From spitting in public to interacting with the police, Americans and foreigners share lessons they learned the hard way about things to never do in the U.S.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
1: Get a Payday Loan
“Don’t ever get a Payday loan,” cautions an American. Another agrees. “Yeah…wish someone told me that before I owed $4000 for $1500.” A Canadian expressed their surprise that Payday loans are still legal in the U.S., saying they got stuck in the Payday “loop” for almost two years before Canada changed its Payday laws and saved them.
2: Visit Times Square on New Year’s
Many people agree that one should never go to Times Square on New Year’s. “It’s romanticized for some reason,” says one person. Others talked about how the streets smell of urine, and people wear diapers so they don’t have to leave their spot in line.
3: Leave Your Vehicle During a Traffic Stop
An Australian cautions foreigners against getting out of their vehicle during a traffic stop. “I did not know this,” they explain. “Here in Australia, we are perfectly OK to get out of the vehicle unless the cop says otherwise.”
4: Keep a Child in a Car
Leaving a sleeping infant or child in a vehicle while running an errand “is fairly common in some places across the pond,” says one foreigner. “But it is definitely NOT legal in the US.”
5: Bribe a Police Officer
Bribing a police officer is a great way to get in trouble fast. Unlike some countries, bribing police officers in the U.S. almost always comes with severe repercussions.
6: Cut in Line
An experienced traveler says cutting in line in the U.S. is a no-go. It “can literally lead to violence,” they say, apart from it being incredibly rude.
7: Walk Onto Someone’s Property
It’s not cool to walk onto an American’s property without permission. Some serious circumstances could occur, including getting arrested or the owner pulling out a firearm on you.
8: Cheat the IRS
“Don’t try to cheat the IRS,” cautions one person. Many Americans agree, saying unless you’re super rich and can buy your way out of trouble, getting caught in tax avoidance can cause financial strain for years.
9: Talk Poorly About Dolly Parton
Americans are protective of famous singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, particularly in Tennessee. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.
10: Consume Alcohol in Public
Consuming alcohol in most public spaces is illegal in the U.S., cautions an American to foreign tourists. Another chimes in, saying using an alley as a restroom isn’t okay, even though they have several European acquaintances who say it’s “not that big of a deal in most of Europe.”
11: Spit in Public
Nope, spitting in public isn’t okay in the U.S. It’s a great way to get Americans to steer clear of you if you’re in a cramped space, though.
12: Talking Politics With a Stranger
“Twitter/ social media is not real life, and folks will think you’re a weirdo if you start asking their opinion of anything political,” says one American. For that matter, keep your unasked-for opinions to yourself, too.
13: Photograph Children
It’s not okay to take pictures or videos of children in the US. An American describes having several heated situations where they’ve had to warn foreigners about this.
14: Generalize Culture
The U.S. is the fourth largest country in the world by area. “Don’t base your entire opinion and generalization of the country just from one part,” advises someone to people planning to visit the Land of the Free. “Cultures, values, and people are so different all over the US.”
15: Park in Disabled Parking
No matter how quick your errand or how hard it’s raining, it’s not okay to leave your car in a parking space meant for people with disabilities. Doing so is a great way to get a ticket.
16: Get Sick Without Insurance
Uninsured hospital visits are outrageously high. If you don’t have insurance, you could pay medical bills for the rest of your life.
17: Not Tipping at Restaurants
While many Americans acknowledge that tipping practices have gotten out of control, not tipping at a sit-down restaurant is a big no-no. Many restaurant workers receive pay significantly below minimum wage, so tips are their lifeline.
18: Go to Chick-fil-A on Sunday
Chick-fil-A is one of the only major American restaurant chains closed on Sundays. If you’re craving fast food, the Waffle House is a wise alternative, says one person. The best part? It’s open 24/7.
19: Say Hi to Jack at an Airport
Greeting a person you know with, “Hi, Jack!” is something you should never do at an American airport. It could create quite the ruckus with security thinking there’s a terrorist.
20: Assume NYC Is the US
“Don’t assume because you visited NYC that defines the rest of the U.S.,” says an American. Foreigners who’ve only been to New York City haven’t truly experienced the U.S.
21: Swim in Freshwater
An American cautions swim lovers to stay clear of freshwater “south of North Carolina and East of Texas.” The reason? An alligator could be lurking.
22: Be Closed-Off
Generally speaking, Americans are a friendly culture. It’s common for Americans to make small talk when waiting in line, with their restaurant servers, and more. Not reciprocating the small talk will come across as terribly rude.
23: Underestimate America’s Size
It takes longer to drive through a single state than for some foreigners to drive across their country. Flying is the fastest way to travel to many destinations in the U.S., especially if you want to explore different regions.
24: Drive Slow in the Left Lane
Left lanes on the freeway are for passing or going faster than the traffic around you. Driving slowly will cause angry drivers at best and an accident at worst.
Littering is NOT okay in the U.S. The popular slogan, “Don’t mess with Texas,” even originated from a 1980s anti-littering campaign. Nowadays, Americans view people littering as uneducated and careless.
26: Don’t Specify Tea Temperature
Teas come in two temperatures in the US: hot and iced. Not specifying the temperature you want your tea is a particularly big issue when ordering sweet tea in the south, for adding sugar to unsweetened iced tea just isn’t the same.
27: Assume Portions Will Be Small
Unless you’re paying big bucks to eat at a fancy restaurant, assume restaurant portions will be massive. That’s especially the case at American-style diners.
28: Miss Eating BBQ
If you’re a carnivore, eating BBQ is a must while in the U.S., according to many Americans. For a true and varied BBQ experience, try the BBQ in Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
29: Rely on Public Transportation
With some rare exceptions, it’s a huge mistake to expect to get anywhere easily with public transportation in the U.S. Many towns don’t offer any public transportation options.
30: Talk About Religion
Talking about religion with strangers is a big no-no in the U.S. One person points out that people who talk about being an atheist in the Bible Belt are asking for trouble.
31: Encroach on Personal Space
“If you think speaking to someone from 6 inches [away] is normal, you are creeping that American out,” says a foreigner with experience traveling in the U.S. “Try 6 feet.” Six feet may be a stretch, but many Americans would prefer that over six inches.
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