As the great Andy Zaltzman once said, “Fundamentally, [economics is] witchcraft in a pinstriped suit — it’s the art of telling people exactly what’s going to happen and then explaining why it didn’t.” Well, if economics is a form of witchcraft, one library stands alone in Edinburgh, Scotland, on an economic witch hunt.
Too many times in the past have economic “experts” sworn that their calculations were reliable, only to stand by with jaws on the floor as one economic recession (1929, for example) after another (2008, for another example) swept in like tornados. Somehow, the unfolding of events seemed to make perfect sense after the fact. But economic predictions were far from on the money.
And in this library, it’s all written down.
It’s called the Library of Mistakes, and this collection of literature has one goal: sensible economics, whimsically if not desperately hoping to educate the next generation of economists.
In the library is a small, cozy room lined with over 2,000 books, all on the topics of economics and finance. Writers like Karl Marx, Milton Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Michael Lewis are gathered together to address the economies of every country on the planet at their highest highs and lowest lows, and why.
It was formed after 2008 (read: after a devastating recession), and its curators say it’s an intellectual homage to “smart people [who] keep doing stupid things.”
According to them, economics shouldn’t only be the pursuit of those seeking economic employment in the fields of economics – should we really rely on them to keep the economy running well for all of its members? Rather, every person should have a chance to understand and better shape the economy they live within – and every person is another chance to do so. Most importantly, we should learn from past mistakes.
And like all other libraries, the sole purpose at this one is exactly that – to learn. And – if all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds – prevent another recession.
40+ Stereotypical Things Americans Do in Movies and TV Shows That Make No Sense to Non-Americans
Let’s kick it off with a particularly confusing trope in TV and movies. Why would the characters bother to wrap a gift only to tell them what’s inside?
Similarly, someone brought up that not only is this fairly uncommon but so is the trope of wrapping the lid and box separately for easy opening. While some people might do this, it seems like more of a movie trend. Why bother wrapping it if it isn’t a surprise?
More Than a Little Odd
There are some things that you might not think about that you see every day. For Americans, that includes commercials for prescription medications.
In most places, this isn’t necessarily the norm. However, this movie trope proves true in America where you are pretty likely to catch a pharmaceutical ad on TV. This includes not only medications you can buy over the counter but prescribed ones as well, which is often what confuses most people who aren’t used to seeing them.
It’s easy to use some comparisons in some places and not others. In America, most people have an idea of how big a football field is.
On the other hand, anyone viewing a movie or TV show where American football isn’t that big of a deal and that comparison doesn’t mean as much. There has to be something else to use to compare the sizes of things, right? If it helps, the total length of a football field is about 120 yards.
Where in Europe?!
There are certain things you can say and people can fill in the blanks from context. Other times, they’re just omitting important information.
This person wasn’t ready to let it go when they heard fictional Americans broadly claim that they were traveling to Europe. After all, that’s a whole continent! Where in Europe are they planning on going? Saying you’re just going to Europe raises more questions than it answers.
Committed to Memory
There is some information that you need that you might have committed to heart. That way, you don’t need to find and reference an important document each time you need it.
This Twitter user noticed that in movies and TV, Americans had their social security number memorized really well. It’s not that far off either. It’s not an uncommon tool to verify your identity and you need it for a lot of different things, so memorizing it can come in handy.
Practice Makes Perfect
There are some skills that a lot of people know that are definitely tricky at first. The first few times that you tie a tie, it might not go perfectly.
However, after a few times, you probably start to get the hang of it. So, it makes sense why this person was confused to see that it was so common in American movies and TV for people to have so much trouble with it.
There are some things that happen in movies and TV that would just be really awkward if you tried to make them happen in real life.
In America, the movies might lead you to believe that a dance battle is a more common event than you might think. In reality, we can’t imagine what would happen in real life if you stopped an argument only to challenge the other person to a dance-off. Maybe you can get away with it at an event like a school dance but even that’s a bit of a stretch.
Meeting Back Up
One trope that some Twitter users noticed in American TV and movies is the use of high school reunions in the plot. There are even some movies about the topic!
Naturally, this led some people to wonder how popular high school reunions really are in America. In reality, they do happen. However, they may not be an event that the entire class shows up for and it’s probably fairly boring compared to the drama they usually usher in on-screen.
Once in a While
There are some things that Americans on TV that more than just surprise but really confuse viewers from other places of the world.
This particular Twitter user was confused by just how many Americans on TV and in movies turned to the microwave when they needed to boil water. It isn’t necessarily something that everyone does but it’ll work if your electric kettle is out of commission or you don’t feel like using the stove.
There are some things on TV and in movies that you might hope aren’t as common as they seem. The number of frog dissections that this person noticed was starting to upset them.
We hate to break the news but this science project actually isn’t that uncommon. In fact, you might dissect more than just a frog while you’re still taking science classes in school. It’s easy to see why this particular assignment might raise questions for people watching.
A Part for Everyone
It’s not uncommon for people to participate in a school play at some point. You might even do one when you’re really young!
The only problem is that it’s hard to find a part for so many kids. This person noticed an interesting solution on TV that everyone was quick to confirm when they asked with this Tweet. Once the spoken characters are taken, why not have kids act as props in the show? Even the trees are important roles!
Are They Real?
While they were watching TV one day, this person noticed something odd. However, it was consistent enough that they took to Twitter to clarify.
Everyone was quick to let them know that this isn’t just a trope on TV – most schools do have a cheerleading team. Not to mention, there are even segments of the sport that play at school games while they may alternatively or additionally focus on competition cheering as well.
This person was confused to notice how stiff and formal the characters in American movies were. After all, they were addressing everyone by title and last name.
The comments were quick to confirm that this is actually pretty common in America. It just happens to be one of those things that many people consider polite in that particular social setting but it can vary depending on the person. We can definitely see how it might surprise someone who is used first names.
When you see a scene in a movie set in a bedroom, you might notice something confusing. Why would they choose to forego blinds or curtains?
In real life, you probably want a little more to block out the light while you’re trying to sleep. Especially in the city, it would make it harder to sleep. Plus, you probably want some privacy from time to time! This is usually left to a need for more lighting in a scene or an oversight.
Add Some Sides
Who doesn’t love a side of bread with their meal? This person noticed that Americans really do, at least in TV shows.
It’s true, they’re pretty common. If you’re cooking up some pasta or even a holiday dinner like Thanksgiving, you might want to have some rolls with them. Are they necessarily at every dinner table every single night? That interpretation might be a bit of a stretch but they’re definitely a frequent side.
A Classic Dinner
While we’re on the topic of American dinners, this Twitter user had a question to add as well. This time, we’re looking at the main course.
There are countless dinners in movies and TV that involve a family piling slices of meatloaf onto their plate. While this dinner definitely exists and plenty of American families have served it up over the years, the movies might exaggerate a bit on the average meatloaf consumption.
An Interesting Concept
There are certain appliances that you use every day that you might not think of other people not recognizing right away.
For example, outside of America, garbage disposals aren’t as common everywhere else. Conceptually, a garbage disposal is a bit frightening, so we can see the confusion. All in all, it’s there to help you clear your drain of any food waste that might have stuck to your dishes. It basically is like a blender for your sink – it’s just for trash.
Even if you aren’t interested in a sport, you might be able to see how someone could enjoy it. For instance, plenty of people who don’t watch the Super Bowl can see that it’s a big deal to many.
Other programming might seem a bit duller. We can see why this person might have been confused about Americans watching hours of golf on TV. Well, the truth is, some Americans do watch golf but it’s usually considered quite a staple of television for dads.
Holidays are often made into plot points in TV and movies. So, it’s understandable that you might wonder if you’re actually seeing a realistic portrayal of the holiday.
It’s not uncommon for American shows to include an episode of the characters celebrating Halloween. Actually, it’s not that far off. Halloween is largely targeted towards kids and their night of trick-or-treating but plenty of adults attend parties and events or at least don a costume for the night.
How’s it Going?
There are plenty of different ways to ask people how they’re doing all around the world. This Twitter user noticed that American media often turned to the phrase “How are you holding up?”
The truth is that it isn’t that uncommon of a phrase, although it’s obviously not a universal rule. You could use it casually but it also works for checking on a friend who you know is having a frustrating day. It’s just another way to see how others are doing.
A Terrifying Concept
There are some snacks that simply don’t sound all that appetizing. Still, they find their way into some people’s hearts as a favorite.
If you mention Funyuns in America, you’re likely to get more mixed results than this person might expect. Sure, there are plenty of people who like them. However, Funyuns are basically just an onion-flavored chip, not actually much like the onion rings you might order while you’re out.
Fourth of July
There are some holidays that are really drawn out for dramatic effect in movies or on TV. Yet, there is some truth to some of these scenes.
To answer this Twitter user’s question, the Fourth of July isn’t very exaggerated in most of these movies. The idea of a family getting together, maybe with friends, and throwing parties with fireworks is pretty spot on for a lot of families. In this case, this take is actually fairly accurate.
It’s a Big Birthday
Some birthdays seem like bigger milestones than others. As such, those bigger birthdays might warrant bigger birthday celebrations.
As a teenager, your 16th birthday is a big deal. If nothing else, in America, you start to get a little more independent, since you’re old enough for a license. However, not every 16th birthday comes with a level of pomp and circumstance worthy of the 16th birthday parties you see on shows like My Super Sweet 16.
Take Your Things!
If you get fired in a movie, the scene is fairly dramatic. In real life, it’s definitely a big deal as well even if it isn’t matched up to a tailored movie score.
One detail that American movies and TV shows love to repeat is someone leaving with a box when they’re fired. It’s actually not that uncommon of practice. You usually get the chance to pack up any personal items you have in an office like photos or personal supplies before leaving.
Getting the Grade
Earlier, we mentioned that American students on TV often dissect frogs. You might notice that they also tend to make a lot of fake volcanoes.
It’s actually not that uncommon of a science project – it’s a classic! Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone across the board has to do it at some point. Many who do make one usually do it earlier on in their education in elementary and middle school. Plus, the simple reaction is pretty cool!
There are some things that seem strange to people who aren’t used to them. In this case, this Twitter user wanted to know if schools really sold their own merchandise.
They actually do! It’s not uncommon to have a t-shirt, hoodie, pair of sweatpants, or even school supplies representing your school. It’s a concept that’s more often referred to regarding colleges but most schools offer something, such as class rings in high school.
If you watch a movie set in an American high school like Mean Girls, you probably notice that the friend groups are clear and competitive.
The reality is that it can depend on the school you’re talking about. Of course, students tend to create their own friend groups based on similar traits. On the other hand, those lines aren’t necessarily as aggressive as the movies and shows might lead you to believe.
That’s One Solution
In movies and TV, if a student doesn’t want to sit alone, they don’t take a route like looking busy during lunch. Rather, they often turn to the bathroom.
This isn’t really something that happens very often. Even if you don’t want to eat in the cafeteria, you may not have a choice or you might have options that are a bit more hygienic than lunch in a public bathroom. Not to mention, it seems like it would maybe draw even more attention.
There are a lot of ways to deal with a bad day. In a lot of movies and TV, Americans seem like they turn to tubs of ice cream when things go wrong.
While it definitely varies from person to person, there are plenty of people who want some of their favorite snacks on a hard day. On top of that, you have the option of opting for a personal-sized pint if you want to skip out on a dish while you enjoy your dessert.
When you see orange juice on a TV show from America, you might notice that most families keep their orange juice in a pitcher rather than a carton or jug.
Still, that doesn’t mean that Americans are always squeezing their orange juice fresh every morning. Rather, this is more likely a way to avoid having a branded carton in the shot. Naturally, there are definitely some people who love to take the time to make sure they have fresh orange juice, though.
There are some dishes that are so common in TV and movies that you have to wonder at some point if it’s an accurate portrayal of what someone in that setting might frequently snack on.
When it comes to a love for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the movies don’t lie. It’s a common snack or even a quick lunch in America. You’re really likely to find plenty if you looked through a few packed lunches for school-aged children.
Eggs are a staple all over the world. After all, they’re a versatile choice that you can use in a lot of different dishes. Yet, the question that this Twitter user has started before you even crack your egg.
Specifically, this Twitter user noticed the dozens of white-shelled eggs that Americans pulled out in movies. They’re pretty common, although you can opt for brown eggs as well. There isn’t much difference between them, though.
When you’re watching a movie, you might get confused watching the characters leave from one restaurant just to go to another. That’s the question this person had for movies and TV shows from America.
The comments on this tweet were quick to clarify that it depends on the dessert options. A lot of restaurants have a limited dessert menu that you might not find something you’re interested in. Luckily, you could just stop by a bakery or ice cream shop for more options.
So Many Eggs
We’ve taken a look at a few different dishes so far that find themselves commonly on tables in America. However, do deviled eggs count among them?
For one, deviled eggs are a bit regional – you’re more likely to eat them often in the southern part of the United States. They’re a bit divisive but they’re also more common on special occasions like big gatherings or holiday meals rather than working them into most meals.
There are some small things that you notice in TV and movies that you can’t necessarily stop noticing once you see them. The lack of “goodbyes” in American TV really confused this person.
In this case, it’s probably more of a bit of movie magic than a real habit. It’s just one of those parts of the conversation or everyday practices, that most movies don’t necessarily need to show their characters doing. Not to mention, dramatic hang-ups can help move a scene along.
A Few Leftovers
It’s not uncommon to have some leftovers in your fridge. Sometimes, you simply don’t finish your dinner or you just make enough for later.
It was the specific choice of leftover Chinese food that had this person scratching their head. Sure, Americans love heading to their local Chinese restaurant but do they like it this much? Large portions do lead to more leftovers but Chinese takeout containers are also often particularly recognizable in a scene.
Icing Injuries Only
You might notice that when a character is hurt in American Tv shows and movies, they don’t always reach for an ice pack.
Instead, you often see characters icing their injuries with a bag of frozen vegetables like peas. It actually isn’t all that uncommon to do when you need something cold. After all, you might just grab the first thing you see in a rush – even if you have ice packs in the freezer too.
There are some things that people do so frequently in movies that seem really impractical and unsafe. Who would possibly do that?
When it comes to the trope of leaving a spare key under the doormat, you probably shouldn’t copy the movies. After all, you don’t want an item like a spare key easy to find. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who take this advice and keep the key under the mat but it really isn’t advised.
When you’re watching an American movie, it’s not rare to hear adult language. On TV, it isn’t quite the same and you’ll notice a lot of swear words replaced or censored out.
This really comes back to the rules surrounding broadcast TV programs. So, when you watch these, you might notice a more family-friendly approach to language. On the contrary, these rules aren’t as strict when it comes to shows you stream on a streaming service.
There are some things that you see on TV and in movies that make you just wonder why someone would do that. That’s how this person felt about the bathroom graffiti in schools on TV.
It’s not that far from the truth either. While there are surely plenty of schools that don’t feature a lot of writing on the walls, a lot of students are familiar with the sight of their fellow students’ doodles and comments on the walls at least from time to time.