Must Know : Culture, safety and basic rules

Do This

  • Always keep some form of your identity card with you. It can be your driver license, passport or some other legal document. While driving, you must need to keep driver license and car’s registration number in your car.
  • Greeting – When you see or meet new people, say “Hi or Hello” to greet people with a smile. When you ask or are asked by someone “How are you?”, do not expect or provide personal details. It is used very casually.
  • Practice common courtesy – if you approach a door to enter, make sure you don’t block the person trying to come out, hold the door open for the person behind you, and if there is an obviously older person or lady – hold the door open with a smile and a polite “After you”. Also, if there is someone entering behind you, make sure you hold the door open till they grab it (never let it slam in their face). It is common to smile and nod at strangers in a confined space (e.g. elevator) or walking around your neighborhood. But respect their space – if a person is hurrying along with their head down, leave them alone.
  • Address people by sir/ma’am. If you don’t know someone, and need to ask them a question, say “Excuse me (sir/ma’am),*question*. It is a sign of courtesy, and respect.
  • Police car or emergency vehicles – When police car follows your vehicle (with flash light or siren), pull over your car on side lane and stay inside the car. When police or any emergency vehicle with a siren or flashing light, please stay on the side to give enough passage to these vehicles
  • Tip your server. Whenever you are at a bar, or a sit-down restaurant, always tip who ever brings you you’re food! Some servers do not get paid well, so tipping them 15–20% will make them happy. And they might be even kinder to you if they ever serve you again.Leave reasonable tip to the other service providers in hospitality business such as, taxi, hair salon etc. Usually, cabs and restaurants require a 15-20% tip, and hotels also require a $2-4 per day tip for baggage handlers and room attendants
  • Have a conversation. Americans are generally very open people, and probably will find your background interesting! 
  • Americans drive on the right, so when on a sidewalk they typically walk on the right as well.
  • United States is a country ruled by law and expects that all the laws are enforced in practice. So, you should be aware of basic laws and consequences.
  • America’s constitution provides freedom of speech as basic right. So, you can communicate or share your perspective freely, but please be respectful and ensure that your views are not targeted towards any particular person or group.
  • Learn English. Even if it is only a few words, knowing English will get you far in America. Mostly because it is the language of America. American people have patience to listen and try to understand a very different ascent. They appreciate anyone who is making an effort to improve.
  • Familiarize with British measurement system that US uses rather than the metric system. This means that they use pounds rather than kilograms, feet vs meters, and miles vs kilometers.
  • Celebrate July 4th and other holidays with Americans. Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New Years, and especially Fourth of July. They are very important holidays in America. And they are very fun and wonderful holidays, and mean a lot to Americans.
  • Learn about American sports if you are not familiar with them. American football, baseball, hokey and basketball are major popular sports in the United States.

Don’t Do This

  • Touch others. Big one. Americans don’t like to be touched at all by strangers. Even when you see people who may seem to need help, first ask if they need help. Physical touching is not considered normal unless you are very intimate. Also, do not get too close to them when speaking.
  • Don’t get out of the car without permission if you are being stopped or followed by the police. Always sit in your seat, put your hands on the steering wheel, and wait patiently. They will assume you are armed and they have a right to shoot you if you disobey. But please understand that they are your friends and are there to help to enforce law and order. Just be respectful of them.
  • Don’t ask someone’s age, weight and the price of personal items. And don’t say, “You’ve gained weight.” when you meet the others. Because this is all a personal matter.
  • Don’t expect public transportation to help you get across the entire country. Europe has good public transit but America is very much a car driven society. Outside of NYC, Chicago, DC and other handful cities, public transit is not great. You may want to rent a car.
  • Don’t take pictures or make recordings on private property without permission, it’s an invasion of privacy and can be a serious legal problem.
  • Don’t publish photos of children. Images of minors should not be published without parental permission.
  • Whatever you do, don’t ever talk about gun control or politics! United States respects freedom of speech, but try not to discuss religion or politics, especially with people you don’t know well. There are so many people who have different views on politics, and talking about will just create arguments, insults etc. Instead talk about the weather, sports, about a upcoming holiday etc.
  • Do not buy alcohol for yourself or someone else, if you are under 21 years old. American drinking age is 21, enjoy when of age!
  • Don’t rely on public transportation. If you are visiting a big city like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles maybe you can go anywhere with public transportation. But if you are not in a city, don’t expect public transportation to be good at all. Instead you might have to rent a car, or something.
  • Don’t leave your bags unattended. In cities there are a lot of thieves, and pickpocketers, and leaving your stuff unattended will be a huge mistake.
  • If an attractive girl smiles at you, don’t think she likes you.
  • Don’t let your kids run around naked. There are parts of the world where it’s normal for young kids to run around with no clothes, especially when it’s hot, or at swimming pools, beaches, etc. America isn’t one of those places.
  • Don’t point your middle finger at anyone. This is offensive and can cause a big argument/problem. This is just like swearing to someone. Though, you may experience this on a regular basis from other people, it is better to take it easy and stay calm.

Few Slangs or abbreviations

Whats up? means how are you.

You are silly! Typically, it means that you are acting childish or foolish in a fun way. It isn’t a compliment, but silly is too mild for most people to consider it offensive. People coming from some part of the world take the word as mentally incapable and very offensive.

B.Y.O.B means “bring your own beverage” usually alcoholic. If you go to a restaurant and ask if they serve drink, they may say we don’t, we are BYOB. This means, you can bring your own drinks.



What to do if I get sick?

Medical costs in the United states are extremely high. Unless you have a medical insurance to use medical service, cost can be very high. Just provide some context, one simple doctor visit can cost you $150 – $200 and simple prescription (medicine) can cost $50-$100. If you are sick and have to go to stay in hospital, you can be paying somewhere around $5,000 – $10,000 for all the tests and hospital stay. If you have to go through a surgery, cost can be around $50,000. Overall, it is the worst experience if you get sick and are here only for a few weeks or months without medical insurance. However, you don’t need to have money to get treatment upfront. If someone happens, you will receive a treatment. Also, there are various options to apply for waiver if you can not afford the cost. These options vary greatly across different states and places and keep changing, so we do not want to provide any false information. You can consult with your friends or relatives who have been living in the United States for some time.

Find more American Slang Words and Phrases here
Education and career

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