I don't know how normal it is, but I have certainly seen that before. The big box stores carry all kinds of transition strips that should fit your needs.
Yes its quite common to see tile floors a bit higher then the surrounding floor levels. And yes there are several methods to blend this together. Sometimes its done with metal edge and sometimes with wood boards stained or painted to match the floor. We use marble saddles when we do this. It gives the tile a stop point that blends the tile to the wood.
When I do some tile installs.... Instead of 1/2" backer I will use 1/4" backer....this combined with normal full thickness 3/4" flooring results is a pretty even surface.
We changed flooring for several areas in our house, adding wood to tile, and tile to different type tile. I don't care for the traditional transition strips, so we used a decorative tile to make our own transitions. The decorate tile is typically thinner than tile/wood, and we were able to build up the thinset to make the transition flush with each type of flooring used. I wouldn't suggest this if the height difference is too severe, but for small differences in height, it works great and you can't feel the slight slope at all when walking on it. Of course, this is more easily done if you plan for it prior to laying both floors. This is a picture of our ceramic tile to slate transition and the ceramic tile to wood transition we used. We just chose a decorative tile that matched everything we were using, which was the most difficult challenge.
thats lovely Leslie. The floor was already down and I didn't really notice it till I moved in and keep tripping so I'm not sure what it would involve to stick something inbetween the wood and tile floor..I will keep this in mind when doing the basement though! Thanks