This is a question I find myself asking on a daily basis. When you put yourself into a new culture, the norms of your own are completely shattered. Although I am in Europe and a majority of my actions do translate, there are some things that just don’t. I have to constantly force myself not to raise an eyebrow but instead watch to see if it’s regularly done.
Eating with a fork - “Are you a barbarian Sam?” One of my dutch friends actually asked me this when switching my fork to my right hand after cutting my food. Funny enough, in the US we all grown up learning the opposite. If I didn’t switch my fork, my dad would probably throw something at me across the dinner table.
Personal Space - If Americans are on one side of the spectrum of "stay out of my bubble" and the Chinese are on the other of "I’m standing on top of you." The Europeans sit in this middle ground of I’m not close enough for you to really say anything but close enough that you can feel I’m here. Waiting in line or getting money out of the ATM, this can cause a bit of angst and is something to get used to.
Kissing on the lips - As an American, when we meet someone for the first time, we handshake. When we know them, we hug. If we want to show some extra affection, it’s a kiss on the cheek. Europeans switch this up. Meeting someone for the first time, it’s a kiss on the cheek - 1,2 or 3, dependent on the country. If you know them really well, it’s a hug or a kiss on the lips. Because I am visibly someone who doesn’t love being touched, this casual affection is definitely throwing me for a loop.
Sitting down at a restaurant - This is one of those I understand both sides of the coin. In America, unless you are at a fast food restaurant or café, you always wait for the host to seat you. Even if the restaurant is completely empty and there is a table 3 meters from where you are standing, you wait. In Europe that’s not the case. Unless you are going to a 5** restaurant, you basically seat yourself. Once I was in London getting breakfast with a friend and we actually got into a fight because he wanted to sit at the open table and I wouldn’t do it. To be fair, there was a "Please wait to be seated" sign, but for him, if there was an open table, that sign was irrelevant. So what happened? we ended up leaving and going to a different restaurant :)
No Takeaway? - This is absolutely normal in a coffee roaster or cafe in Europe. Coffee is seen as something that you sit and enjoy . Although there are definitely places that you can get a takeaway, Coffee is not a grab-an-go thing here. This one I like.
Your have plans for the next 3 weekends? What? — What has absolutely astonished me is the amount of planning that is done in the Netherlands. People here have their weekends planned for a month out. They know the parties they are going to, where they are traveling and who’s house lunch is at in three weeks. This self proclaimed New Yorker plans the day of.