Non-Americans Share The Rumors They Heard About The US That Turned Out To Be True

Non-Americans Share The Rumors They Heard About The US That Turned Out To Be True

Everyone thinks they know something about America, whether they've actually visited or not. I guess that comes hand in hand with being at the epicenter of the world's politics, culture, media, and sport. But it's even more mind-blowing for non-Americans when things they've heard about the U.S. turn out to be true!

Non-Americans who've spent time stateside recently went online to share the rumors they heard about us that turned out to be true. Enjoy!


50. Going Green

I’m an American, but one that I’ve heard a lot is that we have a bunch of trees. I’ve never really thought about, but when I was told this I did some research. Turns out about 30% of the US is forested. Guess we have an abnormal amount of trees.


49. You've Got A Friend In Me

Americans are absolutely as nice as you've heard and will stop to talk to Strangers. Canadian here, living in Alberta. To any one who has never been, you will be blown away by Americans' generosity with their time, knowledge and helpfulness. I have done a few summers of road trips from Calgary. One time I went to as far east as Ohio-Tennessee, as far south as New Orleans and Dallas, went through the flat lands and rode up the Rockies the rest of the way home... I have visited almost all the landlocked states (5 more to go) and 4 along the Gulf states, all by car.

I have been through a lot of big American cities and a lot of tiny towns. ALL OF YOU, North to South - make Canadians look like bloody savages. I expected something worse, probably because of television and the internet. But I ended up leaving your country after the first time I visited, blown away and with a new found VERY REAL love for my southern neighbors.

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48. No More Scrubbing

Before I moved to America, I had heard about dishwashers. This amazing contraption sounded too good to be true. Well, imagine my surprise when I found out it was real!

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47. Aaaaaaachoo!

I’m from Quebec and when we went down to Boston for a school trip, I sneezed in public and heard two or three people say “bless you”. Quite a weird rumour I had heard not 2 months prior to that. I thought it was nice.

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46. African't Even

After moving from Africa, as a teen, I am repeatedly asked why I moved to Africa in the first place, to which I reply that I've always lived there.

I am also asked, "So why are you white?" To which I reply, "Oh my god, Karen, you can't just ask people why they're white!" However, when they reply with blank stares I realize they aren't referencing Mean Girls...

Some other questions:

"So Africa is one country and all the borderlines are, like, states?"

"Are there, you know, buildings?"

"You guys have memes over there, right?"

"Are you Australian?!"


45. Take A Cab If You Can

Injured people try to avoid getting ambulances called for them.

I heard that Americans had to pay for an ambulance ride and thought at most it would just be an amount to cover gas or whatever. But I’ve seen people claim it costs anywhere up to $3,000? (I understand it will probably vary a lot between states.)

911-accident-ambulance-1893606-300x200.jpgPhoto by from Pexels

44. O Say Can You Sea

I was in Northern New York (near Buffalo) and a waitress overheard that I was headed "back to the Pacific Ocean." She asked where I was going and I said Vancouver. "No, honey. Vancouver is in Canada and that is on the Atlantic Ocean."

I said, "Canada is from sea to sea just like America." She replied, "No, that's not right. Only America is from sea to sea"

The combination of her being absolutely sure about something and her total ignorance was surprising enough, but the fact that she felt she should basically interrupt our conversation by telling me I am wrong about what ocean I live beside was weird.

It's 100% true what they say, in my experience: Canadians know way too much about America, but it definitely doesn't go both ways.

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43. The Sink Monster

They have garbage disposals in their kitchens. That's just so wild to me.

To clarify - I'm from the UK. I'm aware that they're not the same as garbage bins or trash cans, and that they're mainly for food waste and scraps. I'm also delighted that they're apparently called 'garburators' in Canada.

paul-weaver-718787-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Paul Weaver on Unsplash

42. Driven To Drive

I was amazed that public transport is almost nonexistent in many smaller towns, which makes it a necessity for teens to have their own cars -- especially if it's not really a bike friendly area.

So if you want a job when you're 16 you better live walking distance to your job or have your parents get you a used car of sorts.

dan-gold-223935-unsplash-300x169.jpgPhoto by Dan Gold on Unsplash

41. It Ain't Easy Being Cheezy

I remember when I was younger seeing something in an American sitcom or a movie (I forget) about cheese that came in some kind of spray can? Or a squeezey tube? And I remember thinking it was a joke.

This is what I’ve learned!

• It’s called Cheez Wiz or EZ Cheez or some variation, as long as there are Zs in the name.

• It’s more like a “cheese-based product” or “cheese-flavoured food fluid” both of which sound like something you extract from a cyst.

• The movie I saw it in might’ve been a Goofy Movie or Blues Brothers. I can’t remember.

• It’s mostly an abomination that brings shame to your country, but it might actually be tasty at 3 AM if you are hammered/hating yourself/all of the above

• Two ways to make it more enjoyable include spraying on crackers, or as part of a ‘Philadelphia Cheesesteak” (or would that make it a ‘cheezsteak’?)

raul-najera-313326-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Raúl Nájera on Unsplash


40. Your Fence Is The Wrong Color

Home owners associations. What in the world is up with that?

I'm told the real purpose of HOAs is to maintain a certain aesthetic standard for the neighborhood while the developer tries to sell houses. It also allows the developer to recoup some of the expenses to create or maintain the common areas from the homeowners. HOAs are created to benefit developers and not homeowners. And yet people take it so seriously!

scott-webb-167099-unsplash-300x199.jpgPhoto by Scott Webb on Unsplash

39. Pill Poppin'

As a Brit living in America the amount of pharmaceutical commercials on TV is creepy.  It’s really unsettling. Also, I’m sick of Payton Manning and Aaron Rodgers showing up to tell me about insurance.

minh-de-dong-hoang-1578719-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Minh De Dong Hoang on Unsplash

38. Fast Friends

Not exactly crazy, but I wanted to test out the stereotype that Americans will talk to anyone so I sought out a sports bar on my first visit. Ended up having a ton of really fun conversations with total strangers who I’ll never talk to ever again. It was great!

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37. Going Solo

I've had several German friends who were amazed that at house parties everyone actually does drink out of red Solo cups. They thought that was just a weird thing people did in movies and now they think it is a huge conspiracy or something

I'm Finnish and few years back people actually threw US themed parties and the high point of the parties were the red cups and drinking games played with them. Every person I know who owns a set of those cups (like 20 or so) and use them only for drinking games. They wash them and use again at the next party.

Standard in Finland are those see-through cups you see in festivals. The Red cups make every party just slightly better and classier and add a feel that the host actually put in effort.

emmanuel-1255302-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Emmanuel on Unsplash

36.​ Green Energy

My dad is from China. He heard this crazy rumor about everyone getting hammered and wearing green for one day a year. He obviously didn't know this was a holiday, and was like WTF. When he came to the US and discovered St. Patrick's Day, he was amazed.

He didn't get that St. Patrick's Day in the U.S. is an excuse for ordinary Americans to act the way that middle-aged Londoners act when on holiday in Dublin; only with more plastic leprechaun hats and glitter.

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35. Like A Bunch Of Geese!

The honking! I thought it was a movie stereotype, and then I went to New York.

If you honk where I grew up you were getting the stink eye from everyone around. Maybe even an exaggerated upturned palm.

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34. Fort Education

Maybe it's naive, but I was amazed that there are actually security guards (or cops) in the school's halls, and some even have metal detectors at the entrance like the TSA at airports. This is not standard practice elsewhere.

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33. Go The Distance

That your country is huge!

I got off the plane and asked the cab guy how far the hotel was and he said about 30 miles. I almost had a heart attack... turns out cabs are cheaper than in the UK.

I can't remember the price I paid but I was presently surprised. The UK cabs are like £4 per mile. Also you would get laughed out of the taxi for asking to go 30 miles and not taking the train instead!

I once heard that to Americans, a thousand years is a long time, and to Europeans, a thousand miles is a long way.

joey-csunyo-512458-unsplash-1-1-300x200.jpgPhoto by Joey Csunyo on Unsplash

32. This Is Not A Drill

Not really crazy, but I just learned you guys have like outdoor sirens that get tested somewhat frequently. I’ve only heard those noises in video games and movies until my friend sent me a clip, because I had no idea it actually happened.

Apparently in many areas of the US these sirens are used to warn of impending severe weather and potential tornados. Sirens are tested on the 1st Tuesday of the month at 10am around Chicago. You learn that the hard way when you're not local!

jeremy-yap-108496-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

31. Book Worms

America has libraries that are essentially free to use.

(This was not even a rumor, but more like a sarcastic comment from a friend who heard I was excited to go to the US, because he knew what book nerds my entire family is.)

When I first arrived here 25 years ago, the first day of work in Newark, I walked out at lunch time and saw the huge Central Library. The size boggled my mind, but I bravely walked in to check it out. The guy says, "Show me your work ID with your local address and you can get a membership card."

Me: "How much does it cost? I only have $80 total till I get my first pay."

Him (bemused, almost laughing): "It's free. You don't pay anything."

Me (after a brief recovery time from the shock): "So how many books am I allowed to take home?"

I was expecting that to be a catch - maybe I need to put down a security deposit for each book/

Him (now positively enjoying himself): "How many can you carry?"

That day I took home 30+ books, just being greedy. And quickly called my dad to tell him about it.

For a guy who would painstakingly browse used books stores in a small town India just to get his kids great books to read, he was suitably amazed. He was puzzled; wouldn't kill the book store business, because who'd buy if such free libraries existed?!

To this day I remember the gratitude I felt that day for being able to come here. And when dad visited some years later, I would drop him off at a library on my way to work and he'd be lost in it all day.

susan-yin-647448-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Susan Yin on Unsplash

30. Three Strikes You're Out

I never thought that "take me out to the ballgame" song was a real thing,  but it's apparently sung at baseball games. It's a thing at the 7th inning stretch. Not everyone sings it, but they play it on the PA. I'm still not entirely sure the guy who explained this wasn't making fun of me though...

tim-gouw-124468-unsplash-300x201.jpgPhoto by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

29. No Privacy

You can see into the public toilet cubicles.

(Female here.) I've been in bathrooms in the US where the gap between the stall and door is so big I felt the need to cover it with my purse just to get some privacy.

The absolute worst is when some mother brings her grubby-handed son on the bathroom and you see an 8-year-old's eye staring at you from the other side of the door.

syed-umer-766626-unsplash-300x228.jpgPhoto by Syed Umer on Unsplash


28. Candy Man

That American kids eat straight sugar. I walked on to the playground and saw kids chugging these long thin sticks. I decided to try one and was amazed to discover that it was just colored sugar. I think they're called Pixie Sticks?

sylvanus-urban-302505-unsplash-300x232.jpgPhoto by Sylvanus Urban on Unsplash

27. Walk It Off

That people will just suffer through an injury or illness because they can’t afford health insurance.

That people who have health insurance will just suffer through an injury or illness because they can't afford to pay their deductible. I mean, if your deductible is $6,500, you're never going to the doctor.

zhen-hu-340739-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

26. Park It

American State and National parks are some of the most beautiful places on earth. All parks could use more funding, but American parks are well staffed and maintained. There’s real pride on display and so many amazing landscapes to see and explore.

arches-national-park-1821072-300x200.jpgImage by Arches National Park.

25. Buy This Car To Go To Work, Go To Work To Pay For This Car

I mean, I was surprised that you literally can rack up $100,000 or more in debt just through student loans.

You go to a ginormous facility and stress your butt off for four years just to get broke and maybe win a better chance at landing an occupation that can make you less broke.

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24. Just The Tip

The extent of the tipping culture is frankly shocking to me.

My dad's girlfriend is a bartender in the U.S. and she relies on tips to have a good pay. On a good day she will walk out with $200 in tips.

My best friend is a waitress who also depends on tips for a good wage. She has clocked out with upwards of $300 on a good night (usually after football games, if the home team wins, a bunch of people all usually go to the restaurant she works at to celebrate with dinner.)

But, I mean... you're counting on random people to pay you rather than being paid out for the hours you worked by the person who employs you. I know it makes sense to Americans but to a lot of people it seems like a strange system.


23. Come For The Cups, Stay For The Cups

I'm from Australia, and all my life I believed red Solo cups were like 555 area codes - a Hollywood prop. When I immigrated to the US, my MIL was making dinner and offered me iced tea in a red Solo cup.

I lost it, made everyone sign the cup. I've still got it.

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22. The Joys Of Motherhood

That women only get about 6 weeks off work after having a baby and it's most likely to be unpaid.

One woman I know had to go back after two weeks with her last kid.

She had started a new job before finding out she was pregnant (about 10 weeks along) so she didn’t qualify for leave and didn’t have any vacation time since she hadn't been there long enough. They were “nice” enough to let her take off 2-3 weeks unpaid.

She stopped work a week after her due date and the baby was born a week later. She had to fight with HR (and get a doctor's note!) to get a lousy extra two weeks.

Her body was still recovering from the trauma of childbirth - still sore, still bleeding, still cramping. And they wanted her back at work in that condition.

This would be illegal in Germany. You are not allowed to work for at least 8 weeks after childbirth, even if you wanted to.

adorable-baby-beautiful-2224959-300x200.jpgPhoto by Iuliyan Metodiev from Pexels

21. Mr. Tea

Biscuits and gravy is a legit thing.

Also you can ride motorcycles without helmets in some states???

And your iced tea isn't sweetened unless you ask for sweet. Nothing could have possibly prepared me for the absolute dichotomy of sweet tea vs iced tea in the U.S. This is evidently very important to many, but to foreigners it's super confusing.

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20. Slllllllurp

Free soft-drink refills in restaurants. Like how does that make any sense?

I'm told restaurants pay an incredibly low amount for soft drinks. Like almost nothing for the syrup they put in the machine. Their profit margin is HUGE, which is why the price is so low and why free refills don't cut heavily into their bottom line.


19. America The Thirsty

Drink sizes. Whoa baby.

When my family visited in 2017 we landed in Texas for a stopover. First thing I saw in the shops part of the terminal was a dude who was drinking from what looked like an actual freaking bucket. Here in New Zealand, our “large” drinks would be considered an American “small” or maybe “medium”.

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18. Hello, Dolly!

That Dolly Parton has her own theme park in Tennessee. I thought it was a joke.

I never realized that woman is a saint. She has a book program for children where, once they are born, they will receive a free children's book once a month until they turn 5.

That is amaaaaaaaazing. She deserves her own theme park for that!


17. If Only

Private prisons. I thought it was some sort of "lol the US is a dystopian nightmare" exaggeration joke the first time I heard it was a thing. I had to look it up to believe it because I was 100% sure the person was just trying to mess with me when he said he was serious.

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16. We're Getting Ripped Off

The minimal amount of paid days off you get from work. A friend of mine from Wisconsin was very proud he got 20 days off per year. If someone in Germany would offer me only 20 days, I would laugh at him and leave.

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15. I Like My Freedom With Ketchup

Some cafeterias and restaurants renamed "French fries" as "freedom fries" when we (the French) refused to help the US with the war in Iraq. A Canadian friend told me that and I thought it was a joke. Turns out it wasn't. It's the most passive-aggressive thing I've ever seen.

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14. Coming To America

My parents were originally from the USSR. They were absolutely shocked at how nice you Americans are. They said that y’all are a weird type of nice, but nice regardless.

It didn’t even matter that they were from the USSR when they moved to the States post collapse; you Americans seemed to accept them anyway.

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13. In Laws

In any given area, you're subject to a freaking ton of different laws.

There are laws that apply to the whole country, laws that apply to individual states, laws that only apply to counties, laws that apply to individual cities, and then I think, different areas within a city.

In England, no matter where you are, all the same laws apply, with very rare exceptions.

Homeowners associations as well. What a load of tripe. Land of the free, but your neighbour can tell you what colour your freaking fence can be. Alright then.

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12. Give Me A Hand

That they clap at random times. I was watching a movie in the USA and people liked what happened onscreen, so the audience started clapping in the middle of the movie.

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11. Pie In The Sky

I studied in Maryland for about half a year back in 2017. I'd always heard that Americans are like... super good at pie. I was pretty much all alone during thanksgiving since everyone else was with their families. One of the RAs I'd befriended knocked on my door and brought me all different kinds of pie. Dear lord, I've never tasted anything that delicious. From blueberry to apple to pumpkin. Every. Single. Pie. They were all amazing.

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10. Hello, You Eat Too Much

According to my Japanese friends, how overweight we are as a nation is mind-boggling to them, and how little we're doing to stop the growth of obesity is simply terrifying. When I tell them that it's not polite over here to point out weight problems, they are nonplussed. Then again, Japanese people sometimes greet friends with, "Oh, I see you've gotten fatter," so they've got a totally different outlook.

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9. Paper Boys

My uncle is a non American from Japan. The first day he came here to visit, he complained all day about how uncivilized we were for using dry paper to clean our butts. He literally walked around the entire day, yelling at the sky: "AT LEAST I CLEAN MY BUTT WITH WATER!"

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8. You're In New England Now

I'm American, but I have a British brother-in-law. Here are some things I remember that he thought was strange:

Flags everywhere. In England, flags are seen only on government buildings. He was astonished that an American car dealer would fly even one flag, let alone dozens.

Cars in disrepair. Cars being driven around with broken headlights, missing bumpers, or rust-holes right through the metal. He says in England, such cars wouldn't be allowed on the street.

The fact that people use cars for everything, and the number of businesses that have drive-through windows (banks, fast food, and in some states, stores). Nobody walks anywhere. Some suburban areas don't even have sidewalks.

The fact that people drink and drive. In England, it is taken for granted that if you go out to a pub, you will walk or take a bus or a cab.

Drinking laws that vary from state to state and sometimes from county to county. Things like closing times, whether you can buy drinks in grocery stores, etc. Laws are uniform throughout England. (I think they are different in Scotland.) Actually, many laws vary from state to state but the drinking laws were the ones that most affected him.

How cheap clothing was. He tends to load up on clothing and shoes when he's here. Clothing isn't subject to sales tax where we live, but in the UK, everything is subject to VAT which is, I think, 15%.

How obsessed we are with weather. He was amazed and the length, detail, and frequency of weather reports on TV. He once heard a report that the temperature had gone down one degree, and he couldn't stop making fun of it all day. One degree! Breaking news! The temperature has gone down one degree! Did you hear that? One degree!

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7. Think Inside The Box

My friends from Ireland were astonished by the mailbox. See, I put in a letter, and lift this little flag up, and that lets the mail carrier know that I have a letter to mail. After he picks it up, he puts the little flag down, and I know he's been there.

"Feckin' brilliant, dat."

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6. I Come From A Land Down Under

I'm Australian, and I've spent around 12-18 months total in the USA, divided up into a few trips over the course of the last 12 years for family reasons.

The most surprising thing is something others have already touched on: people don't walk places. I made a friend in LA who absolutely would not accept "I'll just walk back to the hotel, it's only 45 minutes away" from me. People seemed confused that I'd walk to the supermarket and back carrying a few bags, as if that would break my back.

So I'll say the second-most surprising thing: the variety of different accents and subcultures. Where I'm from, there really aren't that many accents. I was always interested in meeting new people and asking them where their unique accent was from. New York, Maine, Texas, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, everywhere sounds so different, and a lot of them are really cool.

I didn't attend an American school, but I was always surprised to hear about them. I envied the lack of school uniforms and was intrigued by the elaborate 'school life' there -- football teams, dance teams, cheerleading, rallies, tournaments, there's a ton of stuff that surrounds school in America. Where I went to school, in Australia, we didn't have any of that (or even 'middle schools', which I'm still not clear on). School was just a few hours of lessons each day and a lunch break. I always wanted to spend one year straight in America so I could check out one of the schools, but never did.

My favourite thing about America was that so many people seemed impressed by my accent. A lot of people thought it was English, but seemed to like it anyway. Girls loved it, which was brilliant for the shy/geeky teenage me.

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5. They're Not The Bobbies

The most surprising thing: The police. Maybe it was because I was in NYC at the time, but I remember asking a police officer for directions, the two officers were just standing on a street corner, not doing anything.

They gave me the shortest answer possible, basically just giving me a vague direction to follow, and one of them put his hand on his gun.

I'm not trying to say that all police are bad or whatever, but it made me realize that maybe in the US, the police are there for a different reason. They are there specifically to keep the peace; if something goes wrong, they'll step in and sort it out.

In the UK, I feel like the police are a presence on the street that basically exist to help people, within reason, you can ask them for directions, or just chat to them, or ask them for advice on how to deal with something and they will help.

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4. Thumbing It

French ex-exchange teenager in California here. Summer 97. I was young and missed the field trip bus to Disneyland from San Diego. So I did something pretty stupid: I hitchhiked to go there by myself. The dude who picked me up looked like a plain clothes cop, but he was really friendly.

When he heard I was French he told me never ever to hitchhike in USA because its pretty dangerous. Plus people could assume I'm up to no good.

So I replied, "Look at you! You don't think I'm up to no good. I'm not that dangerous-looking or you are careless. And you seem perfectly nice."

"Oh yeah?" he said. "Take a look at this."

He told me to open the glovebox in front of me, where I found a loaded handgun.

He dropped me at the bus station and insisted on giving me $10 for ticket (even though I had cash). Then he waited for me to go in the bus.

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3. Give Me Your Candy

Masked people come to your house, knock on your door, demanding ransom to go away. Mostly it's just packs of kids but sometimes whole families. This was my Halloween culture shock.


2. Not In E-mail Form, Though

That Hawaiians really do like spam. And there’s a perfectly good reason for it too!

After Pearl Harbor, the effects of WW2 started in the US and rationing became a thing. Well, it turns out that it’s kind of hard to get fresh rations to an island that imports almost everything. So, for meat, they had to make do with spam. Human ingenuity prevails and dishes were invented. And that’s how Hawaii learned to love spam!

braden-jarvis-383867-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

1. Sun's Out, Gun's Out

I'd never been out of Australia before.

In Australia only farmers and cops have guns (and some criminals I guess) so I had never seen a gun that wasn't in a cop's holster in my entire 30 year existence.

We go to the US for our honeymoon and have the honor and privilege of visiting a Walmart. The guns are just on the shelf. You can touch them.

A fellow Aussie friend who was with us at the time asked the cashier if she could hold one. He looked at her as if she had asked if it was ok to breathe the store's air. "Can I hold one?! This big one?" she asked, incredulous. "Sure. If you want to," the guy said, confused and bored at the same time.

She picked up this big gun. (Sorry, I'm not a gun guy, I don't know what it was. It was about the size of a shotgun but was bulkier.) She was getting us to take photos of her with it.

If I had a gun like that at home and walked outside my house with it:

Someone would drive past and see me in about 10 seconds.

They would call the cops, which would take about 30 seconds.

The Police Station is just up the road so I estimate a cop car would arrive in about 3 minutes.

And it would take about 10 seconds for a cop to ask me politely to jump in his car and come for a nice chat down at the police station.

But it would be fun for 4 minutes.

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