Welcome to the USA – Part 10

Some ESL students could become overwhelmed when attempting to put all this information to use. That is why Hancock International College takes time to help our International Students on an individual basis and meet their needs when they arise. Today the details go deeper into social differences in the USA.

According to harrisburg.psu.edu,

“Social Courtesies

  • Smiles are basic signals of politeness, a non-verbal way of being friendly.

  • ‘Small talk’ is acceptable & is considered ‘nice’.

  • Americans like their personal space and stand about 2 feet apart when talking. Physical touching when in a conversation usually makes Americans uncomfortable.

‘In America, personal space is needed when accidentally bumping into someone. If this happens, you may simply say, ‘Sorry’. When needing to get by someone, always say, ‘Excuse me’ loud enough for the person to hear and then wait for them to move over.”(Agnesa Cherepanova, Ukraine)

  • Most people shake hands firmly and briefly when they meet for the first time or in a formal situation.

  • When people are good friends or family, they will sometimes hug each other to say hello, goodbye or thank you.

  • Kissing as a greeting, however, is usually only done between relatives and close friends (on the cheek) or between lovers (on the lips).

  • Displays of affection are acceptable in public.

  • If an American offers you something, they will understand your ‘yes’ to really mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ to literally mean ‘no’.

‘Something that I noticed here was that people are very friendly and sociable. You can greet any random stranger on the street and they will respond with the same enthusiasm. People appreciate it when you hold a door open for someone, and maybe these things might go un-noticed back in India. Back home I’ve never seen anyone look at another stranger and greet them randomly.

To students who are new to the US, some people here may seem rude because of the things they say, but they don’t say such things thinking that they are rude. I had an incident where I was out with my cousin and his friends who were all Americans. I was sitting in the back of my cousin’s friend’s car, and I asked him if I should wear the seatbelt sitting in the back seat and he said ‘I don’t care’. What I didn’t realize at that time was that he just meant he didn’t mind if I did or I didn’t, and I thought he was being rude. Over time, I realized that that is the way they usually talk to each other and that there is nothing rude about it.’ (Adi Divakar Venu, India) 

‘In my opinion, Americans are used to having more personal space compared to Asians. It is often said that they prefer to talk with someone about two feet away. Please don’t be disappointed when your American classmates move back from you during a conversation.’ (Kyungha ‘Katie’ Kim, South Korea)

Full Article: http://harrisburg.psu.edu/international-student-support-services/guide-american-culture-etiquette

Idiom of the Day

Be All Smiles

Meaning: To be visibly happy or cheerful (sometimes to hide inner turmoil).

Example: When I saw Allison today, she was all smiles. I had no idea that she lost her job!