Everyone’s got their own culture. In the UK, you have tea time. In the U.S. there’s Sunday night football. It might be a bastardised version of real football, but when in Rome, you do as the Romans do. If subtlety isn’t your strong suit, it’s really easy to offend Americans. So, here’s some etiquette to keep in mind when you run into your brothers and sisters across the ocean.
Swearing is something that many New Yorker’s do, but not all Americans do – especially if you’re visiting rural areas. In fact, in many places in America, you’ll be seen as rude if you swear. It’s not need as a sign of affection or a sign of good humour.
There was a puritan movement that came to America that never took hold in Europe. Because of that, Americans unconsciously developed a very different attitude toward sex than you probably have. Just like swearing, discussing what goes on behind closed doors is taboo. No loo talk either – it’s bad manners unless you notice your guests or friends doing it too.
But, in the general population, err on the side of being more conservative with what comes out of your mouth.
Whatever you do, do not criticise the country. Americans have an amazingly patriotic sense of life. It’s a sense of life that says “we will not be pushed around.” Likewise, this sense of life extends to how they feel about their country and anyone criticising it. Even though many Americans hate their politicians, they love their country.
Calling Them “Yanks”
Calling your typical American a “Yankee” isn’t so much offensive as it is confusing. In America, only northerners are called “Yankees” and, even then, it’s a derogatory term that dates back to the civil war in the country. You’ll likely get dirty looks from proud southerners who have given up on such a divisive language and looks of confusion from northerners who aren’t used to being called that.
In America, 15 per cent is the standard tip. Never be stingy with your server unless you received obviously poor service. Even then, it’s customary to give at least 10 per cent. If you receive exceptional service, leave 20 per cent as a tip.
You’re used to exchanging friendly insults. It’s just how it is in the UK. But, in America, thems fightin’ words. Seriously, insult people and you’re likely to lose friends and be seen as rude. Lighten up, and express your true feelings.
Criticising The Food
You chose My America Holiday because you wanted an authentic American experience. Well, the food is part and parcel of the culture here. Don’t insult it. You might think that American’s tastes are primitive, and many of them are. But, Americans pride themselves on simple food. Hamburgers, pizza, and lots of boxed meals – that’s how they live.
Of course, America is a melting pot of culture, so it’s not too difficult to find sushi, authentic hispanic food, and even food from home if you’re in a big city.
Don’t Be Reserved
When someone says “hi, how are you today?” they’re not being pushy. They’re being friendly. If you look startled and refuse to respond, it’ll be taken as a rude gesture. This is especially true if you happen to be out in the country. The more rural, the more friendly people tend to be.
Karen Jordan is a British expat living in the US for work. When not exploring her new home and sharing her love of tea, she enjoys blogging about cultural differences and travel experiences for her fellow Brits.