No doubt before you come to America you have a certain expectation of what America, and its citizens, will be like before you arrive. This is probably based off what you’ve see in the movies and in the news stories. But as many tourists, Expats, and foreigners can attest, there are a lot of surprising, new, and yes, sometimes weird, things you will learn when you get here.
Here are a few everyday American scenarios that foreigners find weird:
You wouldn’t think the dining-out experience could differ that much, but here are a few quirks that leave many foreigners scratching their heads.
- Don’t sit yourself … unless of course there is a sign telling you too. In America you don’t seat yourself in a restaurant unless you are told too. When you enter the restaurant you go to the front booth where there will be a hostess waiting to seat you. Now, this does not apply to fast-food establishments such as McDonald’s – if you ask to be seated there, you’ll be the one getting funny looks.
- “Are you done with that?” When you finish your plate of food a busboy will come by and take away your empty plate – even if your dining companions are not yet finished with their meal. While this would be seen as rude in other countries, it isn’t in America, where everything is about speed and efficiency.
- The waiter’s tip is not included in your bill- that’s for you to calculate. Diners typically leave between a 15-20% tip, depending on quality of service. Keep in mind, in America the waiter receives a very low base salary and the majority of their salary is based on tips. (The tip IS INCLUDED in some restaurants if you are eating with a large party of people, typically around 10, and this will be indicated on your bill)
When you’re heading to your local mall, or the even the drug store down the street, here are a few scenarios you can expect to find.
- Don’t be surprised when you enter a clothing store and are asked “Do you need help?” by every employee you pass by – they really mean it. In America the customer is always right and the employee’s are always aiming to please. (Of course it’s inevitable to cross a few who don’t)
- The price listed on the price tag, is not what you’re going to pay – beware of the dreaded sales tax. Sales tax varies from state-to-state, and it is not included in the listed price you see on the tag. When you get to the register your sales tax is added up into your final cost. In states like Texas the sales tax will cost you up to 8.25%, while in places like New Hampshire you won’t have any.
- Getting in line for the cash register is not always as simple as it looks. There may be four available cash registers, but in most clothing, drug, and convenience stores there will only be one line. People form one line and take turns going to the next available register. However, typically in supermarkets you will find separate lines for each checkout.