Unspoken Rules In American Culture And Life

Unspoken Rules In American Culture And Life

Whether we want to admit it or not, each country — for the most part — has its own set of ~unspoken rules.~

Let me just say that as an American, I knew of a lot of these rules — but others were pretty new to me. So here are even more American rules that some people think are worth knowing if you’re planning on visiting the US for the first time or just want to better familiarize yourself with the culture.


“The south — like South Carolina — may have a reputation for being more hospitable, but there often is this fake undertone. It is not always as welcoming as it seems.”



“Sales tax varies from country to county, and some states don’t have it at all. Never assume you know what the final price will be. The average across the country is 5%, but in my county, it’s 10% — that being said, my state doesn’t have an income tax.”



“School buses are like moving pedestrian crossings. If they’ve got their little stop signs out, and their hazards going (though sometimes that doesn’t count) and a little bar comes out the front, you need to stop.”


“Basically you’re dealing with 50 different countries somewhat connected by a central authority that handles broad aspects of services and authority. Those 50 countries have the ability to determine much of what is or is not legal, proper, accepted, and expected within their borders. Be prepared for very different laws, customs and beliefs once you cross what seems like just a line on a map.”



“When visiting someone’s home for the first time, some people don’t mind you wearing shoes in their house, and some do. It’s best to ask first. If they do want you to remove them, they may or may not provide slippers or house shoes. Wear socks just in case.”


“Be careful how you interact with children that are not related to you. Don’t scold or discipline anyone’s kid, no matter how obnoxious they’re acting — unless you have explicit permission from the guardian. If you see a child lost in a public place, stay close by and look out or find a police officer or store employee. Don’t offer gifts or sweets to a child alone, and don’t offer to take them anywhere or show them anything. Only if there’s immediate danger — they just fell into a pond or ran into traffic — [do you] act immediately to save the kid!”



“Appetizers and starters are the first courses and an order typically is meant to be shared before the main course, not ordered for just oneself or as a meal unto itself. But you certainly can do so, and many people do. Entrees are the main course, not the first course or starter. I’ve seen Europeans be a bit confused on that one.”


“My brother-in-law moved to Japan and his wife and son were born there. When they visit [the US], his wife struggles a lot, and I understand why: American culture normalizes the violation of children’s autonomy. If a baby is in a room, Americans —primarily family and friends — tend to or even expect women to treat the child as an object, pass it around, and see it as a ‘gift’ to give mom some free time away from baby, even if the child screams in protest. In other countries, this is a complete violation.”



“At most restaurants, if you order tea, it will come iced. And depending where you are, it may be syrupy sweet.”



“Americans are a no-touch society. If you don’t know someone — heck, even if you DO know someone — just assume that even a pat on the shoulder is unwanted. Hands off.”



“Don’t ask an American a question unless you’re prepared to hear the answer.”


“You need to tip in the US. Like, 20%, 15% absolute minimum for all service — unless intentionally subpar but that’s honestly rare because people DEPEND on their tips in the service industry in the US. Please know that [servers] aren’t typically paid a normal minimum wage. It’s often much less than that, like $2 an hour. It’s not just tossing spare change as a ‘thank you’ gesture like some other places in the world.”


“This is a bit of midwestern, Great Plains advice. If you’re going down a dirt or gravel road and find yourself crossing paths with another vehicle, give the ‘rural wave’ — just lift your fingers off the steering wheel about four inches and give a slight nod of your head. It’s a subtle gesture, not quite a full wave, but it is a gesture that signifies courtesy and greeting.”


“If you are visiting from a country that drives on the left, make sure you look right before crossing and always use the crosswalks! Watch out for turning cars when crossing and don’t take forever to cross. Right-on-red is legal in some places. Stay out of the left lane on the highway unless you’re trying to pass someone!”



“Americans take hygiene very seriously. Most people shower daily and use deodorant and perfume and cologne. BO is embraced in other countries, but you’ll get dirty looks here.”



“A few rules here. You cannot pump your own gas in the states of Oregon and New Jersey. You have to wait on the attendants. The exception to the sales tax is Oregon, where there isn’t any. At the major highway entries where you enter California from other states, there are agricultural checkpoints where they will ask if you are carrying any produce. You’re supposed to surrender it if you do, but prepackaged stuff is usually fine. Those checkpoints aren’t always attended though. Or they might wave you through without asking anything.”



“If you get arrested, know your rights.”


Are there any other unspoken rules that you could add to this list? Tell me in the comments below!