Most of us assumed when we were children that every family did the same thing that our family did. But once school starts and someone casually says that they put mayonnaise on their oatmeal, do any of us realize that maybe we all don’t have the exact same tastes and lifestyles. It can get difficult or downright awkward when people from very different families get together and do what’s "normal" for them only to find out that nobody else does it like that. Read all about the mishaps, confusion, and strange traditions people online have discovered weren’t universal.
1. Rubbed the Wrong Way
"Grave rubbings" are not normal things to do. When I was little and went to cemeteries with family, they would bring paper and crayons to rub old dates and names onto them like a leaf rubbing. I was reminiscing this with my friends and realized that it wasn't something normal once I saw their horrified faces.
2. The Cool Down
When we had dinner and you took a bite that was too hot, the rest of the family would blow in your mouth to cool it down. To this day, my brothers and I wonder why our parents let us do this.
3. Out with Family
Usually, after eating dinner together, if my family wanted everyone to migrate to the living room, someone would say, "Let’s go outside". Saying this all my life has now led to many confusing situations with my friends when I always say, "Let’s go outside," especially when it doesn’t make sense to be outside.
4. You’ll Really Feel It
On a drive to and from anywhere, my grandpa would speed a lot going over the hills of gravel roads. At the top, you’d get this weird feeling in your gut like the one you get on roller coasters. We’d call those hills "ticklebellies". I assumed that people called that feeling. My fiancé then told me it was not.
5. Every Last Bite
In my family, we ate chicken to the bone. There’s no meat, gristle, nothing left. If you didn’t finish, someone would. In university, one of my housemates hadn’t cleaned a chicken wing, so I took it to finish it off. Then I realized everyone was staring at me, so I said, "What?" with it hanging from my mouth.
6. Getting It All Out
My family scream-stretches in the morning. While you stretch, you breathe in deep as you yawn, then when at your longest with your arms as high above your head as possible, you scream as loud and high as is comfortable letting your stretch push out your scream. It feels so good, but I’d scare my friends.
7. Let’s Speed This Up
We’d take food from each other’s plate when we would eat at dinner time. Once you had finished eating your plate, you would pick at the slowest person’s plate. For our family, this was usually my mom’s plate. It wasn't until I reached to take food at my now-wife’s house that I learned nobody one else did this.
8. Powdered Room
My mother baked cakes as a home business for years when I was little and had a dedicated room with a second oven in there. We called it "the cake room". It wasn’t until I was probably in my 20s before I was fully aware that other people don’t have cake rooms and that was pretty much just us that had one.
9. Keeping It Cool
We had a bag in our deep freezer where we kept kitchen scraps until garbage night. It was pretty genius, but creeped some of my friends out when they would raid the hot pocket stash.
10. Ya, Think?
I had to learn that a lot of people consider sarcasm offensive. For my father, it was basically the default mode of conversation, and that’s how I grew up. And I was 23 years old when someone finally explained to me that, no, this is not how it works for most people in society, and they don’t take well to it.
11. How’s It Hanging?
We had one family towel. The towel rack was where we’d hang the towel. It wasn't designated to anyone in particular, and every few days we'd just replace the dirty towel with a clean one. A friend visited our house, and she very politely asked why we used the same towel. It never occurred to me it was weird.
12. Never Comes Down
We had our imaginary older brother named "Fred" to whom my mom, brother, and I would casually refer when our friends visited. Fred was much older and stayed in the attic. Whenever our friends would ask what he looked like, we always pointed to a different picture on our wall. I have no idea when this started.
13. One More Time!
My family likes to sing the second verse of "Happy Birthday," and everyone sings as loudly and off-key as humanly possible. No one ever finishes at the same point of the song by the end of this nightmare of a noise. I think it’s really fun, but anyone new to our birthday celebrations has zero idea what’s happening.
14. Get a Load of This One
My family has a really gross habit. We talk about the size of our dumps. My sister will call me while on the toilet and tell me about how big her poop is. I realized in college that other people don’t do this too. Fortunately, my roommate found humor in me barging in loudly talking about the size of my dump I just dropped in the toilet.
15. Greetings, Fellow Peers
I grew up around my great grandmother, so even as a child, my speech was always overly formal. I'm Icelandic, so picture a six-year-old speaking like an 80-year-old to fellow first graders.
16. Losing the Beginning
When my family finished a jigsaw, we’d put the edges in a separate bag, so we didn’t have to search for them next time. People looked at me with disgust. I didn’t realize people actually enjoyed that part.
17. No Story at All
My family, after dinner and homework, would all sit together in the living room with our books to read silently. Socially inept me brought a book to my first sleepover and waited patiently for Reading Time; it never happened. I was so confused when their parents went to sleep. There wasn’t even a family bookcase!
18. Really Getting in There
I didn’t know brushing teeth outside the bathroom was weird. I have many siblings, so when we got ready for bed, we’d walk around while brushing our teeth, so others could use the bathroom in the meanwhile. I took my toothbrush and walked to the kitchen at a friend’s sleepover once and got really weird looks.
19. Tired and Loud
My mom yells when she yawns. It’s so loud that when she yawns, you can hear it from anywhere you are in the house. One time, my sister’s friend came over to our house for a visit, and we were in the basement. Then my mom was yawning upstairs, and my sister's friend looked at us and asked, "Was that a coyote?"
20. Couldn’t Be-liebe It
My family uses assorted German words in casual conversation, which as a child I assumed were English until I got confused stares from friends. My family has been in the US since 1902.
21. Not in My Power
I didn’t know other people didn’t respond to sneezes with a sarcastic, "You are NOT blessed!" I got a LOT of weird looks in school from my teachers. I about made a distant family member suffocate from a surprised laughing fit my response sent him into though. He was actually impressed we had that kind of humor.
22. Sitting Down with a Friend
I grew up in a small house of four girls. And, growing up, privacy didn’t exist, and you get used to having conversations with one another while one was on the toilet and the other was in the shower or whatever. People thought we were weird because we sometimes would just hang out and keep each other company.
23. Hot Cross Buns
We stored bread in the microwave. Loaves, buns, rolls, you name it. When we’d need to use the microwave, we would pull it all out and then put it all back. I’m not sure why I didn’t ever question why we stored bread like that while I was growing up. That’s just "where the bread was kept" for my family’s house.
24. Not Moist People
Nobody else that I knew growing up was using baby wipes in the bathroom after going number two at their houses. I mean it’s not like I ever wiped myself in front of everyone, but every friend’s house that I visited with the exception of one friend’s house didn't even have the option to use baby wipes!
25. Out of Jar Experience
On Christmas day, my parents would always hide a pickle ornament in the tree, and whoever found it first would get to open their gift first and also get a small gift like a candy bar or something. We have done this every year since I can remember, and my friends always look at me funny when I would mention it.
26. Who Pairs?
We had a sock basket. It was just a basket of socks. None of them were paired, and they were all different sizes. The entire family just went and picked random socks every day. In all honesty, it was a pretty convenient method. I still don’t pair or wear matching socks now because it seems so pointless to me.
27. Lozenge My Mind
We make this noise to itch the inside of our throats/ears with our throats and moving one finger fast in your ear. Apparently, this is VERY weird and my friends still look at me funny.
28. Controlling the Volume
I grew up in a family of deep sleepers. I could sing loudly, slam the door, and talk on the phone at 2 AM without a single complaint. So, I built some bad habits because of this. I didn’t realize how rude I was around the house until I moved to college and had roommates who I’d always disturb unintentionally.
29. Sweet Family
We buy treats for the family every time we leave the house, and I mean every single time. Every time I’m done work, I buy treats for them. Whenever someone has an errand to do, they come back with treats to share. I didn't realize it wasn't normal until I asked friends to wait while I picked treats to bring back.
30. Talking Naturally
Other people think my family is strange for giving nicknames to everything we see and talking to everything that we see. I used to think it's normal to have a conversation with every pigeon on my way, but then I did it while I was walking with a friend. And that was when I found out that my parents are weird.
31. Like a Fairy Tale
It’s always been routine in my family to feed the birds and squirrels a few nuts, seeds, etc, in our garden before leaving the house in the morning. When I moved in with my boyfriend, he asked, "What are you doing outside every morning?" So, I told him. He thinks I’m Princess Aurora always talking to animals.
We put scissors in the freezer. One day, my Dad joked about "cold cuts" and put the scissors in the freezer. After laughing, we realized it wasn’t such a bad idea since we always lost them and leaving them in such a strange place really stuck. I still do it, and I still get weird looks, but I never lose them!
33. Tearing It Up
When we would buy a roasted chicken from Costco, all of my five siblings and parents would just take pieces of chicken with our fingers getting all greasy and gross. We would eat it piece by piece. Along comes my oldest brother’s wife who watched us devouring the chicken like beasts. She never ate with us again.
34. You Kiss Your Mother with That Mouth?
My mom and I have this inside joke where we go, "Don't talk to me" or "Don't even look at me" in response to unimportant things. I don't remember how or when it started, but I've been doing it since I was younger. I didn't realize it was strange until one day when it turned into the most awkward situation ever.
I was at the mall shopping with my mom. When she said that I couldn’t get something that I wanted, I said, "Fine, don't talk to me then". A woman who heard got offended. She pulled my mom aside and told her I shouldn’t talk that way to her and I had to learn some respect. My mom explained that it was a joke, but we don’t think she believed her.
35. Total Snooze Fest
We usually sleep after the meal during holiday get-togethers, but the men do it while the women exchange gifts. We would all go into the living room and watch football and kind of doze. No big deal. I did it once at my girlfriend's family Christmas, and evidently, I embarrassed her or maybe offended someone.
Either way, I was the only one who slept after I ate while everyone else was energetic and conversing lively with family. My girlfriend woke me with an angry tone asking why I was sleeping while the party was happening. I was comfortable and relaxed, and we just had a lot of food. That’s just what made sense.
36. Dad’s Don’t Do That
My dad was born in Iran, so he already had a little bit of a language gap. He would mess with my siblings and I and use his finger and thumb to pinch a teeny bit of skin on our wrists. And he would call this "jizz," which is what he thought it sounded like if you could hear it. This occurred a lot of times where my brother, sister, and I would be running away from my dad in the house pleading not to get jizzed on when we were younger.
Years later, someone explained to me that the noise Iranians think bees make is "jizz". Therefore, my dad was "buzzing" at us not jizzing, thankfully.
37. Really Getting Along
People are absolutely baffled that my parents are still friends after separating, and that my dad and my stepdad get along so well. They even stayed living together until Mom bought a house while dad stayed at the "original" house, and when my stepdad came to visit us from his home country, he'd stay at home.
My parents hold no ill will toward each other and have always gotten along well. They’d grew into different people and realized they wanted different things. Their houses are 10 minutes apart, and they often invite each other over. They still help each other out, do activities, and drive together to visit me.
Many of my friends whose parents have separated have shared what amounts to horror stories about it. It sounds like a lot of separations are aggressive, scary even, and definitely not as chill as my parent’s separation was. The hardest part it all for me is just choosing whose house to stay when I come to visit.
38. Tap On. Tap Off.
My parents were serious savers when I was younger despite making good money. Our water usage was controlled and timed, which led to a certain way I’d wash dishes by trying to open the faucet the least amount of times. Over the years, the tedious money saving methods faded, except for how we washed our dishes.
One night, a friend of mine invited me over, and I stayed for dinner. I offered to help with the dishes. It only took a few dishes before my friend was like, "What ARE you DOING? Why ARE you washing in dirty water??" He then proceeded to turn the faucet wide open. I was horrified by the wastefulness I watched.
I felt like I was watching dollar bills go down the drain. I was expecting his parents to go off any minute for being so wasteful, but nothing happened. They probably thought I was weird for reusing the dirty water. This method of washing dishes was normal for them yet felt taboo to me. I was 13 at the time.
39. Pretty Good View
This one, I learned the hard way. My dad would always be walking around in tightie-whities, and it would happen every day. I didn’t realize it was inappropriate until pretty late when much older than I should have been when I visited my dad one time and he had company. My dad gave stared at me and said, "…we have company". I thought the underwear thing was normal, so I blew it off.
When I was leaving, my dad laughed and asked if "I did it on purpose". I didn’t know what he was talking about—turned out I’d accidentally flashed everyone.
40. Seventh Sense
I'm the eldest of seven, and we’ve always been a close-knit family. We went through a lot as a family when the youngest two who are twins were born because of medical issues. I used to write little letters of encouragement for my siblings to read whenever they needed it that said I loved them and to hang in there.
My sister and I went to a sailing camp once and ended up on different boats. We were expecting a working sail school, but the other kids were expecting more of a cruise. They were snobby, rich kids who were mean. They didn't want to lift a finger to clean, cook, or keep the boat moving in the right direction.
My sister is sensitive, and the kids on her boat were being mean to her. One of the older boys was calling her "Thunder thighs," and she cried every night alone. We didn't see or talk to each other often, but when we could talk, she didn't tell me anything specific, but I could tell something was off with her.
I knew she wasn't having fun, so when we were back on the ships, I wrote her a note of encouragement. Someone asked what I was doing, and I casually said, "Writing my sister a love-note," His response stopped me in my tracks. He was like, "Oh, are... you in love with your sister?" in a way someone would sound when talking to someone "insane".
It was shocking and kind of humiliating, and I didn't even know how to respond for a second. Especially because sisters can be more affectionate with each other, and it's not usually weird. It still really bothers me his mind immediately went to that place, and everyone else started to avoid me slightly more.
41. All Sorts of Snacks
I was at my boyfriend’s house, and his parents were making dinner in the kitchen prepping vegetables while we and his brothers hung out in the living room. After a bit, his dad came in with sliced discs of raw potato and handed one to each of us. I was like "Uhh... what am I supposed to do with this exactly?"
And they all went, "Eat it! It's a snack!" I took a little bite, and it tasted just as starchy and bland and downright odd as I imagined it would. Apparently, they do that every time they have potatoes. I wasn’t even aware that potatoes could be eaten raw. I guess it has something to do with them being Irish.
42. Von Trapped in a Musical
It took me a while to learn that other families aren’t constantly singing. My dad sings and plays the guitar, my mom was in chorus in high school, and two out of my three sisters take theater and vocal lessons, and one sister plays the ukulele. I constantly hear people walking around the house singing, and we’ll do impromptu musical numbers.
Because of this, I’ve kind of picked up a habit of singing without even realizing it. My friends will tease me sometimes when we do group calls when I start singing randomly. But I didn’t realize how strange it was until I went to a party. In a good mood, I burst into song. And they looked at me like I was crazy.
43. Standard Servings Diet
My family would cook almost exclusively boxed/canned foods and nothing fresh or from scratch ever. I had no idea that other people didn’t eat this way until I went to college. Friends and roommates would comment on my strange array of boxed foods—like bags of instant soup—and say how disgusting they looked.
I was mortified when I learned I’d been eating really gross and processed foods all the while thinking it was normal and real. Since then, I make a conscious effort to always get a lot of produce at the grocery store, which was something we never had and to learn to make new meals from scratch whenever I can.
44. Onomatopoeia It
I’ve grown up with my mom telling us how to cook and saying, "And then go ‘ghrr’ the [ingredient]" to make a puree, which was normal to me, and I’d know that meant I needed to grind/blend/juice whatever ingredient it was in the mixer/grinder. So, "ghrr" was the human imitation of the sound that a mixer makes.
My sister used the same term when she was sharing a recipe in her college. There were 8-10 people around her who just looked confused. They asked her to repeat herself. Then a friend started to laugh realizing what "ghrr" meant. My sister took a whole minute to realize that no one else referred to it that way.
We had such a laugh when she came back and told us about the incident. We still use "ghrrr" when communicating at home. When we’re not communicating with each other, we have to stop ourselves from using that.
45. Unpolished Language
Until I was 16, I thought the normal word for a portable air heater was "kurpierdup," which in Polish is a combination of the beginnings of three curse words. I realized it was just my family idiolect during winter break in high school. When I went with my friends to the mountains and the refuge was freezing.
Back then, I looked about 12 when I was actually 16, and I went down with my friend to ask for a heater. I asked the dude at the reception for a "kurpierdup". But after I said that, the panicked look on the poor dude's and my friend's faces told me immediately something I said wasn’t something to be said ever.
Apparently, the story behind calling the heater a "kurpierdup" is that when I was young, it was cold, and the central heating wasn’t running. So, when they bathed me, they would use this old, huge heater. When my dad would set it up, it’d always fall, hence why we called every heater by his chosen expletives.
46. Already a Bummer
My family is weird with gifts like, really weird. When I was a child, it wasn't uncommon for me to know exactly what I was getting. Somebody usually just told me even if I wasn't there when they bought it. While the whole "It's the thought that counts" was expected out of the receiver, it wasn't by the giver.
It was common to receive a gift as well as an apology the gift isn't better at the same time before you knew what it was. This was completely normal to me until the first Christmas with my girlfriend when I handed her a gift and said, "Sorry, it was the best I could afford". She shut that attitude down hard.
I realized just how kind of messed up it was. The rest of my family still acts the same. Last Christmas, my mother was annoyed about waiting to know what I got her. She kept asking what I got her and how much it cost. She finally asked, "Is it something I'll like". No, mom, I got you something you’d hate.
47. Learning to Excel
My dad used spreadsheet software pre-Microsoft to make a chore chart. Each chore was worth a certain amount, and I’d check off what I did each day then add it up at the end of the week to figure out my allowance. Friends who came over thought it was weird because their parents just gave them their allowances.
As an adult though, I appreciate it. I learned the value of work and money and practiced addition, and I’m great with money now. It gave me some agency, if I didn’t want to do a chore, fine, I just didn’t get any money. If I wanted to earn more, I could do an extra day of something that wasn’t expected of me.
48. Like a Dungeon
We had a habit that some found creepy—completely silent and dark mornings. The only morning person is my sister, and the rest of us hate mornings. My dad was up first and only turned on the dimmest light in the kitchen. Then my sister would get up and silently eat breakfast before waking me and our mom. We never had more lights on or spoke.
I didn’t realize this was odd until my then boyfriend now husband started driving me to work. He was all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and chattering about. I hated it. He now wakes me with a kiss and coffee and leaves.
49. Found It a Special Time
In my family, the men go "bowling" on Christmas Eve, and the women go "bargain shopping"—but that’s not actually what we were doing. Bowling actually meant bar hopping, and shopping actually meant dumpster diving. The oldest child had to watch the younger cousins overnight, which was always me until I was 15, and they deemed me old enough to go along.
We all suited up in all black clothing armed with long paint rollers to use as hooks to fish in the dumpsters. I found my first computer dumpster diving. We’d wrap the best ones we’d find to add them to the Christmas tree late at night. In a good year, our haul can double the gifts we’d hand out the next day.
And the following morning on Christmas, the men would all be hungover and look awful while the women get all excited about the 12 pack of irregular cut Fruit of the Loom boxers they found for their weird legged husband. Dumpster diving might seem strange or gross, but I think it’s quite a fun tradition we do.
50. What Are You Fon-doing?
Growing up, whenever we had grilled cheese, we’d also make hot chocolate. Then we’d dip our sandwiches in the hot chocolate before taking a bite. I had friends over all the time for dinner and such growing up, but the stars never aligned until high school when one of my oldest friends came over to eat dinner.
He saw us dip our grilled cheese in the hot chocolate, let it soak it in for a couple of seconds, and then take a large bite. His jaw about hit the floor. I told him that it's the only way to even eat grilled cheese. He tried it and loved it. The next day, his mom called my mom, and she asked her for the recipe.
Apparently, he couldn't stop talking about how good it was. This led to it slowly spreading to all my friends in high school. Of course, most were skeptical, but whenever they would actually try it out at home or come over to my family's place and try it, they all loved it. It’s still the only way I eat them.
My parents had a rule that only adults could close or open doors, and I'd always have to ask for permission to come inside since I didn’t own keys. No doors were ever closed except the entrance. Even the bathroom was open. I accepted this as life and thought nothing of it until third grade when my class had a washroom.
It wasn't a problem until I was back from recess and went poo while the class walked by. My teacher, mortified, screamed that I didn’t have the decency to close the door and let everyone. My little brain thought, "How is this my problem? You didn't close the door!" My third-grade teacher didn’t care for that.
52. Bye, Bye Birdie
My grandmother always thought that the hand sign for "I love you" was the middle finger straight up, exactly like flipping the bird. When she would send my dad or his sisters out of the house for the day, she’d innocently flip them the bird and yell that she loved them and to come back in time to have dinner.
Now, out of tradition, my family always flips the bird to one another when we say goodbye. People give us strange looks at the airport when we, a group of 15 people, all starting flipping each other off as a goodbye.
53. Why Don’t You Put It in There?
My parents hated using the microwave. They wouldn’t put pasta, bread, meat, or anything meant to cook in the microwave. It was strictly for steaming vegetables and frozen dinners. We didn’t eat microwavable meals like frozen nuggets or hot pockets because my mom didn’t want to turn the oven on for "kid food".
When I saw someone microwave a plate of pizza rolls or chicken nuggets, it blew my mind. To me, it was as weird as boiling them. This did lead to me teaching my first boyfriend to make quesadillas in a pan. He’s from a microwave family, and I showed him the light and seasoning; you got to season a quesadilla.