As international students or professionals we are used to our own culture and social behavior in our country. It can be a cultural shock for us when we come to America and see certain social behavior exhibited by people. Though we are from other countries, we should not misunderstand American people behavior or behave rude to anyone because they did something that we are not used to…I am not a psychologist or intercultural mediator, I will share my experiences what I think are common and what I felt were different from my home country.
How people greet in America? What is the etiquette ?
It is very common in US that if you see a person and make the eye contact (if your looks connect with other person), when you are walking down the street or anywhere in a building, or in closed public places, it is very common to say a friendly phrase:
“ Hi ! How are you doing ?”
Typically you smile and then say the phrase. This is a very common and most important way to greet people. Irrespective of if you know the person or not, you always ask the person “How are you doing ?”. It is a common etiquette in America. I was not used to greeting someone on the road or anywhere back in my country, but now I kind of got the feel of it. If you are a student, you greet the professor in same way, but add ‘Professor’ before .
If you do not say, “How are you doing or smile”, you just nod the head down just as a gesture to acknowledge the other person. You may say “Hi” and then nod the head down. I was not used to this too…In our culture, we do not say Hi to random people on the street and it is socially considered intruding someone’s personal space, but in US it is very common and it is the way you do it.
Few other ways to greet people in USA :
“ Hey ! Whats up ?” or “ Whats up man ?”
This is a very common to say “Whats up ?”. Other countries are picking up the western lingo and most of the students know this…
If you know the person or if the guy is close to you, you may say
“ Hey Dude ! whats up ?”
If you greet someone, they would respond
“ I am fine, Thanks ! How are you doing ?”
Did you see the word “Thanks”. People use Thanks or Thank you a lot here in US. It is common etiquette to thank someone. You may continue the conversation if you know the person by basic questions like,
- “How are things with you ?
- “How is life treating you buddy ?”
- “How is work ? ”
Gestures – Hug and Shaking hands :
Typically, you shake hands when you meet someone and you shake hands firmly. This is common everywhere. One additional thing is, if you are meeting a girl or woman and you know the girl or woman well, it is common to Hug the person. Just a light hug, where you just put arm around her back and just touch your head lightly. This not the hug like they show in movies 😉 Just a friendly way to hug someone if you know the person well ( You do not do this with strangers, only people you know very well ). It is etiquette to just greet a lady by shaking hand for the first couple of times until you know the person. But, sometimes if you meet someone in the club while dancing, then it is different, you may hug the person second time or so depending on how they greet you next time and if they try to show hugging gesture by coming close to you…the reason is that you danced with them and you already had some sort of physical contact and they know you better…anyways, it depends, you cannot randomly hug anyone…you need to read the cues. In general, you only hug women or girls you know very well and it is etiquette to hug women, whom you know very well, in America.
Opening Doors and Thanking in America
Let’s say, you are walking into a building and someone in front of you holds the door for you, then you have to say “ Thank you”, that is etiquette. Also, if you are the first one, then it is your courtesy to open the door for the one coming behind you. Also, if you are going with a lady or girl, it is your courtesy as a guy to open the door for girl. You never slam the door on someone coming behind you. If someone is like 10 feet away, you keep the door open and wait for the person to come. Typically, you are supposed to thank anyone if they do something for you. Lets say, they press a button for you to go to 3rd floor in elevator, then you say “Thank you”. You always, ask by adding a friendly word, “ Can you please press second floor button”
Using Bus and Thanking the Bus Captain/ Driver:
Lets say, you used the city bus for travelling, it is courtesy to thank the driver. We may not be used to this, but in US, people thank Driver when they are getting down. General etiquette rule, if someone does any favor to you, you just thank them. If not, it is considered rude.
Sneezing and Bless you :
If someone sneezes, then you say “ Bless you”. We may use different things in our country, but here usually people say “Bless you”. It is good etiquette.
Never Break into the line :
You should never break into line in front of someone. It is considered very rude. If you really want to go in front, you should ask the person and then only go in front. If you approach a line and there is a woman at the same time, you let the woman go first. Never compete with women. Also, same case when you are forming a line in Airport when boarding plane, boarding bus or in a Bank too.
Saying Sorry and Apologizing :
Let say, if you missed holding up a door and it just slams on someone’s face or did anything that is a little rude, you just say “Sorry”. Apologizing for any mistake or wrong social behavior is very common. People say sorry all the time. It is just like Thank you. If you hear any bad news related to someone or if you see anyone in pain or trouble, you just say ” Sorry to hear this or I am sorry “. You do not need to say sorry for everything. Only if you have done something that is against the common etiquette, then you apologize.
People in America are very casual and etiquette plays a big role in US and you better be nice to everyone and thank properly. You may also read, Common American English words used in daily life vs British English equivalents
What has been your experience living in US ? What are your thoughts on Etiquette in America ?