Bizarre things Americans find attractive

Surprised woman
When you’re surrounded by
people who, for the most part, are into the same things as you, you probably
don’t feel all that different from your peers. If you’re living in the United
States, you probably don’t think American customs are strange — if you even
think about them at all — but that’s only because they may be all you know. As
it turns out, we have some downright bizarre tastes — especially when it comes
to how we present ourselves.
According to Western Illinois
University’s guide, “American Culture: The Basics,” success in the
United States is “often measured in dollars.” That’s not to say we
don’t value relationships, but materialism is how we non-verbally communicate
our social status. Naturally, a lot of the things Americans find attractive are
rooted in things that point to success and, often times, wealth. Here are some
examples of the strange things we find pleasing to the eye or, if we were Paris
Hilton, would cause us to say, “That’s hot.”
the pale
In the United States, many
women — especially caucasian women — strive to achieve tanned skin. Dr. Deborah
S. Sarnoff, a New York City dermatologist, told The Skincare Foundation that
this trend is actually pretty recent. According to her, “tanned skin is
not, nor has it ever been, a universally accepted ideal.”
While Americans aren’t the
only ones wanting to darken their complexion — European and Brazilian women do
too — we’re not the majority. Women throughout China, Korea, and Thailand don’t
understand the tanning trend — they actually strive to look paler or, as
Sarnoff explained, “more pink in tone.” In India, too, some men and
women look to creams to lighten their natural skin tone.
For centuries, pale skin was
thought to indicate high status because a tan would mean you spent a great deal
of time outdoors, perhaps doing manual labor, whereas pale skin meant you were
privileged enough to stay indoors. Needless to say, America’s glorification of
fair skin was pretty cringe-worthy back then.
By the 1920s, however, Coco
Chanel popularized tanning and, by the 1960s, being tan started to signify
privilege because it meant you had the time — and the money — to travel.
Whether Americans were obsessed with staying pale or, now, getting tan,
attempting to change your skin color — especially to look wealthy — is a bit
pearly whites
While some Americans may find
glowing white skin unattractive, the opposite is true for their teeth. The
whiter your chompers, the better. Statistically speaking, you have likely used
a product in an attempt to whiten your teeth. According to U.S. Census data and
Simmons National Consumer Survey calculated by Statista, over a whopping 39 million
Americans used teeth-whitening products in the year 2017. 
Not only are we obsessed with
getting our teeth as white as possible, we also want them to be straight. In
2015, New York Magazine reported that over the previous 20 years, the
number of American and Canadian teenagers receiving orthodontic treatment just
about doubled. Meaning, 80 percent were under the care of an orthodontist in
2015. Adults, too, now make up a quarter of all orthodontics patients
throughout North America.
Not everyone places the same
value on having bright white and super straight teeth. Professor Jimmy Steele,
of the School of Dental Science at Newcastle University, told BBC News that
British people prefer “nice natural smiles — natural in colour,”
explaining by contrast how “U.S. teeth are sometimes whiter than it is
physically possible to get in nature.” Well, he’s not wrong.
don’t just love our jeans to be skinny
Obesity in
America reached an all time high in 2016, yet Americans are still aspiring
to be thin. According to Dr. Mairi Macleod, a researcher in the School of
Psychology at the University of Dundee, this dilemma directly leads to body
Much of how we view ourselves
and others can be linked back to the media. In a study conducted by Lynda
Boothroyd of the University of Durham, young women were shown many
pictures of overweight or underweight women. Interestingly, the women rated the
attractiveness according to what they were seeing, not solely based on their
predetermined set of ideals. For example, if shown photos of underweight
women, the women would consider thin to be most attractive.
People in places without
access to the media, like the remote parts of Nicaragua, don’t think as much
about being overweight. Well, they didn’t, that is, until they were gifted — or
cursed — with western media. As part of another study, Boothroyd observed what
happened when villagers began watching our TV shows. Sure enough, they started
idealizing thinner bodies and some even tried to lose weight. The more TV
consumed, the more likely these women were to feel this way. Yikes. There’s no
denying we’re the peculiar ones here.
little cosmetic surgery here and there
Americans may be pretty
obsessed with getting skinny, but we still want parts of us to be big and
beautiful. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reported a
115 percent rise in plastic surgery since the year 2000. Gluteal augmentation —
aka butt lifts — alone have increased by 252 percent since the new millennium.
Other kinds of lifts, including breast and lower and upper body ones have also
increased — some by percentages ranging in the thousands since 2000.
While Americans are not the
only ones surgically enhancing their appearances, we are arguably most obsessed
with it. While Brazil accounts for a little over ten percent of the worldwide
population’s cosmetic surgeries, the United States is responsible for a
staggering 17.9 percent. Other developed countries like France, Germany, Spain,
and Australia don’t even make up a competing percentage — combined. So, what
gives? It seems it’s just not as attractive to them.
German YouTuber Trixie of
Don’t Trust the Rabbit gave her personal point of view, saying, “In
Germany, this topic [of plastic surgery] is not that common. I literally don’t
know anybody who did plastic surgery and from the friends I know, most of them
wouldn’t consider it.” Plastic surgery may look good to us here in the
States, but, likewise, pretty bizarre to outsiders.
more makeup the better

While more women may be
forgoing makeup these days, it’s obvious we Americans are still pretty into our
cosmetics. But are we more into makeup than people in other countries?
According to Spanish Maybelline makeup artist, Gato (né Ruben) Zamora, yes
— or, at least, we go about it differently.
Speaking to The Cut, he
explained the differences in the American versus Spanish approach to makeup.
“You guys take risks,” he explained, “In Spain it’s much
quieter.” Zamora also noted how Americans and Londoners “don’t feel
bad” wearing false lashes to work, but that’s not the case in Spain. He
highlighted another trend American women love. He wouldn’t go so far as to call
it bizarre, but he did say it is “very curious” — we know what you
really mean Zamora! “They don’t care if their foundation looks orange
or a different color,” he explained, “It’s funny because I think it’s
about the culture.” 
Laura Mercier of the French
eponymous cosmetic line has also noticed odd makeup trends in America. “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.'” To
each his — or her — own, right?
it casual
In 2016, the Associated
Press sent reporters around the globe to ask ordinary people about their
impressions of America. Naturally, they heard many perspectives. Antara Rao, an
18-year-old student from New Delhi, explained (via CBS News), “There was a
bit of a culture shock when I first went [to the United States] because the way
people dress there is very much different from the way we dress here. All of
them wear shorts.”
While it’s probably a bit of
an oversimplification that we all wear shorts, you can likely see where he’s
coming from. Deirdre Clemente, a historian of twentieth century American
culture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas told The Washington Post,
“Americans have come to dress casually in a way that is very interesting
as a historian.” She said when looking at photos from the past, it’s
shocking to see how formally we used to clothe ourselves.
Although much of the world has
adopted a more casual approach to fashion, Clemente said other countries don’t
get “as down and dirty as the American version.” This makes us
jeans-and-hoodie-wearing folk the odd ones out. Nevertheless, we like what we
like. Men’s Health polled 800 women and found over half of them thought
their partners looked sexiest in “faded vintage-style jeans.” Jeans
are the best.
— where?
While some American women,
including celebrities like Madonna and Miley Cyrus are all about posing for —
and sharing — photos of their au natural armpits, they are certainly not the
norm. At least not in the United States, that is. In fact, you don’t have to
scroll through the stars’ Instagram photos for very long before you find people
who are completely perplexed by the idea of not shaving.
Getting rid of body hair is
what most women in the United States are all about. As it goes, though, we’re
not the only ones. Both men and women shave their armpits in Colombia and
Turkey. In places like China, however, hair removal didn’t even become a thing
until about twenty years ago. So, those of us waxing, tweezing, and shaving our
body hair would’ve been thought of as quite odd. Although with more and more
countries embracing hairlessness, we may not be considered weird for very
from head to toe
As Americans, we may not think
we’re all that different from our friends across the pond. In some ways that’s
surely true, but, in other ways, we’re not alike at all — and, frankly, our
foreign neighbors find some of our tendencies bizarre. In an article aptly
titled “I’m British And I Just Don’t Understand
American Women” by British-born and Ireland-dwelling
writer Suzanne Jannese, she addresses some of the differences she’s
noticed between European and American women.
For one, she’s perplexed by
our obsession with getting our nails done. As someone who bites her nails, she
couldn’t really comprehend why people spend so much time and effort on getting
perfectly manicured nails. Yet and still, it’s not just nails we care about.
“You seem to spend an unholy amount of time being groomed: blow-dry salons
(something the UK hasn’t gotten into… yet) and making time in your day to get
your nails done and hair coiffed,” she wrote. Well, what can we say?
America the beautiful, right?
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.