Features of US Homes That Foreigners are Not Used To

Oct 26, 2020Sarah Jenkins

Each country in the world holds its own identity and customs. And the United States is no different. But, there are some commonplace things in the US that foreigners find surprising. We've compiled a list of the biggest differences foreigners noticed in American homes. From walk-in closets to the fear of fire, there are some truly random things about the expansive country that you may not know! 

Image source: Unsplash / Luke Stackpoole

1. Giant Homes

According to the Atlantic, the average size of a home in the US is 2700 square feet (250 square meters). The average size of a home in Europe is 1500 square feet (140 square meters). Why are they so big? Well... The US is pretty big! It's 3.797 million square miles, or 9,833,000 square kilometers while all of Europe is 10,180,000 square kilometers, 3,930,520 square miles. The width of France is roughly 580-miles. That's about 200 miles shorter than the distance across Texas, 790 miles.

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2. There's a Room for Everything

It makes sense when the homes are huge. Closets are the size of some rooms, many being walk-ins. Storage space rules, and Americans like to collect lots of stuff. From out-of-style clothes to outdated electronics, the average American hoards at least 23 items they have zero use for.

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3. Huge Personal Washers and Dryers

That's right - they're two things. Americans don't hang-dry or hand-wash clothing. It's not as uppity as it sounds, though. Industrialization transformed laundry. Laundry appliances became part of the ideal suburban home after World War II. And with the rise of women in the work field, there just wasn't as much time left for hand-washing clothing.

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4. Basements

Basements can serve as extra storage space or tornado hide-outs. Sometimes they're "finished" and used as another bedroom or children's play space. Others are turned into "man caves" or act as personal bars (pubs). Originally, they were designed agriculturally as storage for food preserves and wine. 

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5. Abandoned Dining Rooms

Americans like the way dining rooms look and want others to admire our decorating taste. Pam Kueber, who runs the blog Retro Renovation, is an expert on home trends and has a theory behind the phenomenon.

“In the early 20th century and prior, many homes had servants. The kitchen was their separate domain, while the family ate in the dining room,” Kueber says. “As that tradition died away — and as Mom began to do all the kitchen work herself — we wanted to hang with her and she wanted to hang with us, so the lines between kitchen and dining room began to blur and design evolved towards the ‘open concept’ kitchen so popular today.”

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6. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Save for the kitchens and bathrooms. Home builders discovered that they could put in somewhat minimum flooring, and then cover it with wall to wall carpet. Sometimes these are accompanied by a throw-rug. Wall-to-wall carpeting is very common in new home construction, but there are plenty of older homes with the original wooden floors hiding beneath tightly woven Berber. 

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7. Toilets are Pretty Close to the Floor

Some people say it's because Americans are shorter. Some people say it is a healthier and more natural "relief" position. Cavemen squatted... so... we can too?

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8. Toilet Bowls are Full of Water

FULL. Why? All the extra water keeps the toilet clean longer and prevents it from staining the porcelain, so using the brush occurs less often. It also helps minimize smells. 

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9. Sinks Have One Faucet for Hot and Cold Water

Both the knobs work at the same time. Water can be the perfect temperature. The theory behind two faucets is that back in the day, water boilers had issues with animal contamination and corrosion. The cold water was separate as to be safe for drinking. The US is new and didn't have this issue.

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10. Air Conditioners

They're so wonderful! Known as "AC," they stay on all summer, rather than open a window and turn on a fan. In our defense, there are plenty of places in the US where the temperature is over 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) even in the middle of the night. There is also "central heating" in homes, and there aren't many radiators in the US. When a radiator is present, it's often decorative. 

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11. Americans Often Keep Their Shoes on Inside Their Homes 

In general, it seems to occurs more in the North/Northeast due to the cold winters. About 57% of Americans leave shoes on at home at least some of the time, and almost nine in 10 (87%) don't ask visitors to take off their shoes before coming into their homes. In much of the world, this is considered rude and unsanitary.

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12. Switchless Sockets

Electrical outlets in the US are always on, whereas in Europe there is an on/off switch. In the US these switches are only used for lights. However, the electrical current in the US is lower, reducing the chance of electrical shock.

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13. No Tea Kettles

Blame it on the Boston Tea Party. People in the US drink mostly coffee for a hot caffeinated beverage.  John Adams even defined tea as a "traitor's drink!" The most common way Americans prepare their coffee is by automatic drip coffee makers.

"Tea must be universally renounced and I must be weaned, and the sooner the better."

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14. Garbage Disposals

It's not easy to describe the absolute perfection of a garbage disposal if you have never lived with one. There's no need to throw food in the trash. It goes down the drain of the kitchen sink. No muss, no fuss. More than half the homes in the US have them.

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15. Flags are Everywhere

Businesses and schools display large US flags, as do many individuals in front of their homes. However, Americans have a love for flags that goes much deeper than patriotism. Many flags fly in support of professional sports teams and universities. 

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16. Immaculate Lawns

Americans take great pride in the trimming, greenness, and symmetry of their front and backyards. Often, this upkeep is mandated by Homeowners Associations. Many lawns include below-ground irrigation, with automatic sprinkler systems. The backyard is always fenced-in. Usually, the fence is solid wood, over six feet tall. 

Image Credit: Pexels

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