What to Know Before Traveling Abroad in the USA

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We all know that customs, social norms, traditions, and expectations change from country to country and region to region- even household to household! However, many citizens of various countries around the world hold preconceived notions about the USA and Americans that are usually not true. Hollywood, movies, TV shows, and the media often portray an unrealistic life in America, and while some parts may be true, you’ll still be surprised by what it America is actually like!

Speak up and ask your questions! During everyday activities and in the workplace, Americans speak up and go after what they want. It’s okay to ask questions and clarify anything you’re unsure about! This is especially true if attending school; you must ask your questions to be sure you don’t fall behind!

America is fast-paced and you need to stay to the right! If you’re in a city or a University, you’ll notice people walking very fast AND that foot traffic stays to the right. Like driving cars, Americans use the right side. If you’re walking slowly, make sure to get as far to the right as possible. Don’t be surprised if people walk around you or pass you.

There are different units of measurements for almost everything. Get used to Fahrenheit, pounds, and miles (temperature, weight, and distance)! Thankfully, there are many easy ways to make conversions on the internet. For example, 30 degrees Fahrenheit is about -1 degrees Celsius.

So much diversity! One of the most interesting things about America is its variety of backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, values, and traditions. Customs also vary region to region and household to household.

Political Correctness is a must. When with a group, in public, and even in private, respecting cultures and differences is so important since the U.S is so diverse! If offensive comments or actions are made in a school or workplace setting, an official retribution will be made such as expulsion or discharging from your work position.

So much sugar! Almost everything is high in sugar and chemicals. Even the Coca-Cola is made with high fructose corn syrup instead of real sugar like everywhere else! American chocolate too, well… try it for yourself. (Ex. Hershey’s)

Manners and social norms are so important. No matter what you’ve heard, Americans are very well-mannered and put a high value on societal norms like waiting in line. Seriously, don’t cut lines in this country! People will also hold doors for you and you’re expected to do the same. 

Give Americans space. Even before the pandemic, Americans like their personal space. When speaking, waiting in lines, or on public transportation, maintain some distance.

Think big! This applies to almost everything! Americans like their space. Think giant trucks and massive SUVs in enormous parking lots. This also applies to food- very large portions! AND it’s commonplace to take home leftovers.

Eating to go is not uncommon. Most Americans are always eating on the go as they run from appointment to appointment. You may be surprised to see Americans eating a breakfast bar in their car or holding coffee in line at the bank. You’ll also notice an abundance of drive-thru windows at restaurants!

Going out to eat or carrying out is very common. It’s usual for Americans to eat out at a restaurant or carry food out from a restaurant several times per week. Not only do they find it convenient, but it’s fun! Even in small towns, you can find restaurants with Chinese, Japanese, Italian, or Mexican food. In bigger cities, you’ll find Ethiopian, Brazilian, or Indian cuisines. Oh! Don’t forget to tip your server if you dine in! Tip 15-20% depending on the service you receive. 

Americans partake in small talk and they smile! Americans are very friendly. Don’t be surprised if someone says “how ya doin’?” at the bus stop or gives you a quick smile. Small talk can also consist of weather, sports, or big current events. This happens less in bigger cities and more as the town gets smaller! Also, people often ask “how are you” as an acknowledgement. They don’t actually want a real answer. If you’re walking past someone and they quickly say “how are you?” you can just say “hello” and keep walking.

Try not to discuss politics. Both left and right winged Americans make their political opinions a large part of their identities. You’ll see a casual conversation quickly become heated and emotional. That said, Americans are very patriotic about their country!

Independence is highly regarded. Kids and teenagers commonly leave home for summer camp, travel, or university. Many young adults move out of their family home between the ages of 18 and 24.

Sports are major parts of individual’s and city’s identities! Americans love their sports. You’ll realize an intense following of football, baseball, and basketball. You’ll also see that soccer has much less of a following in the USA than other countries. American football can be hard to follow, but ask any American and they will be happy to explain their favorite game to you!

They have a loyalty to their university that will last a lifetime! This is a fun one that anyone can participate in, especially if you’re attending school in America! You’ll see many Americans representing their alma mater in almost any situation or event.

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