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Socialising and EtiquetteBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
United States of America (USA) - Socialising and Etiquette
Visitors from more conservative cultures are often surprised at the ease with which Americans converse with those they have only just met. Public places that are designated for group activities, such as churches, schools, or community centers, are great places to meet people.
However, personal safety and the fear of crime are often uppermost in the thoughts of many Americans, so it is important to avoid acting in any way which might give someone cause for concern when meeting them for the first time.
Body language (common gestures)
To say “hello” with a gesture, wave one hand sideways in the air above the shoulder of the same side of your body and smile. Smiling and making eye contact in the USA will get you a long way and help you to make friends. Say “hello” often, and be pleased whenever a person says the same to you.
Whenever someone moves away from you, let them. If you like a person, either indicate that he or she is welcome to come closer to you or move closer to the other person. Watch their face closely to find the right distance.
There are diverse beliefs about marriage in the USA. The general consensus is that marriage should be to one partner (at a time!). Expectations differ from one place to another, within different social groups, and over time, however.
Special occasions, birthdays, Christmas, etc.
Giving gifts and spending time with friends and family are traditions enjoyed by most Americans during major religious holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It is common for a person receiving a gift (whether it be for a birthday, Christmas, or other special occasion) to open it in front of the person giving the gift. This is not considered rude as it is in some European cultures.
If you are invited to a person's house for dinner, it is customary to offer to bring something. Usually, the host will provide all of the food, but it is considered a thoughtful gesture to offer. If the host does not ask you to bring something, it is still good etiquette to bring a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers as a thank you.
Some people in America decide to volunteer their help to others. This is not a requirement of civic life, however, and there are many who do not volunteer. Keep in mind, though, that volunteering can be both very rewarding and an excellent way to make new friends.
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