The US may be the Land of the Free, but it’s easy for foreigners to irk Americans without intending to during their visit. In an online forum titled “Ask an American,” travelers asked for examples of bad etiquette in the US. Americans responded in droves.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
1: Stay to the Left
A New Yorker has a public transportation tip for visitors. “On escalators, if you’re just going to stand, stand on the right side and leave room for people to walk past you on the left.” Ignoring this rule may earn you more than a few dirty looks or a shove from someone late to work.
2: After You
The same New Yorker adds if you’re waiting for the subway, let the people on the train get off before you try to get on. “The rule about letting people off the subway before you board also applies to elevators.”
3: Smack Talk
Not everyone heard “chew with your mouth closed” incessantly growing up. “Smacking your lips when you eat will make people in general think you’re low class,” one person said. “A friend of mine used to smack his lips every time he ate,” another American said. “Took a relentless amount of mockery to get him to stop.”
4: Price Is Right
One American said they heard a foreigner asking about haggling in the States. “You can haggle if you’re buying something used (like at a pawn shop or garage sale) or buying a car or a house (where it’s expected),” they explained. “Other than that, it’s just not done.”
5: Don’t Skip the Tip
While gratuity customs vary from country to country, it’s customary and expected to leave a few extra bucks for your server in the US. An American explains their feelings about non-tippers. “They expect good service and not to pay for it and to get to feel righteous about not paying for it.”
6: Give Thanks
According to one American driver, courtesy on the roads goes a long way in the States. “If you are driving and trying to cross or pull into traffic, and someone with the right of way signals that it’s okay for you to come out in front of them, please wave,” they said. “They just did you a solid.”
7: Southern Hospitality
Many people say chivalry is dead, and one American thinks not holding the door open for others is just plain rude. A South Carolina visitor begged not to let this courteous move fall to the wayside. “I appreciate it so very much, and it bugs me to return to California to have doors dropped in my face.”
8: Private Pay Day
It may be expected to ask strangers about their salary in other countries, but Americans like to keep that information hush-hush. “I know this is different from other places. In the US, many people keep their financial situation very private,” a commenter said.
9: Passing Only
On a similar note to being courteous, make sure you follow American road rules while driving in the States. “If you’re not passing someone, you don’t belong in the left lane, get over,” a frustrated driver said. Many Americans could use a refresher with this as well.
10: Bursting Your Bubble
Americans value having their “bubble” of personal space. “Standing or talking too close” is not the best etiquette in the US. “For the sake of foreigners, arm’s reach is about a good distance for talking to strangers,” an American advises.
11: Hand It Over
“Putting your money on the counter instead of handing it to the cashier” is viewed as rude in the US, a former retail worker said. “That one always bugged me.”
12: North vs South
One New Englander says that where they’re from, asking about someone’s religion or religious beliefs is a big no-no. Another American said, “I’m told that in parts of the South, asking what church you attend is a semi-informal greeting.” So, it depends on where you are.
13: Take Them Off
It may not matter as much in states with drier climates like California, but one American says, “Leaving your shoes on when you enter someone’s house (or not offering to take them off, anyway)” isn’t proper etiquette. Outside shoes can easily track mud and dirt inside.
14: Trashy Behavior
Throw your trash away in the proper receptacles, especially in public places. One American says one of the biggest bad etiquette moves in the States is to litter and not pick up after yourself.
15: Oh Snap
While gesturing for your server or bartender’s attention may be normal in other countries, one bartender speaks from experience and says waving or calling them down is straight-up rude. Their recommendation? “Stand there, maybe shove your empty glass a little before you and have your money visible if you want to be served.”
16: Wait Up
People had differing opinions about whether it was proper etiquette to begin your meal before everyone else. One American said it’s bad etiquette, while another elaborated on their rule of thumb: “6 or more at a table and you start eating when food is served. If it’s less than 6, you wait. Hot food should be eaten when it’s hot.”
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