Surprised woman

What Americans find attractive can be downright strange. But 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, so if you’re living in the United States, you probably don’t think American customs are unusual — if you even think about them at all. However, 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."

Beyond the pale

Woman in tanning bed

In the United States, many women — especially caucasian women — strive to achieve tanned skin in order to feel more attractive. 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 people look to creams to lighten their natural skin tone.

Pale skin was thought to indicate high status in America 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. 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.

Americans think straight pearly whites are super attractive

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.