35+ Normal Things About American Schools That Baffled Non-Americans

Published on 01/22/2021
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35+ Normal Things About American Schools That Baffled Non-Americans

35+ Normal Things About American Schools That Baffled Non-Americans

The world is a very diverse place, full of strange things. While one thing may be normal for you, someone else may find it very odd. That’s how non-Americans feel some things that happen in American schools. Let’s look at some of the things they found rather confusing and strange that non-Americans noticed about American schools.

Early Morning Classes

For most people living in other countries, it is difficult to believe that American schools make their students come to school early in the morning. Non-Americans can’t wrap their heads around how a student, after waking up at such a time, can learn anything!

Early Morning Classes

Early Morning Classes

Even though waking up early is considered a good thing, most people who live in different places are used to going to school much later. And Americans were shocked, too, that some foreign schools don’t have classes all day! Well, aren’t they lucky?

What’s a Hall Pass?

American schools have a thing called a hall pass, where, with permission from the school authorities, you get to walk in the halls. In other countries, most schools do not really have this kind of practice, so it seems strange to non-American people.

What’s a Hall Pass?

What’s a Hall Pass?

The fact that American school students must have hall passes to walk in their schools’ hallways is very foreign to most people. However, some schools in foreign countries might relate to this. Still, it’s strange, right?

A Locker Would Be Nice

We all see in American sitcoms that American high schools have lockers where they can store their belongings for students. These lockers are also quite spacious and safe enough for your valuables to be put in.

A Locker Would Be Nice

A Locker Would Be Nice

Surprisingly, not only does it exist in films, but almost every American school as well! Most countries don’t provide students with such a facility. It would be nice to have a locker like that at all schools, wouldn’t it?

Strange School Years

In America, the naming system for school years is quite different from the rest of the world. While numbers such as ninth and tenth grades are followed by the rest of the world, Americans here call them freshman year and sophomore year.

Strange School Years

Strange School Years

For most people not living in America or just coming to America for the first time, this can get pretty confusing. Even then, don’t worry. Americans still refer to the years of school as numbers, as well.

Pledge of Allegiance

Many other countries also make their students sing their national anthem while looking at their national flag; this one does not seem too alien to most people.

Pledge of Allegiance

Pledge of Allegiance

Needless to say, in every country, it is not common, so it may seem odd for foreigners to see Americans staring at their national flag and reciting the pledge of allegiance.

Wait, You Guys Have Cafeterias?

We see American schools often in movies with really large cafeterias with lots of tables and seats for students to sit down while eating their lunch. We can confirm, however, that these lunchrooms are not something that Hollywood is made up of.

Wait, You Guys Have Cafeterias?

Wait, You Guys Have Cafeterias?

As a matter of fact, cafeterias in American schools are very much a real thing. During lunchtime, students get to sit in the cafeteria together and have their food there.

Horrific Flashbacks of School Lunch

For non-Americans, it feels very astonishing that students are made to eat these lunches in American public schools. The majority of students attending public schools in the states associate bad memories with such lunch options.

Horrific Flashbacks of School Lunch

Horrific Flashbacks of School Lunch

And we can honestly see the reason. There really is nothing on these lunch trays that looks good enough to eat, other than, of course, the chocolate milk. These poor children…

Mini Milk Cartons

To support their growing bones, milk is a nutritional food item that children should consume. That’s why American schools choose to add a milk carton to their lunches. Getting a carton of cow’s milk with your lunch in the cafeteria is pretty common.

Mini Milk Cartons

Mini Milk Cartons

Unlike America, almost every other part of the world doesn’t offer such a thing at their lunches. If anything, if you want to drink your milk at lunch, you have to buy it.

Beginning of American Academic Year

The majority of schools in America and a handful of other countries in the northern hemisphere begin in September, while schools in the southern hemisphere begin in January or February.

Beginning of American Academic Year

Beginning of American Academic Year

Whilst this is not too strange for most countries in the northern hemisphere, it is certainly very alien to countries in the southern hemisphere. It was recently rescheduled to take place in August or even late July.

School Starts in August

It’s a northern hemisphere thing, as we’ve already mentioned. Generally, school begins in September, but it was recently introduced in August. This might seem like too much preparation to some people, but it may feel pretty late in the year.

School Starts in August

School Starts in August

It seems too early to start school in August, as it is still summertime. I mean, who even likes to go to school in the summer? Answer-Well, hardly anyone!

Cute Little Water Fountain

Most don’t, but certainly, some schools in America definitely have these cute student water fountains. In schools located in other countries, it is not so common, so it can be very delightful for a foreigner to see such a small drinking fountain.

Cute Little Water Fountain

Cute Little Water Fountain

In films and shows, we always see these fountains, so it makes sense to know why so many people wanted to know whether or not they were true to life. Well, they are.

Multiple Choice Questions

Generally speaking, most of the exams that take place in American schools are multiple-choice questions. You have questions that have four or five options to choose from if only one of them is the right answer.

Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple Choice Questions

You are required to write long, detailed answers in most schools in other countries. For American students, however, that is rarely the case since they have the MCQs. Not sure how to feel about that, though.

Show Me Your Hall Pass!

It’s not like all American schools require this, but yes, many do. There are some amusing things about American schools that are very different from the rest of the world—their hall passes and their bathroom pass system, for example.

Show Me Your Hall Pass!

Show Me Your Hall Pass!

Students need to have a physical pass in most American schools to walk in the hallways or go to the bathroom. In most schools around the world, you don’t see that happening.

Rival Schools

In real life, we can not confirm or deny whether or not this is applicable. We can certainly let you know, though, that the kind of rivalry we see in movies and shows is certainly not remotely realistic.

Rival Schools

Rival Schools

The rivalry that you might see in real situations is much less prominent than in films. And like it or not, movies do not always represent reality in roughly the same fashion.

The Morning School Bus Ride

Most public schools and some private schools send buses to the students’ homes to pick them up in the morning. While some students dream of waking up in the morning to catch the bus to school, the majority of non-Americans dream of getting to school every morning on those yellow school buses.

The Morning School Bus Ride

The Morning School Bus Ride

Even though there are school buses in many schools outside America, the iconic yellow school bus is definitely a defining aspect of America’s the United States.

Swimming Pools in Schools

In America, some schools do have swimming pools to teach kids how to swim. Many public schools and some private schools have swimming pools for physical education purposes and competitions and sports events.

Swimming Pools in Schools

Swimming Pools in Schools

In some European countries and other places, this may be something you see as well, but it is mostly seen in American high schools and even more in movies.

The School Parking Lots

Some may not, but other American schools have their own parking lots to allow students and/or their guardians to park their cars after coming to school or dropping their children off at school.

The School Parking Lots

The School Parking Lots

These parking lots are generally spacious enough to accommodate a fairly large number of cars. For most non-Americans, this may be surprising, but seeing a parking lot in front of the school is pretty common in America.

Why Aren’t There Any Windows?

You’ll often notice fewer windows in American schools than in many schools in other nations. While the reason for such an architectural design can not be confirmed, we do agree with the fact that it looks a lot like prison blocks.

Why Aren’t There Any Windows?

Why Aren’t There Any Windows?

There are many windows in many schools in other countries, especially Asia, to let light and air into the classrooms. So, this is a pretty odd thing about schools in America.

The Show Must Go On!

Well, we don’t really know about clubs, but there’s certainly a lot of drama going on in every corner of American schools. All jokes aside, it isn’t entirely true that American schools have drama clubs that host shows all day long.

The Show Must Go On!

The Show Must Go On!

Even though they have a club or department and most American schools have their own theater, they don’t host shows all day long, every day. Now and then, however, they do.

A Fishing Club?

For a lot of extra-curricular activities, American schools most certainly have clubs. That doesn’t mean that for absolutely everything, they have clubs. Having clubs such as a debate team or drama club is actually pretty normal if you ask us.

A Fishing Club?

A Fishing Club?

As far as a fishing club is concerned, yes, that’s actually a club some schools have. They teach you how to fish and hold fishing events properly as well. Please sign us up for the fishing club!

Nurse! Get the Ice Pack!

In fact, many schools have a school nurse who is always prepared for the kinds of accidents within a school that may occur. We commonly see this in movies and shows, but in most, if not all, American schools, it’s very much a thing.

Nurse! Get the Ice Pack!

Nurse! Get the Ice Pack!

There’s a meme about how school nurses are said to fix any issue with an ice pack. Although that’s kind of funny, the fact that these schools even have nurses just puts them on a different level!

The Principal’s Announcement

To be honest, this one is pretty bizarre, as you only see it happening in movies. At best, principals could announce the school mic, but that’s about it.

The Principal’s Announcement

The Principal’s Announcement

The principals are highly tech-savvy in some films and TV shows, using TV broadcasts while making announcements, but that’s far from reality. Yes, it’s a thing about a movie. Most of the time, at least.

Toss a Coin to Your School Vending Machine

Although it’s not a typical situation, there are vending machines in some American schools. However, in schools, it’s not as prominent or as common a sight. In every corner of the school, you will not see vending machines.

Toss a Coin to Your School Vending Machine

Toss a Coin to Your School Vending Machine

In the school cafeteria, where children can buy snacks or soda, some vending machines may be present if they do not want to have lunch in the cafeteria. We think it’s pretty cool!

Rope Climbing in PE

Yes, they do that sometimes. American schools are very serious about exercise and encourage students to take part in various types of sports. This is why you will see many American schools pushing their students to do various athletic activities and climbing.

Rope Climbing in PE

Rope Climbing in PE

So, don’t be surprised if you see a student from an American school not struggling when climbing a rope; they probably learned it in a physical education class.

Winter Vacation

It’s a common occurrence to get snow days when the weather is too extreme for American students. And although that makes some sense, as they do not get the same privilege, they are luckier than others from different countries.

Winter Vacation

Winter Vacation

Students still have to go to school in other winter weather countries, while American students can relax in front of a fireplace at home while sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows.

The Love for Lacrosse

Not all, perhaps, but a lot of American schools do have lacrosse teams. As we mentioned previously, American schools take sports very seriously, and lacrosse is one of the most commonly played sports in America.

The Love for Lacrosse

The Love for Lacrosse

It’s kind of obvious they were going to have lacrosse teams in schools across the country. Schools not only compete against each other, but tournaments are even held! How fun is that?!

The Popularity Dilemma

There is a stigma around popular kids being very selfish and terribly mean to the so-called nerds and new kids in American schools. In many schools, it can be seen playing out this way, but we think this is happening everywhere.

The Popularity Dilemma

The Popularity Dilemma

Films and TV shows have made this such a huge topic that new students worry that the other kids won’t get along. Being popular isn’t all that, you know?

Anti-Maskers at Their Finest

Well, this is something that we also don’t understand. There is a severe pandemic in which people struggle every day. We are always advised to wear a public mask and to maintain social distancing, but many American schools haven’t made masks compulsory for students.

Anti-Maskers at Their Finest

Anti-Maskers at Their Finest

In the meantime, because of how ridiculous that rule is, we’re really at a loss for words that they make girls cover their shoulders. Who even makes these rules, right?

Weird Timetables

School timetables change pretty consistently when it comes to American schools. More often than not, it is seen that these schools change the schedule of students almost every year.

Weird Timetables

Weird Timetables

As they barely ever make such drastic changes in the school schedule, this is different from most other non-American schools. Truth be told, as their routine has to change so frequently, we think it’s quite tough on American students.

My Classmate Is My Tutor

American school students have a thing in which in different subjects they tutor each other. For non-Americans, it’s strange because you can hire a private tutor in many places to teach you outside of school.

My Classmate Is My Tutor

My Classmate Is My Tutor

Although many students study among themselves, sometimes students teach a classmate in America and take cash for it. You know what they say, if there’s something you’re good at, never do it for free!

The Discrimination

This is a very discriminatory thing for American schools to do. Students’ grouping and division create a sense of superiority in the A-list students and an inferiority complex in students who do not make it on the top list based on their academic, sports, or artistic performance.

The Discrimination

The Discrimination

Rather odd how in a lot of other countries, this is hardly seen. This sort of discrimination can be really detrimental to the self-confidence of a student.

Boring Field Trips

Outings and field trips are meant to be interesting and fun. Schools in America host field trips, unlike most countries, and take their students to more educational places such as museums, historical sites, and other places of this kind.

Boring Field Trips

Boring Field Trips

Even though it can be interesting for some, it’s almost always a really boring experience for most students. If you are going to a museum, how can a field trip be exciting?

Why Do I Gotta Weigh Myself in Public?

Many people are aware of their weight and therefore try to hide their weight from everyone. Then, American schools make kids weigh themselves in front of the class and publicly announce the amount, as if it was not sensitive information at all.

Why Do I Gotta Weigh Myself in Public?

Why Do I Gotta Weigh Myself in Public?

To be honest, it is unfortunate that there is something like this that students have to go through. Other countries rarely make their students measure their weight in front of everyone.

Confusing School Years

As we mentioned in a previous post, for non-Americans, the American school years can become very confusing. While the rest of the world follows a grade-year numbering system, Americans have an additional high school and college system.

Confusing School Years

Confusing School Years

The junior year is essentially what the rest of the world would call the third year of high school or the 11th grade. We’re not surprised that people are confused by this system because sometimes we do it.

Lots of Classes in One Day

Students are required in American schools to attend a lot of classes in a single day, eight classes per day, to be more specific. While the rest of the world only allows students to attend a handful of classes to learn the subjects better, American schools tend to take seven to eight classes in a period of one day.

Lots of Classes in One Day

Lots of Classes in One Day

This results in students being too stressed to learn anything properly in the first place, but who is going to tell these schools to slow things down?

What’s Wrong With These Grades?

Again, here we are, where someone is confused about the system used by American schools. It is not surprising how this system confuses non-Americans, as it is different from the rest of the world.

What’s Wrong With These Grades?

What’s Wrong With These Grades?

However, we do not understand why someone would get confused about eighth grade, as this one is in numerical form and should not be so confusing or odd to someone living outside the US.

Stereotyping Everything

There is a habit in American schools of stereotyping many things that are not from the US. Many other countries and civilizations are treated as if they are some land of make-believe.

Stereotyping Everything

Stereotyping Everything

For instance, in this tweet, as opposed to an actual place, we can see American schools treating Egypt as a mythological land from the Indiana Jones film. Man, these children need to travel around the world more…

Ben Franklin: The Inventor of Electricity

This is a bizarre thing to say because Benjamin Franklin indeed invented electricity. We’re not quite sure why this person said it that way, but Benjamin Franklin is the inventor of electricity to the best of our knowledge.

Ben Franklin: The Inventor of Electricity

Ben Franklin: The Inventor of Electricity

While many people believe that the American education system feeds inaccurate information to their students, this is not wrong. We’re not quite sure why you would disbelieve this.

Online Pledge of Allegiance

All too often, American schools can be quite unusual and can make their students do some wacky things. Many schools hold online classes during the quarantine so that students don’t fall too far behind.

Online Pledge of Allegiance

Online Pledge of Allegiance

All that’s fine, but it’s a little bit of a stretch to make them recite the promise of allegiance in online classes. Just part of all the crazy stuff that American schools are going to make you do!

40-Page Essay

Though some schools and teachers require a certain word count for assignments, this Twitter user is not wrong per se. There are professors—or college professors, at least—who assign a page count requirement to essays or papers.

40-Page Essay

40-Page Essay

We don’t know why that is. It just is. In fact, we didn’t see anything wrong with this method until now. But, since Tash is pointing it out, is there a flaw in the system, perhaps?

Fresh Meat

We can understand why it is confusing to refer to a class of students as freshman or sophomores (and so on) for non-Americans, but we Americans have grown up with, so let us explain the origin. The word “freshman” goes back to the middle of the 16th century, meaning either “newcomer” or “novice.”

Fresh Meat

Fresh Meat

Doesn’t it make more sense with that in mind that we Americans call the ninth grade class freshman, as well as first-year college students? No? Oh well, we tried.

One Step at a Time

We have to admit that we were under the impression that we lived pretty normal lives growing up until we scrolled through this list of questions about American schools.

One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

It seems, though, that’s not the case. Take, for example, math class. Doesn’t it make sense for you to divide the various math fields, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus? Wouldn’t learning that all at once be overwhelming?

Homecoming King & Queen

Though American schools do not literally have dances and balls every other week, as this Twitter user claims, homecoming and prom are two widespread traditions for American culture.

Homecoming King & Queen

Homecoming King & Queen

All four grades are allowed to attend the homecoming dance in high school, which usually happens earlier in the year. However, only the junior and senior classes in most schools are invited to attend the prom, which typically occurs around graduation time later in the year.

Senior Skip Day

This one made us somewhat giggle. This user of Twitter does have a point. And as cool as it would be to have this much freedom for teenage kids, that’s usually not the way it goes. Believe it or not, as an American teenager, these TV shows and films glorify what it really is like to live life.

Senior Skip Day

Senior Skip Day

While seniors are known to have a bit more leeway in terms of what they can get away with, you can’t just come and go as you please, in general. Your parents are still going to be notified, and you may even get into school trouble.

Everything Is Bigger in the USA

Public schools are typically quite big, just like everything else in America. Maybe that’s why we have the luxury of separate classrooms for each subject in the class. While there is a range of class numbers, the average number of students in a single grade is a little over 500.

Everything Is Bigger in the USA

Everything Is Bigger in the USA

With all of that in mind, you can imagine how long it would take for a graduation ceremony for only one senior class. And you got that right, @lovebotluke, college life is loads of fun!

Private or Preparatory School

Aside from public schools funded by the government, parents also can send their children to private schools. Parents and/or guardians are required to pay out-of-pocket for tuition as well as other costs, unlike public schools, though. Uniforms, textbooks, laptops, and more may include this.

Private or Preparatory School

Private or Preparatory School

Why? Because they are not administered by local, state, or national governments. What’s more, before attending, the kid(s) must actually apply and get accepted to the school in many instances.

I Do Not Envy You

This is not so much a matter as it is a statement and an exact one at that. Percy Hype Man, the Twitter user, is both fascinated and frightened by the American schooling system.

I Do Not Envy You

I Do Not Envy You

Though many of us don’t know anything else, as we grew up with this very system, we are beginning to realize (thanks to these Twitter users) that when it comes to the education system in the United States, there may be a few places that need fixing.

Letter Grades

Okay, don’t get us wrong, we agree with many of the posters that have made this list. We Americans use certain techniques that just don’t make sense. But, grades in letters? Come on.

Letter Grades

Letter Grades

We definitely can’t be the only country to follow this system of grading. How does this scale of ‘zero to ten’ work? And really, how are you making it easier to use? A, B, C, D, and F are quite self-explanatory. Are we totally wrong here?

Do the Wave!

This post is not necessarily from the point of view of a non-American, but because this Twitter user refers to a strange school tradition in America, we thought it would only be fair to include it in this list.

Do the Wave!

Do the Wave!

Though pep rallies can be fun and get the students riled up for an exciting event or sports game, we can understand how strange it would be for a foreigner or non-American to see many kids with the school mascot screaming, chanting, and dancing around.

Strange PE Practices

You probably won’t see any school that makes you do crazy things like this in a different country. This is a rather fun way to avoid running, in our opinion, but you still end up getting a lot of physical activity.

Strange PE Practices

Strange PE Practices

Building a human pyramid, however, is very difficult and can be way more dangerous than running. We would probably choose to run and topple over, forming a human pyramid.

You Guys Are Buying Yo-Yos?

This one certainly goes over the heads of non-Americans, as on a school campus, you wouldn’t ever see yo-yos being sold. This is America, though-the land of the free, the home of the brave!

You Guys Are Buying Yo-Yos?

You Guys Are Buying Yo-Yos?

American schools would hold presentations of such tricks back when yo-yos became a thing. Everyone was trying to pull off cool tricks and let children participate in them as a form of extra-curricular activities.

Let’s Go, Bowling!

Hey, at least you have something to compensate for, right? Since American schools have many different clubs and classes to take, they will sometimes assign you a very random course that you have to take to fulfill all the credits required for that semester.

Let’s Go, Bowling!

Let’s Go, Bowling!

That being said, bowling class doesn’t sound like a bad idea. We’d totally want to learn school bowling and get to play for free!

Different Lunch Periods

The fact that American schools have different lunchtimes for different grades is one thing that most non-Americans are very surprised to know. Not everybody has lunch together but in their own lunch periods.

Different Lunch Periods

Different Lunch Periods

In fact, this appears to some people as a club activity and others as very strange. We understand why separate lunch periods for different grades need to be available, helping prevent large crowds in the cafeteria.

Summary of the School System in America

Well, to make it short, this is exactly what non-Americans would say about the American education system and, to our surprise, even Americans. It’s just straight-up strange and can sometimes be quite confusing.

Summary of the School System in America

Summary of the School System in America

While Americans mostly complain about it and fear it, the rest of the world struggles to understand their school system. The fact that it is what it is, however, has been accepted by most individuals. You’ve just got to deal with it.

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