20 Foods That Americans Living Abroad Seriously Miss (Some Of Which Are Pretty Surprising)

·7 min read

American cuisine might get a not-so-great reputation sometimes. But spend a few months living abroad and you might just have a whole new appreciation for it.

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You can wax poetic on the deliciousness of international food all you want, but I guarantee that after a long time away from things like Texas brisket or NYC bagels, you'd give just about anything to satisfy those cravings.

At least that's my experience. And thanks to Reddit, family, and friends who have lived abroad, I was able to curate a little list of often-missed American foods.

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Over the years, I've spent substantial chunks of time living all over the world — from an island in the Caribbean to a sharehouse in Tokyo and a shoebox in Paris. And I've chatted with other expats about foods they desperately miss after the initial excitement of their new home wears off.

To get a more complete perspective, I also tapped into the amazing Reddit community to see what foods people tend to miss about the good ol' US of A.

1.Buffalo Wings

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Ah, what a wonderfully American concept. Deep-fry some chicken wings, coat them in a vinegar-based cayenne pepper sauce and butter, and serve them alongside some celery and either blue cheese or ranch dressing. Bliss. And not easy to find outside the US!

2.Bagels

A half dozen bagels

It doesn't matter whether you top yours with cream cheese and lox or swear by straight butter; this breakfast staple has truly become an American (well, mainly New York) favorite. Bagels most likely originated in Poland centuries ago — and you can probably still find them there — but in other parts of Europe and most of the world, they're hard to come by.

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3.Ranch Dressing

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The world makes fun of Americans for our love of ranch and penchant for slathering it on almost anything. But anyone who's tried it knows this stuff is good. Drizzle it over a baked potato, use it as a dip for pizza crust or wings, slather it on a sandwich, or just go old school and put it on top of your salad. The world is missing out.

4.Tex-Mex

A plate of Tex Mex food

If you're from Texas or have spent time in Texas, you know what I'm talking about. This cheese-drenched cuisine is a staple in the American Southwest, and anyone who has ever enjoyed a gooey pot of chile con queso knows why. Many restaurants around the world try to replicate it, but rarely (and I mean rarely) do they do the cuisine justice.

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5.Taco Bell

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I know this will get some of you riled up — especially following my ode to Tex-Mex — but Taco Bell has a special place in the hearts of many Americans, and their hot sauce is really quite good (IMO). I know mass globalization is bad, but among the hordes of McDonalds and KFCs found around the world, I wish there were more Taco Bells.

6.Hot Sauce Selection

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To piggyback on the above, yes, hot sauce exists in other places (and in parts of Asia they have their own amazing selection), but I'm talking about the luxury of going to a grocery store and finding bottles of Cholula, Tapatio, Tabasco, and Frank's ready to bring a kick to almost any meal. It's a special thing you can't find in many other countries.

7.A Wide Selection of Cereals

A bowl of Fruit Loops in milk.

Yes, you can find breakfast cereal in most places — but for the most part you'll only find muesli varieties (blehh). And sometimes, all you want is the good stuff: Froot Loops, Cap'n Crunch, Apple Jacks, and my personal favorite, Honey Nut Cheerios. Bring on the sugar rush!

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8.Dr. Pepper

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Coke is all over the place, but Dr. Pepper and its fellow rejects — root beer and Mountain Dew — are hard to come by. I could lose the latter two, but DP? I miss that stuff.

9.BBQ

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We may have stolen this concept from the Caribbean, but I'd argue it's taken on an American spin over the years. Here in the US, BBQ food is serious business. Everyone has an opinion on the best cooking method and sauce styles, or what sides you can't do without. This meaty tradition is not something you'll find on the streets of Paris or at a food cart in Thailand — it might be as American as it gets.

10.Donuts

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The super-sweet cousin of the bagel, donuts have truly made their mark on American culture. From chains pumping out thousands (millions?) daily to fancy, small-batch shops, one thing is certain: Americans love their donuts. I'm not sure why this trend hasn't caught on with the world — especially the creme-filled varieties.

11.Copious Amounts of Ketchup

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I'm pretty sure you can find ketchup all over the place, but what the rest of the world is lacking is ketchup quantity. Ask for the condiment in Europe, and you'll get a single packet or a small dish of the stuff. Sorry, no — I need a handful of packets or the entire bottle. Thanks.

12.Pre-Made Cookie Dough

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Lazy cookie lovers have likely noticed something missing from most grocery stores around the world: pre-made cookie dough. Knock it if you want, but sometimes you just need some Toll House chocolate chip cookies — although apparently the rest of the world is doing just fine without them.

13.Mac 'n' Cheese

Boxed mac 'n' cheese in a bowl

Boxed mac 'n' cheese exists in certain (albeit a limited number of) countries, but even then it can be hard to find. You might be able to track down the Kraft variety in Canada, Australia, and the UK, but finding the good stuff (aka Annie's) is rough. Bring on that organic powdered cheese!

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14.Dill Pickles

A sandwich with a pickle.

Many countries have their own way of pickling, which means that brand of dill pickles that you love so much (ahem, Woodstock) might be hard or impossible to find in other places. If you're not a fan of pickles, you might be thinking uh, who cares, eat another brand, but pickles can be finicky in taste and crunch, and the reality is that most brands (even in the US) just don't do it right. End rant.

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15.Flavored Sunflower Seeds

A bowl of sunflower seeds

I'm not sure if this is a thing for most Americans or not, but those ranch, BBQ, or dill pickle-flavored sunflower seeds you pick up from the gas station are near impossible to find outside the US. My suggestion: If you're a seeder, load your suitcase with your favorite variety before you leave.

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16.Ice Water

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If you love that restaurants fill your cup half full of ice before pouring in the water, you'll be heartbroken when you leave the US. Most countries serve water sans ice, which is something I actually prefer, but most Americans don't.

17.Doritos

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There are a lot of flavored tortilla chips in the world, but everyone knows it's impossible to imitate the real thing — particularly Cool Ranch Doritos. If you're particular about your chips and you live abroad, chances are you dream about authentic, name-brand Doritos, Cheetos, and Fritos.

18.Peanut Butter

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You can find peanut butter in other countries (even if it takes visiting a specialty shop to find it), but it's hard to find popular American brands like Jif and Skippy. And most importantly to me, it's hard to find crunchy peanut butter.

19.Movie-Theater Popcorn With Liquid "Butter"

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It doesn't get more American (or more nostalgic) than a huge tub of movie-theater popcorn doused in liquid butter. And even though it turns out that "liquid butter" isn't really butter at all (shh), it's not something you'll find in most other countries around the world.

20.Pumpkin-Flavored Things

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Pumpkin spice season gets a bad rep, but if you're a lover of all things pumpkin and you happen to be abroad when October hits, you'll be nostalgic for the fall frenzy. The pumpkin-spice obsession just doesn't exist (at least to the same extent) in the rest of the world.

Anything I missed? Let me know what you've missed while living or traveling abroad below.

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