12 Foreign Travel Tips for Visiting America
What's it like to visit the United States for the first time? Here's some advice people around the world give their fellow citizens about navigating the peculiarities of American culture.
1. THEY TEND TO HORSE LAUGH, EVEN THE WOMEN. IT’S HOW THEY SHOW THEY’RE HONEST. [JAPAN]
Get ready to laugh:
In Japan, when a woman laughs, she places her hand so it does not show her mouth. It is disgraceful to laugh by loudly opening the mouth. Adult males do not laugh much. There is the saying, "Man, do not laugh so much that you show your teeth."
In America, when men or women laugh, they do not turn away. They face front, open the mouth, and laugh in a loud voice. This is because in America if you muffle your laugh or turn away while laughing, you give the impression that you are talking about a secret or name-calling.
2. BE FRIENDLY TO NOSY STRANGERS. GRIND THEIR KNUCKLES! [FRANCE]
The French kiss before, during, and after social encounters. But before heading to the U.S., work on your handshake:
Americans have a firm handshake, so do not hesitate to grind their knuckles. It is also a sign you have confidence in yourself.
3. AMERICANS WILL EAT ANYWHERE. EVEN BUSINESS MEETINGS. [ITALY]
Marco Scandali lauds the American tendency to only use first names in the workplace, but isn't a fan of the meetings:
Their meetings are often a torture, since eating inside the conference room is universally accepted. I, however, cannot discuss work with someone who licks dirty smelly sauces off his fingers. We are not at an actual table, dammit!
4. POLITENESS IS BOTH GENUINE AND A SURVIVAL TECHNIQUE. STILL, THEY DON’T REALLY WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND. [GERMANY]
German blogger Otto Buchenegger breaks it down for both cultures:
In a country with extreme mobility, it is very important to be open and friendly to strangers. This has nothing to do with genuine friendship in our sense, and there are long-lasting friendships in the United States, but if someone says, ‘I'm your friend,’ it often means nothing more than ‘I am sympathetic and want you to feel here is your home, too’. It is not the beginning of a long friendship.
5. EVERYTHING IS SO DAMN INSPIRING. [FRANCE]
You might hear the word "inspiring" a lot:
Everything must be "inspiring" and push transcendence. We go to the movies, there is a choice between the biopic Lincoln, The Avengers or Les Misérables, each so inspiring in their own way. The books are inspiring, everyday people are inspiring (such as all the people with children and a job at the same time, teachers, etc...). I confess that I have a little trouble with this cult of everyday heroes.
6. SOMEONE IS ALWAYS WATCHING. [RUSSIA]
The travel site tonkosti explains why Americans obey the law:
There is too much law-abiding in Americans. It makes them seem naïve to Russians. But it is due to the fact that almost everywhere is installed hidden cameras; in the shops, on the streets, in restaurants, hotels and so on. Hence, any offense cannot go unnoticed. It is better to stick to the letter of U.S. law than to escape from its clutches and reduce to zero the probability of re-visiting the American continent.
7. THEIR VENDING MACHINES ARE RIDICULOUSLY LIMITED AND DISHONEST. [JAPAN]
Vending machines in the United States just give carbonated beverages. Coke particularly. If you try to buy the juice from a vending machine when you’re thirsty, it’s just all carbonate. I pressed the button and thought it would be a nice orange juice, but carbonate came out. I love carbonated, but there are times when it will make you sick indeed.
8. UNDERAGE DRINKING IS NOT OK. [ITALY]
Like many other nations, Italy is perplexed by America’s attitude toward underage drinking. According to the travel information site America4you, Americans will take every opportunity to separate a boy and his booze:
In America you can safely buy a gun and carry it around, but regarding alcohol, no chance. If you go into a club, the man at the entrance will ask you for a document proving your age; same thing in a bar when you order a beer or even just in a supermarket!
9. NO INTERRUPTING. [CHINA]
But speak when spoken to:
The best guests have the best ears. Americans also allow others to criticize the United States; a host often asks what the guests think of the United States, and he would be happy to exchange views.
10. BE PREPARED TO HEAR BEDROOM LANGUAGE IN PUBLIC. [GERMANY]
Not dirty words, but intimate ones. Americans will call anyone their sweetheart:
If you stroll through America's shopping malls or are in a restaurant for dinner, you'll often hear the words, "Darling, Sweetheart, Sweetie, and Luv" or other terms of endearment, which belong in the personal realm. Americans are much more frivolous and relaxed with these nicknames, and they do not carry the same meaning as they do with us.
11. DON'T BE WEIRDED OUT IF AMERICANS PUT THEIR FEET UP ON STUFF. [RUSSIA]
Americans don't even realize how strange this is!
When Americans are talking, they might put their foot on a nearby chair, or even a table. They might cross their legs so that one foot rests on the opposite knee. In American culture, it is considered an acceptable norm.
12. THEY’RE SO WEIRDLY OPTIMISTIC YOU JUST CAN’T STAY IRRITATED AT THEM. [JAPAN]
In Japan, failure can be humiliating. But things are different in the U.S.:
In America, you can make mistakes, fail, and it doesn’t matter. It is a fundamental feeling that to sometimes be incorrect is natural. In addition, rather than thinking about mistakes and failures, American’s have curiosity and say, "Let’s try anyway!"