to like it but keep it at “I don’t like it,” “It’s not for me,” or just don’t talk about it. I will invite you in my house, feed you the best meal of your life, take you to church with me Sunday, and help you fix your truck, but you leave my tea alone.”
Especially a distinctly American twist on sweet potatoes: mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows. An anonymous user wrote, “I’ve only seen it on American tv, so it might not be real—do Americans REALLY eat sweet potatoes with marshmallows? Doesn’t that make you feel sick?” Actualspambot responded with his own experience: “In my family (mid-Atlantic region-based, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia), we have sweet potato casserole with marshmallows once a year with Thanksgiving. It’s honestly not as weird or gross as people seem to think.”
And amazingawesomator replied, “From California here. Yes, sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar, topped with marshmallows, and baked is a dish usually served around American Thanksgiving (late autumn into early winter). It looks and sounds weird; it is very sweet and takes a few bites to get used to the texture and taste. I used to hate it as a child, but now enjoy it.”
12. Sweet Potatoes and Marshmallows Is A Strange Combo
MillieBirdie wanted to clarify things. “Yes, and it’s lovely. Of course, it’s not JUST sweet potatoes with marshmallows. It’s sweet potatoes cooked with butter, brown sugar, usually some pecans, and then topped with some toasty marshmallows. In some areas, it’s more common to see it without the marshmallows. But it’s literally just on one day a year.”
TheNorthComesWithMe had other thoughts: “That disgusting travesty is single-handedly responsible for making millions of Americans think that they don’t even like sweet potato. Most of the world has moved on from the food apocalypse that was the 1970’s, but for some reason, the aunts of America never got the message that putting marshmallows on a savory side dish isn’t okay anymore. Equally bad is the horrid “green bean casserole. So basically, it’s a traditional dish that tons of people despise but never really thought about replacing with a different method of preparing their potatoes.”
11. When The Dish Isn’t Sweet, Americans Use Ranch
Markk31 bemoaned the state of American food by saying, “Ranch… ranch on everything.” TheCSKlepto said, “I was working in the UK at a hotel, and one of our long-term residents (basically she lived there) was a fellow American. One day I came into work, and all of my staff was going apesh*t over what Mrs. Whatsherface made them and how I had to try it. Well, she gave me a bit. I tasted it and went, “…wait, isn’t that ranch? You guys know you can get this everywhere in America, right?” No, they did not. Another day Mrs. W made another amazing sauce, this time: Thousand Island.
My mind was blown by how much my staff’s minds were blown at something (I thought) so simple.” According to kk1998, “I’m from Canada, so ranch is a common flavor but last spring when visiting Poland they were calling it “American Sauce.” We all found it hilarious. I didn’t even know it was associated with the US.”
Rubyfisch is an American who also does not understand the obsession with ranch, which does seem to have a bit of a regional flair in the South and Southwest. She wrote, “I’m from the northeast, but lived in Texas for a while. I was eating out shortly after I moved there, and the waitress asked me if I wanted ranch. So, I had chicken, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. I asked her what, and we just sort of stared at each other for a while. I’m still not 100% sure what the ranch was supposed to go on. While I am really not a fan of most packaged ranch dressing, the fresh-made stuff on salad (and only on salad) is pretty tasty.”
kApplep disagrees. “You gotta have ranch. I used to be all about the sweets, bbq, honey mustard, sweet n sour but hated ranch. Now ranch is all I use as dressing/sauce. I saw my co-worker (who used to work at a Wendy’s) having nuggets with ranch and gave it a go. It was a glorious moment that I’ll never forget.”
Not only does American bread have a sweet flavor (because it is often sweetened with high fructose corn syrup), but non-Americans have noticed that Americans tend to eat a lot of it. MustXdestroy wrote, “Girlfriend is from Southeast Asia, and when we first got together, she told me she doesn’t like bread. I didn’t think of it as a big deal at the time, but after three years together, I’ve noticed that we serve EVERYTHING on bread. It’s a trip how often we check out the menu to a place, and every single item on their menu is a sandwich, a burger, or toast.” Why are we responded with, “Yeah, I feel bad for folks with celiac disease for this reason because quite often it’s hard to find places to eat with them. My ex (has celiac) and I basically stuck to Thai food and Mexican food for that reason.”
MustXdestroy also said in response to the idea that most restaurants don’t have a lot of burgers, “Actually, there are tons of places that have more than two burgers on the menu, lol. Maybe you should get out more. If you go to Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, China, India, or any of the other countries in the most densely populated part of the planet earth (East Asia), bread has absolutely not been a staple of their diet for centuries. They have things like paan, but that’s not bread any more than a quesadilla is. Rice is much more common as the starch is served with meals every day.”
8. The Sweet And Savory Combo Is Unappealing To Many Non-Americans
Boredgirl98 wrote, “I just find chicken with waffles a weird combo, and some people put syrup on it too.” Shakeweight_Allstar responded by saying, “If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s a sweet/salty combo.” While that combo may seem normal to many Americans, non-Americans can get pretty confused about what makes it appealing. But sometimes, they just need to try it, like blipsman, who said, “I went to college in Atlanta, and Gladys Knight (the singer) has a Chicken N Waffles restaurant or at least did when I went to school there 20 years ago.
We would make fun of it when we’d pass it on the way elsewhere… this was before it became such a well-known dish. One weekend, we decided to go as a sort of dare thing. IT WAS AN EPIPHANY! Absolutely amazing combination and I was hooked! The trick is to have some sort of hot and sweet sauce like habanero infused syrup or mixing hot sauce and honey.”
There is a lot to be said about how extreme American chicken and waffles are. There’s an inordinate amount of bread in the waffles. The dish is sweetened with syrup, and of course, there is a fried element because the chicken is fried. Many people add a square of butter to their waffles. Some people will love the combination, and others will find it repulsive and squarely… American. An anonymous user wrote, “I’m not a fan of mixing sweet and savory. Love fried chicken. Love waffles. Put them together? No thanks.”
Another anonymous user took a different beef with chicken and waffles by saying, “Southerner here. Chicken and Waffles has always seemed a bit made up to me. Let me explain. Chicken is easily fried on a large scale. You can cook up a lot of chicken for the family, and you don’t need much money to do it. Waffles, on the other hand, take a lot of time. You need a special machine, and you can usually only cook one at a time. Think about the problems that arise if you have a large family. Then think about how easy it is to make pancakes. Chicken and Waffles always seem like such a gimmick.”
6. The Things Americans Do With Cake Can Seem Strange
Americans often have coffee with something sweet, like cake or, you know, coffee cake. But not only is our cake excessively sweet but so is our bread. Harmony55 recalled, “After arriving in America, my German mother invited her new neighbors over for coffee. They sat, drank their coffee, and tried their best to have a conversation. My mother spoke very little English. As is customary, she presented them with cake to go along with their coffee. The cake she served was Wonder Bread. She thought because it was so soft and sweet, it had to be some kind of cake.”
An anonymous user replied to this story by saying, “Haha. You can make the argument that Wonder Bread is cake despite the name. Bread is made from dough. The cake is made from batter. Wonder Bread is made from batter.” No wonder so many kids like to eat sandwiches made from Wonder Bread. They’re basically eating cake!
An anonymous user replied with a different story about coffee: “My mum did the same kinda thing when we first moved to America, SoCal to be exact. We’re Australian, and also, at the exact same time we moved into our new home, we had neighbors that also moved into their new home. They were from Texas. Mum got all excited because it was so good to have a family in the same spot as us: brand new to a different country/state. So she invited our new Texan neighbor around for a brew for breakfast.
CM-IBZ wrote, “My husband is American, and I’m English. He makes some foods that look quite weird/disgusting. Chili dogs with cheese (looks like something the dog would bring up), Hamburger Helper, syrup over breakfast, and Icing sugar on toast? I did try my first PBJ sandwich last year, and it was quite nice.” An anonymous user said, “Chili dogs with cheese are absolutely excellent. The local dive bar only makes two foods: burgers and chili dogs, and for a super trashy leaky grungy bar, they’re out of this world and only like $4 for a full meal.”
CS-Klepto had some other thoughts about British food compared to American food. “My mother’s British: You guys have pancake day and bread pudding whenever. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Yorkshire, but the ‘save the ends’ sweet pudding? No, thank you.
Therorex wrote, “Try peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Chili dogs are really good, too. In fact, most American foods really don’t look that appetizing, but the flavor is mind-blowing. Just make sure to douse it in either Louisiana/Frank’s Hot Sauce or mustard. Or you know what, just take everything in the cupboard/fridge and throw it in a pot. I swear that’s how we came up with everything.” M8asonmiller concurred that a lot of American foods look gross but taste great.
He said, “Chili looks gross, but if it’s made well, it’s quite divine. Part of its appeal is that you can make it from a wide variety of ingredients, most of which are relatively cheap to buy and easy to prepare. Anyone who makes it regularly has their own recipe. Try it with sour cream and cheddar cheese. It’ll change your life.”
2. Outback Steakhouse Doesn’t Really Have Food Items From The Outback
Some Aussies had concerns about the origins of Outback Steakhouse’s famous Bloomin’ Onion. Lettucewrangler wrote, “As an Australian, I would like to know what in the flying firetruck a “Bloomin’ Onion” has to do with anything, let alone the rest of Outback Steakhouse’s menu.” Because the “Outback” of Outback Steakhouse seems to be a pretty clear nod to the Australian outback, right? Yet, the menu hardly resonates with those who are familiar with Australian cuisine.
JohnnyBrillCream responded by saying, “Outback rode the coattails of the movie Crocodile Dundee. Outback really has nothing to do with Australia other than a brilliant marketing plan that capitalized off a popular film of that time.” Sveenee said of the whole Outback-Australia catastrophe, “Other franchised steakhouses make a dish that was basically a deep-fried onion. It sold well. Outback Steakhouse just copied the idea and gave it a stupid name. Personally, they all taste like grease and onion.”
Curmevexas had one that was pretty weird. “A long-standing holiday dessert tradition in my family is a 7-Up salad. It is lemon jello, crushed pineapple, and 7-Up and is topped with marshmallows and a whipped topping concoction. My mom was explaining how to make the topping and started the description with “you start by making a pineapple gravy.” I’m not even sure what pineapple gravy is supposed to be or how 7-Up could possibly ever be considered part of a salad.”
DoctorFlimFlam said in response, “We had something similar in my family. My mom just called it Green Goop. One can crushed pineapple plus juice, one package of pistachio instant pudding. Mix together pineapple, juice, and pudding until it congeals, then fold in a ton of cool whip. It looks like a mixture of antifreeze and shaving cream but tastes like pineapple.” Green Goop sounds more appropriate than 7-Up salad or, shudder, pineapple gravy!