Whenever I travel to another country, one of my favorite things to read about is the cultural practices that may be surprising to Americans (e.g. how late people show up to things, what topics to avoid in conversation, etc). The Atlantic has an interesting article about how guidebooks in other countries portray the US. Some of our practices look rather silly when written out:
When invited to a meal in a private home it is considered polite for a guest to ask if they can bring anything for the meal, such a dessert, a side dish, or for an outdoor barbecue, something useful like ice or plastic cups or plates. The host will usually refuse except among very close friends, but it is nonetheless considered good manners to bring along a small gift for the host. A bottle of wine, box of candies or fresh cut flowers are most common. Gifts of cash, prepared ready-to-serve foods, or very personal items (e.g. toiletries) are not appropriate.
Also, Quora users were asked the question What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? which got responses on similar subjects. One thing someone found surprising:
Immediate check and taking away empty plates. For me this was incredibly rude as back home you never take the empty plates before everyone who’s dining has finished their meals. Also, back home one asks for the check, so when waiters bring you the check here without you asking can feel very much like you’re being rushed.
The inverse phenomenon always takes some getting used to in other countries. The biggest surprising thing for me in Germany/Austria/Czech Republic was their distaste for tap water. In Munich, the water comes from the Bavarian Alps and is certainly drinkable, but it’s almost never served. For a country that seemed to be doing so many green things, their dependence on bottled water was a surprising omission.