American lifestyle: uses, customs and habits to orient yourself in the USA
Usually, when preparing your holidays in the United States, we take care of everything you need: booking flights, hotels, expatriate documents, car rental (if we do an on the road) and much more.
However, among the thousands of preparations, one factor that can make the difference is often overlooked: how well do we know our destination? How is life in the USA? What are the customs, traditions, unwritten rules, habits and lifestyle that characterize this fascinating overseas land?
Knowing the American way of life will help us to orient ourselves right away, facilitating our relations with local institutions and citizens, avoiding big wastes of time and some bad figure. Here are some tips:
Mancha: the United States will always give a tip, at least you do not want to do an affront to the waiter, or that his work was really poor. Tipping is part of the salary of the waiters, who receive a rather small fixed amount. How much to tip? From 15% to 20% to waiters and taxi drivers. If you only get a drink at the counter, give at least $ 1 per spin. Give porters at least $ 2 per suitcase.
Do not photograph passers-by without permission: more than once I have been stopped by a passer-by with a camera in his hand who asked me: “You accidentally ended up in one of my photos, do you want me to delete it?”
Relationship with alcohol: since the days of Prohibition, Americans have at least a particular relationship with alcoholic beverages and still today it is a big problem especially for young people. Alcoholic beverages are only sold to adults over the age of 21 with documentary proof. It is also not a good idea to walk the streets with a beer in hand like at our village festivals. The drink must be enclosed in a wrapper.
The American welcome
Let’s say you are on the street with a map in hand, intent on figuring out which is the right way to the place you are looking for… it won’t be long before someone approaches you and asks you: “Do you need help?”
These have happened frequently during travels in America. In short, one of the most pleasant aspects of Americans is their welcome, simplicity and ability not to make you feel like a stranger in their country.
American cuisine: much more than it seems
It is often said that American cuisine is very heavy and based mainly on fast food. This is actually only partially true, in the United States you can really eat everything, and even good! Obviously we need to look for the right places and not stop at the first place we meet.
In the USA you can taste good dishes of all kinds: they have excellent meat, delicious fish, gigantic but good salads. You will also find ethnic restaurants of all kinds (Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Greek, etc…) even if for the most part reworked according to local taste; if you take some information before choosing them, you will not be disappointed.
Depending on where you are you can try the regional cuisines typical of the various areas: for example, steaks and meats are characteristic of the cuisine of the Mid-West, while the fish is typical of Louisiana, Florida, Maryland and New England. In California, refined and classy organic cuisine has long been established, which goes hand in hand with the quality of local food products.
In short, American cuisine is presented as rather varied, especially if we want to explore and research. How to find good restaurants? Two ways: ask for information around (as already said the Americans will not spare themselves), or consult guides and online resources (also in this site you will find many tips!). You will see that it will be a pleasant discovery…
Do you want to shop? Did you know that…
The prices shown are not inclusive of taxes, so what you are seeing is not the real price. Have you regretted buying a product? No problem! For many purchases the goods can be returned (even if you have used them !!) and the money spent will be returned to you. Find out about the return conditions during the purchase phase. The real price is always the one displayed. It may seem like a trivial statement but it is not.
Sizes for dresses and shoes. In America the sizes are not the same as ours and below you can take a look at the comparison table. However, in many cases, at least to buy shoes, you won’t need them. In fact, in various shoe shops you will find a series of footprint figures on the ground. Just compare them with yours to easily know your size. One last thing: in the USA the 40 (7.5) you will often find it among the shoes for boys.
Electric sockets. Power sockets in the United States are different from Europeans and this also applies to charging cell phones. So, before you leave, buy yourself a nice American adapter.
American coffee: drink to discover or flush?
The coffee is a symbol of US citizens, as are the burgers. These large and hot mash usually do not arouse a really positive impression. In the United States, you can also easily find espresso, but it’s not exactly a delicacy: they do it with capsules, single (1 capsule) and double (2).
In reality, American coffee is, as a concept, a completely different drink from European coffee. It is in fact a companion drink, to take with you and sip for most of the day, in the car and at work. Furthermore, the cliché that it would be a sort of long watered coffee must also be dispelled. This is absolutely not the case, on the contrary you will easily find really excellent blends. Above all, it is a question of getting used to the new taste and indulging local habits (in short, if you want to try it, you have to take it with you!).
Warning: the American coffee is hot (if you want to drink it immediately, some cold milk will always be available). A 79-year-old lady even got nearly $ 3 million in compensation from McDonald’s for coffee burns! Don’t believe it? A documentary was also shot on this story.
America and movies: how far apart are they?
Many tourists who decide to visit the United States do so because in some way they are also fascinated by the imagery transmitted by the world of television and in particular Hollywood. The question is: how far is the world of cinema from reality? The answer is little or nothing. As soon as you arrive you will be amazed at how faithfully the films reproduce American habits and life. I don’t anticipate anything but eh….
Transportation to America?
In the main American cities the subway works quite well, but if an area is not well covered by the subway you will have to use the bus, which is much less reliable. The time slots are often reported in a vague way and it can also happen that they are not strictly respected. Also remember that you must have the exact money for the ticket, otherwise no change!
The coach is a better choice for extra-urban trips; Greyhound for example allows you to move between major cities at an affordable price. The train, on the other hand, is a more expensive transport, managed by various companies depending on the area. The most common is the Armtrack which basically covers all the most important areas.
For internal travel, of course, you can also consider the plane. To avoid hitchhiking: there are fewer and fewer states where it is legal to practice it and in any case you never know who you can meet… if they catch you technically they can even throw you in the cell!