Customs

Every country has its own familiar customs. U.S. culture has been formed from bits and pieces of numerous other countries’ traditions as a result of the various people who came and settled and populated the United States over the course of its formative years. The various accepted behaviors you grew up with probably feel normal to you, but in the U.S. you could find yourself feeling uncomfortable with the very different customs here.

One of the first things you might notice about Americans is their informality and casualness. People often speak to total strangers when standing in line or sharing public transportation. Many guests to the U.S. find American friendliness disconcerting and hard to get used to.

Another aspect of American culture that might take some time to adjust to is the concept of punctuality or time. In the U.S., schedules and appointments guide people’s days. When you say you will meet someone at 6:00, they will expect you at 6:00, not 6:30, not 7:00, but 6:00. Buses, trains, airplanes, medical appointments, classes, restaurant reservations, dinner parties – all of these things run on a very tight schedule and as long as you are in the U.S. you will be expected to comply with it.

Americans pride themselves on individualism. Seldom do large families co-exist, but more commonly once young men and women have graduated from high school, they move out from home and often far away. You will not often find the sense of respect and admiration for elders in the U.S. that you find in so many other countries around the world.

Perhaps you come from a country where laughter is considered rude, impolite or socially unacceptable. It won’t take long for you to realize that in the U.S., everyone laughs, sometimes loud and long. It is perfectly acceptable to laugh and indicates enjoyment and appreciation.

Most Americans wear shoes in their homes. In some places people do remove their shoes to avoid tracking mud or snow in the house and on the floors, but it has nothing to do with religion or tradition. You will also notice that in warm weather, some people go barefoot (don’t wear shoes) outside. For informal occasions, this is perfectly acceptable.

Greetings in America are usually quite casual. A wave, a handshake or even just a smile all constitute a suitable greeting. If you do not know some of the people in the gathering, introductions tend to be fairly informal, usually offering first names only. Unlike arrivals and departures in some countries, when you arrive you can just smile and wave to acknowledge those already gathered, and the same holds true for when you leave. You do not have to personally bid hello or goodbye to each person there.


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