Each country has some unspoken cultural norms. Below I have written some norms that most people raised in the USA follow without even thinking about it. These norms are like second nature to us. If you are planning to move to the USA knowing these norms can help you blend in. Don't worry too much if you get it wrong, though. Most Americans are easy going!
1. Americans like our personal space!
If you are standing in line in the USA give the person in front of you at least an arm's length of distance. If you go to the movie theater and there are empty seats, don't sit right next to a stranger. Same with a bus or a train. If there are available seats, don't choose one right next to another passenger. Most Americans will leave space in between themselves and strangers.
2. Don't ask someone's salary.
I don't even know the salary of my best friend! I don't know why it is rude to ask this, but for us, I guess it just is. It is better to avoid this question altogether.
3. If you are going out for a drink bring your ID.
The legal drinking age in the USA is 21, but even people much older than 21 get carded. I know in many countries bartenders usually do not check IDs but in the USA, they usually do.
4. Make eye contact when you are having a conversation, but staring is considered rude.
5. Talking loudly on the phone in a crowded area might make people uncomfortable.
If you need to answer the phone, and you are in a public space, like the bus, do so in a quiet manner.
6. If someone is wearing headphones in public. It usually means they are not feeling very chatty. I wouldn't try to strike up a conversation with them. Headphones are a sign that the person would like some alone time.
7. If you go into a library, try to be quiet.
Many people go there because it is a quiet place. The librarians will probably ask you to hush if you are too loud.
8. Americans use the phrases, "How are you?" or "How are you doing?" as a greeting.
Many Americans expect to hear you respond with, "Good", "Fine." or "Okay." We are not expecting a long answer with the truth about how you are doing. Often I ask my close friends, "How are you really doing?" When I want to know the long answer.
Do you agree or disagree with any of these norms? Would you add any others to the list? Let me know! Have a question about a word or phrase used in this post? Comment below. 😄
unspoken: understood without being said or shown
norms: informal understanding about behavior in a society, what is considered normal
second nature: habit, something you do not need to think about, but do automatically
blend in: to look the same as the people or things around
easy going: relaxed, tolerant, not easily offended
salary: money earned at work
going out for a drink: going to a bar or restaurant to drink an alcoholic beverage
ID: identification card, like a drivers license
carded: checked the identity or age of some one by looking at their ID card
bartenders: the person who makes and serves drinks at a bar
staring: looking at someone with wide open eyes, not looking away
crowded: a space full of people
chatty: when one feels ready to talk informally
strike up a conversation: begin a conversation with someone in an in formal way
librarians: people who work in a library
hush: stop talking, be quiet