American lifestyle: uses, customs, and habits to orient yourself in the USA

American lifestyle

Usually, when preparing your holidays in the United States, you 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 lifestyles 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 figures. Here are some tips:

Rules of conduct of the American way of life

Here are some things to watch out for:

  • 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 (which personally I never happened). Tipping is part of the salary of the waiters, who receive a rather meager 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. If you want some specific advice, read our article on how to tip in the USA
  • Do not photograph passers-by without permission: it has happened to me more than once to be stopped by a passer-by with a camera in hand who asked me: “You accidentally ended up in one of my photos, do you want me to delete it?” This is because Americans don’t like to end up in photos of strangers without giving their consent.
  • Relationship with alcohol: since the days of Prohibition, Americans have at least had 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

American welcome USALet’s say you are on the street with a map in your 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?” But it does not end here: if even after the detailed information received you continue to show an expression at least perplexed, do not worry, it is likely that the nice passer-by not only does not give up explaining the way but also decides to accompany you to the destination.

These have happened frequently during my travels in America; even once a lady mounted me in the car and took me home! 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. So if you get lost, you know how!

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 enjoy 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 on 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…

  1. The prices displayed are not inclusive of taxes, so what you are seeing is not the real price.
  2. 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.
  3. The real price is always the one displayed.  It may seem like a trivial statement but it is not. One evening I accompanied a friend to buy a vacuum cleaner. The department label said $ 100. Arriving at the checkout we discovered that the clerk had placed it wrong and that the real price was actually higher, but if the customer finds it at a given price, that becomes effective (plus taxes of course). Result: sold for $ 100! I swear to you, I’ve seen this scene happen before my eyes!
  4. 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.
  5. Electric sockets. Do you want to buy an electronic product? Know that you will need a gearbox to make it work in Italy. Power sockets in the United States are different from ours 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?

American coffee in the USAThe coffee is a symbol of US citizens, as are the burgers. To us Italians, this large and hot mash usually does not arouse a really positive impression and I too confess to you that at the beginning I had my difficulties. 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 our coffee. It is in fact a companion drink, to carry around and sip for most of the day, in the car and at work. Furthermore, the cliche 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. Here is the trailer:

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.

Transportation to America?

In major 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 proves to be 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, operated 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!

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