US Culture Guide for Exchange Students (Part II)

US Culture Guide for Exchange Students (Part II)

Eating Out:

Americans enjoy eating out at restaurants. Particularly on weekends, you may have to wait for a table at popular restaurants, during normal meal times. Patrons give their names and the number of people in their party and wait for the host/hostess to call them when a suitable table has become available. All restaurants accept cash and many accept credit cards as payment for the meal.


In the United States, restaurants do not typically add a service charge to your food bill. However, pay attention when you eat out with a large party as many restaurants automatically add a 15% gratuity to serve a group of more than six people. Otherwise, servers expect about a 15% tip for the total bill; you can reduce that to 10% for poor service and increase it to about 20% for excellent service. Other occupations that expect a tip include hairdressers, hotel porters, parking valets and bartenders. You should never tip government employees, police officers or physicians; they will consider it as an attempt to bribe them.


Americans smoke much less than Europeans and/or Asians. Generally, you cannot smoke indoors, except in some bars, clubs and restaurants. The restaurants that do allow smoking, only allow it in certain designated areas. Even outdoors, if with someone else, you should always ask if they mind you smoking before lighting a cigarette. Legally, you cannot purchase tobacco or smoke in the U.S. until you have turned 18 years old and the law requires store clerks to ask for identification that proves your age.


Legally, no one under the age of 21 can purchase or consume alcohol in the United States. The law requires establishments that sell alcohol to verify proof of age before making the transaction, whether in a restaurant, bar or store.


If you hear a siren while driving in the United States, first locate the source. If you discover that the emergency vehicle is coming toward you from ahead or behind, you should pull to the side of the road until the emergency vehicle has passed.


Most states in the U.S. charge a sales tax on tangible personal property including items like clothes, food and books as well as services. The amount will vary depending on the state, but usually comes to 5-7% of the total cost of the item. Make sure you have enough money to cover not only the ticketed price, but the additional tax as well.


Americans put far more emphasis on time and promptness than most other countries. Buses, trains, classes, appointments and meetings run according to a predetermined schedule. Running late shows disrespect for someone else’s time.