Tourists from across the globe journey to visit the United States. With so many different cultures, languages and different ways of living and growing up, there are bound to be some things that may shock or confuse tourists and foreign visitors. Every country has their unique customs and ways they handle themselves in public and at home, and the American ways may be entirely different. If you are visiting the states and hear or see any of these things, don’t worry, it is okay!
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Americans Put their Feet On Things
In certain countries such as Russia, it is abnormal to rest your feet on things or other people when talking or holding a conversation. While it may strike you as odd, this is quite normal in American culture. Most areas are more relaxed and if you see people talking don’t be surprised if they rest their foot on a chair next to them or even a table. Sometimes younger couples will rest their feet on their partner. It may seem strange and different but it is just people’s way of showing a more relaxed culture, and it is entirely reasonable to see.
Be Prepared to Hear Private Talk in Public
Private discussion may be considered endearing terms to your loved one. Many people in the states call their spouse “darling,” “love,” “sweetie,” etc. These belong in the personal realm and may be offensive or shocking to some, but it is common in the states. Be prepared to hear it at least once, as people use them often and are comfortable with doing so. These names may also mean something different than they do in another language, but in the U.S. they are commonly spoken terms of endearment that are used in private and in public.
Underage Drinking is Illegal
Countries like Italy don’t have limits on the age you can drink. In the U.S. underage drinking laws are heavily enforced and can lead to trouble with authorities and even an arrest. The legal age to drink in the U.S. is 21 years of age. Anyone younger than this will get into trouble and if you buy alcohol for anyone under the age of 21 (minors) you can also get into trouble with authorities. When and if you purchase an alcoholic beverage, be prepared to show I.D. that states your age. It is required by many businesses for their staff to check your I.D. to avoid reprimand. So whether you are in a bar, at the supermarket, or in a restaurant and order an alcoholic beverage, be prepared to show your I.D. or official document stating your age, as it will be asked for.
Obey the Laws or You Will be Caught
The U.S. is concerned with security and law-abiding citizens. Due to this fact, many street corners, businesses, and houses all have security cameras or hidden cameras in case something happens. That way the police can try to identify the criminal or victim by looking at the footage from the tapes. It is best for visitors to abide by the laws, or the cameras have a good chance of catching them. The trouble with authorities may mean you are banned from visiting, which would be unfortunate. It may seem unnecessary or even unnerving, but it is common and for peoples safety.
Be Prepared For Outright Laughter
When most people laugh in the U.S., it head-on, no turning away, loud and an outright expression of happiness. People tend to open their mouths, show all their teeth and can laugh quite loudly. In the Japanese culture for example, when women laugh they cover their mouths, as showing their teeth or emitting loud sounds can be disgraceful to them. Men are also told that when they laugh to try not to show their teeth too much. Americans are the total opposite. They can laugh loudly, open-mouthed and often if the occasion suits them or if they find something funny. Americans also do not turn away. If you turn while laughing or try to hide it, it appears as if you are making fun of them or being judgmental, so open up that big grin and have a good laugh.
Different Greetings for Different Cultures
The French greeting is notorious and simply planting a small kiss on either cheek before and after a social encounter is normal and acceptable. If you attempt to do this in the U.S. though, you may get slapped or a shocked reaction, as this I usually not practiced. Americans usually greet with a handshake, with a few up and down movements and then release. A firm grip is acceptable and expected when shaking hands, so don’t be afraid to squeeze a little. A limp hand or wrist may give the impression that you don’t want to be touched or greet that person, so a firm grip is preferable.
You Can Eat Anywhere
Visiting the states will give you some new and interesting sights as well as some different viewpoints on American ways. People in the states like to eat where they are comfortable. IT may at a restaurant or out on the patio, as well as in a park, public gathering, or on the couch watching T.V. This may also include eating at meetings, called a “working lunch.” This may seem unorthodox to many people especially those not used to such business meetings as it may seem undesirable and in the “wrong place wrong time.” These are quite common and the people participating will either bring their lunch, or they will have one delivered to the group. It is common and acceptable, so be prepared to see it happen.
Failure Isn’t a Big Deal
The Japanese see failure as humiliating, but this may not be the case in the U.S. Failure is just an opportunity to improve or to try again. It means there are other ways to be successful and instead of giving up, you should try again. Failure is almost to be expected as part of the normal operations of things. It does not hinder many U.S. citizens, and they are curious and determined enough to keep trying, even if they fail again.
Experience New Places and People
Visiting the U.S. from a foreign country can be overwhelming and shocking at first. Do not be afraid to smile, but have your I.D. ready if purchasing alcohol and abide by the laws. You can have fun times in the U.S. even if you do see some weird and different things you are unaccustomed to. Have a good time and enjoy yourself and experience some new places and people.