As Americans, we may not see anything unusual about the way we speak, dress or react to certain trends. Being surrounded by like-minded people who appreciate the same things, follow the same customs and abide by the same principles, makes it all seem normal.
As it turns out, our friends across the pond might not feel the same. We might find a more casual attire or a good tan extremely attractive, but other nationalities might agree to disagree. On that note, here are 8 quirky things Americans consider attractive, but others don’t.
Extra tanned skin
The trend for whiteness might have died but there’s a new trend in town among Americans, Caucasian women in particular, to get as tanned as possible in order to become more attractive. According to Dr. Deborah S. Sarnoff, a New York City dermatologist, extra tanned skin has gained popularity in recent years although it “is not, nor has it ever been, a universally accepted ideal.”
Pale skin was once a sign of high status as opposed to tanned skin which was associated with outdoor labor. It all changed with Coco Chanel who popularized tanning, which soon translated into having the time and money to travel all over the world.
Americans nowadays resort to all sorts of practices to darken their complexion, our current Commander and Chief being one of them, from tanning sprays to the so-called tanning pills which release color additives in the body, changing the skin color from orange to brownish. While tanned skin is considered attractive in the United States, people in other parts of the world, like Korea or India, would go to extreme measures to look paler or “pinker in tone,” says Sarnoff.
A smiling face
Considering their obsession with super white, pearly teeth, it’s no wonder Americans flaunt their chompers every chance they get. Some would say one of the reasons people in the United States smile that much is just to show that their orthodontic treatment really paid off. According to Jessica Tracy, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, in reality, Americans believe that people, especially “women who smile are absolutely very attractive”.
As Tracy stated in her study published in Emotion, an American Psychological Association journal, smiling “was by far the most attractive expression women showed.” On the other hand, men are considered more attractive if they put on a more serious, even brooding, face. However, both men and women in the United States are known for their wide smiles, too wide, if we were to ask certain foreigners. In fact, according to a tourist from Finland, a person overdoing it with the smiling is usually considered: drunk, crazy, or American.
Americans like it skinny
We’re not talking about skinny jeans, but the people who can fit in skinny clothes in general. Although obesity in the United States reached unprecedented numbers in 2020, Americans are still obsessed with thinness and go to remarkable lengths to lose weight. In the past, fatness, especially in women, used to represent good health and wealth. Nowadays, in many people’s books, it stands for laziness and slackness.
In fact, in a recent study where participants were shown photos of underweight women, more than 50 percent of those surveyed claimed that being thin was a lot more attractive than being fat. Unfortunately, this quest for thinness makes people feel dissatisfied with their bodies, says Dr. Mairi Macleod, a researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of Dundee.
Cosmetic surgery here and there
Something else that Americans consider attractive is people who’ve had plastic surgeries to enhance some of their features. Thinness may be a desirable trait among citizens of the United States, but this doesn’t mean certain body parts cannot be made bigger. This can also be confirmed by the growing number of people resorting to plastic surgery for butt lifts, breast augmentation or other types of lifts involving the upper or lower body.
In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) there has been a 115 percent increase in cosmetic surgery in general and 252 percent rise in gluteal augmentation since the new millennium started. The United States accounts for 17.9 percent of the plastic surgeries in the world, with Brazil in second place, with almost ten percent. On the other hand, European countries like Spain, Germany or France don’t seem to appreciate plastic surgeries as much as we do here. If you’re into plastic surgery, here are 11 Unusual Plastic Surgery Procedures You Didn’t Know About.
The more makeup, the better
While in many parts of the world women are going makeup-free, American women seem to remain pretty hung up on cosmetics to boost their attractiveness. How hung up? Well, Laura Mercier of the French cosmetic line with the same name, admitted that “it really astonishes me the way American women wear so much makeup,” she told The New York Times. “French women are not flashy. They must be subtle. The message must not be, ‘I’m spending hours on my face to look beautiful.'”
The American makeup trend is also quite different from that in Spain. According to Spanish Maybelline makeup artist Gato (né Ruben) Zamora, “in Spain it’s much quieter,” while Americans have no problem taking risks and putting on extravagant colors. American women “don’t care if their foundation looks orange or a different color,” he added.
Americans like it casual
Among the many things foreigners consider bizarre when it comes to the United States, is American street fashion. So many people casually wearing shorts on the street might be quite a cultural shock for other nationalities who are used to dressing in more conservative attires. For example, Antara Rao, an 18-year-old student from New Delhi, told CBS News representatives that he was really surprised to see the way people dress in America, compared to India. Read also 11 Things About the U.S. That Always Shock Foreigners.
Obviously, not all of us wear shorts, but we do like to wear casual clothes more than anything and find people wearing jeans and hoodies extremely attractive. In fact, according to Deirdre Clemente, a historian of 20th century American culture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “Americans have come to dress casually in a way that is very interesting as a historian,” especially if you look at the formal way we used to dress in the past.
Americans love super plump lips
You might think Kylie Jenner started the plump lip trend with her lip kits, but America’s obsession with plump lips goes way back into the past. According to Jamie Gordon, an anthropologist, partner, and cultural strategist at Culture Agency in Atlanta, Ga., our fascination for the perfect pout started in the 1950s, when Marilyn Monroe began her ascension to stardom and sex symbol status. From an anthropological point of view, wide hips and “full lips signal not only sensuality but being excited about having sex,” pointed out Gordon.
In today’s age of lip fillers, plump lips have become even more popular and desired. According to Michael C. Edwards, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, their popularity might have also been shaped by social media and pop culture. But not every culture finds big lips attractive. In Japan and in China, for instance, women with thinner or more balanced lips are considered more attractive.
Speaking of Marilyn Monroe, it’s pretty clear that some Americans like it hot…or should we say, blonde. With merely two percent of the world’s population and five percent of Caucasian Americans having naturally blonde hair, no wonder blondes are considered extremely attractive. In fact, one study found that American men believe women with light hair are more attractive and healthier than their brunette or ginger counterparts. For this reason, many people in the United States go platinum.
Being blonde, however, can also be a strategic move, according to Jennifer Berdahl, a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia. when it comes to women working for big corporations, “if the package is feminine, disarming and childlike, you can get away with more assertive, independent and [stereotypically] masculine behavior.” In the words of Paris Hilton, “That’s hot!”