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Understanding some of the common cultural patterns in the United States can help ease the transition. It does not mean that by adapting to life in the United States that you are abandoning your previous culture, rather by learning about new and different cultures, you will enhance your experience.

  1. The invitation is usually for only you unless your host specifically invites your family or friends. Bringing guests of your own without asking your host’s permission is considered impolite.
  2. The written invitation will include the date, time, place, and description of the occasion. You should always answer a written invitation, especially if it says R.S.V.P. (Répondez s’il vous plaît; French for “please respond”).
  3. Never accept an invitation unless you really plan to go.
  4. If an unavoidable problem makes it necessary for you to change plans, be certain to tell the host as soon as possible before the time when you are expected.
  5. Make sure you get directions to the place where the event will be held.
  6. When accepting an invitation for a meal, be sure to explain to your host if there is anything you are not supposed to eat. This courtesy will help the host to plan for food and beverages that everyone can enjoy.
  7. If you must refuse something after it has been prepared, refuse politely.
  8. Never hesitate to ask for any food on the table: “Would you please pass the rolls?”, since asking for more food is considered to be a compliment to the host.
  9. Also, being on time is very important in American culture.

Americans generally put a great emphasis on personal cleanliness. Most Americans are very sensitive to smells. For this reason, most Americans bathe at least once a day though it can be more if they workout or the weather is hot. It is very common to use deodorants and small amounts of perfume. Americans are also concerned about having their clothing cleaned frequently, fresh breath, and tidy hair.

  1. Please close your mouth while eating. Americans are taught to eat with their mouth closed, and they don’t usually make sounds when they eat.
  2. Do not talk when you have food in your mouth and do not wave or point with a utensil.
  3. The fork is held in the left hand, pointing downward. The knife is held in the right hand. After cutting the food, the knife is laid down and the fork is switched to the right hand to eat the cut food. Continental style (where the fork stays in the left hand to eat the cut food) is perfectly acceptable.
  4. Your napkin should be placed on your lap shortly after you are seated and kept on your lap at all times during the meal. Do not tuck your napkin under your chin.
  5. Americans tend to eat more quickly than people from other countries. Dining in the United States is seldom the long, lingering event it is in much of the world. The point is more often to eat rather than socialize and savor the meal.

While eating at home or with friends might be informal, restaurants generally have strict etiquette.

  1. Raise your hand or index finger and make eye contact to signal a server.
  2. When eating at a restaurant, the server will bring your bill to the table when the server believes you are finished eating. It’s polite to make payment and leave the restaurant within 10-15 minutes of receiving your bill.
  3. In America, sit down restaurants will generally have a place to add a tip in addition to the cost of your meal. It is highly encouraged to leave 10 – 20% the cost of your meal.

Generally, in the United States people will have a first name and last name. It is common for people around the same age to simply use first names which are the given name. You might also use nicknames or a shortened version of the person’s name.

If someone has a professional title, it is considered respectful to use the title and last name (family name) unless instructed otherwise. Examples of this would be Professor, Doctor, Dean, or President. Don’t be afraid to ask people “what should I call you” or “how should I address you” although naming traditions are generally relaxed in most cases.


While many Americans are open and warm people who are quick to make new acquaintances, busy schedules and independence means that their relationships are often casual and informal. This is not to say that Americans take friendship lightly. It just means that while Americans know a lot of people, their lasting friendships are often few. It is also common to have male and female friends in the same group.


Compared to other countries, dating in the United States is not generally considered a serious family matter. Generally, it is often informal and independent from the family.

People in the United States are generally forward and less inhibited than other countries. It is common practice for men or women to ask a person out if they are interested. In the United States, dating history is considered to be private and should not be discussed with strangers.

If you do date while in America, it is important to remember that if someone says no, this should be respected and you should not continue to push the matter.

Sexual Harrassment and Misconduct is a serious issue. When on campus for orientation, you will go through Title IX Training. Please keep in mind the information covered, which can be accessed at anytime HERE.

Saying No

Americans are accustomed to a more direct way of communicating. Don’t feel bad about saying no to something or someone. Open rejection and disagreement given in a polite way is not often considered rude for Americans. If you are uncomfortable or cannot do something, you can let people know. Generally, you will hear people use “No thank you” to politely decline.