That all people are equal and deserve an equal opportunity in life. They should all be treated fairly and with the same level of respect. This is one of the most basic principles of American philosophy. That everyone is free to be an individual. Americans do not believe in conforming to a general ideology or behavior. Individuality and self-expression are encouraged. That competition brings out the best in people and in businesses. Competition is another of the basic principles of American philosophy. That you are responsible for taking control of your own life and determining your own future. Americans do not believe in luck or fate. They are very proud of their individual achievements. That change is good and necessary. It brings about progress and improvement. Tradition is not as valued in America as it is in other cultures. That it is best to be honest and direct. In many cultures, it is considered impolite to speak too frankly or directly about a subject. Americans prefer to speak openly, even when giving a negative opinion or delivering bad news. That rationality is more important than emotion when making a decision. Americans are often most interested in "the bottom line." In other words, the best decision is the one that has the most productive outcome, usually measured in dollars and cents.
What Americans love
Their country. Americans are very patriotic. They are very proud of their country and their way of life. They also have great respect for those who serve or have served in the armed forces. Their free time. Americans may not have much free time compared to people in some countries, but they value what they have. They will spend that time doing something for themselves, their family, or their community. Weekends and vacations are always full of activities. The outdoors. The United States government protects large sections of land from development and preserves them for the enjoyment of all. Americans enjoy outdoor activities all year round. Depending on the region, popular activities include sailing, hiking, mountain climbing, camping, and skiing. Sports. The United States probably has more professional athletes participating in a greater number of professional sports than any other country. Americans love to watch sports, either live or on television. They also love to participate in sports, and there a re countless leagues for players of all ages and skill levels.
When meeting someone for the first time, it is customary to shake hands, both for men and for women. Hugs are only exchanged between close friends. Kissing is not common, and men never kiss other men.
Americans will usually introduce themselves by their first name and last name (such as “Hello, I’m John Smith”), or, if the setting is very casual, by their first name only (“Hi, I’m John”). The common response when someone is introduced to you is “Pleased to meet you.” Unless someone is introduced to you with their title and last name (such as Mister Smith or Miss Johnson), you should address them by their first name. Americans normally address everyone they meet in a social or business setting by their first name. However, you should always address your college professors by their title and last name (such as Professor Jones), unless they ask you to do otherwise.
Speaking on the telephone
Americans normally answer the telephone by simply saying “Hello.” If you are calling a business, the person answering the phone will give the name of the business and usually their own name as well. If the person you would like to speak to has answered the phone, you should say hello and state your name. If not, you should ask for that person politely: “May I please speak with Andrew Brown?”
The majority of Americans have answering machines in their homes. Also, the majority of businesses have voice mail accounts for their employees. When leaving a message, state your name clearly and leave a telephone number where you can be reached. Telephone messages should be brief and to the point.
All restaurants in America accept cash for payment, and most (even some fast food restaurants) also accept credit cards. A few restaurants also accept ATM cards for payment. You will rarely find a restaurant that accepts checks.
It is common to have to wait for a table at a popular restaurant. There are many popular restaurants that do not accept reservations, or will only accept reservations for large parties (for example, six or more people). At these restaurants, the wait can be very long on a weekend night, sometimes up to 1 hour. However, almost all upscale, or more formal, restaurants will accept reservations.
Many restaurants in America (except for fast food restaurants) have a license to serve alcohol. Beer and wine are always available, and at some restaurants hard liquor (such as vodka or whisky) is also available. Restaurants that serve hard liquor are said to have “a full bar.” The drinking age in America is 21. If you look young, be prepared to show proof of your age when ordering alcohol.
There are only a few situations where tipping is expected. The one you will encounter most often is at restaurants. American restaurants do not add a service charge to the bill. Therefore it is expected that the customer will leave a tip for the server. Common practice is to leave a tip that is equal to 15% of the total bill for acceptable service, and about 20% for superior service. If the service was unusually poor, then you could leave a smaller tip, about 10%.
Other professions where tipping is expected include hairdressers, taxi drivers, hotel porters, parking valets, and bartenders. The general rule is to tip approximately 15% of the bill. In situations where there is no bill (as with hotel porters and parking valets), the tip may range from $1 to $5, depending on the type of establishment and on how good the service was.
Smoking is not as common in America as in many other countries. Generally, Americans smoke less than Europeans and much less than Asians. It is a practice that is becoming less and less socially acceptable.
Smoking is prohibited in many places. It is not allowed in any public buildings, on any public transportation (including airplane flights within the United States), in shops, movie theaters, schools, and office buildings. The general rule is if you are indoors, then you probably are not allowed to smoke. The exceptions are bars, nightclubs, and some restaurants. If a restaurant does allow smoking, it will only be in an area that is designated for smokers. If you are with someone, even outdoors, it is polite to ask if they mind before you start smoking.
The legal smoking age in America is 18. If you are buying cigarettes (or another tobacco product) and you look young, the store clerk is required by law to ask you for proof of legal age. Y In a country that covers over 9 million square kilometers, it is not surprising to learn that regions that are separated by large distances will be noticeably different. Not only are there great differences in climate and landscape, but also in the people who live in each of these regions. The fifty states that make up the United States can be divided into six distinctive regions which are described below.
The Northeast (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island)
The first immigrants (or settlers) to the United States came to the Northeast region in the 17th century. These were mostly English Protestants, looking for freedom to practice their religion and political reform. Because the winters are cold and harsh, and the land not very flat or fertile, this region is not well suited for farming. Eventually manufacturing and trade became the most important contributors to the regional economy. This region is well known for its culture (with excellent theaters and museums) as well as its educational system (with some of the most highly rated and respect universities in the country). This region is also known for its mix of ethnic groups, including Irish, Italian, and many eastern Europeans.
The Middle Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington, DC, and Maryland)
The first settlers in this region were more diverse than in the Northeast. Not only were English Protestants included, but also English Catholics, Dutch, and Swedes. Although the weather is not quite as cold, farming was still difficult, so manufacturing and shipping became the dominant industries. Some of the most highly populated American cities (including the largest, New York city) are located in the Mid Atlantic, as is the nation's capital (Washington, DC). Today finance, communications, and pharmaceuticals are some of the most important industries in the region.
The South (Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and parts of Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma)
The first southerners were English Protestants, like the northeasterners, but they were less independent and revolutionary in their nature. With temperate weather and sprawling lands, the south was very conducive to farming and soon agriculture became the primary industry. Southerners are probably the most distinctive of all American regional groups, with more relaxed attitudes and traditional ways than their neighbors to the north. They are known for their hospitality. The climate and the landscape have led this region to become popular with American tourists, and also with retirees. Today farming has become less prominent, and manufacturing and tourism have contributed greatly to the economy.
The Midwest (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, parts of Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado)
The Midwest is the largest of the regions, with the most variation in weather. However, the land is almost entirely flat, and also very fertile, making it ideal for farming. The region is known as the nation's "breadbasket" because of its abundant production of oats, wheat, and corn. The first immigrants were Americans from the east coast, as well as Europeans from Sweden, Norway, and Germany. Midwesterners are known for being honest, straightforward people of traditional values. The area is not densely populated, with fewer big cities than its neighbors to the east. The largest city is Chicago, known for its port, and for being a connection (through railroad lines and airline hubs) between the eastern and western United States.
The Southwest (western Texas, parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada)
This region has had the least influence by European immigrants. Much of its culture has been defined by native Americans (also known as American Indians) and by the Spanish (most of the Southwest previously belonged to Mexico). The land is generally flat and dry, and the weather is very hot. The region has many deserts. The nation's greatest natural wonder, the Grand Canyon, is located in this region. Also located here is Las Vegas, one of the world's premier gambling centers.
The West (western Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, California, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii)
The first settlers in the West were the Spanish who established Catholic missions along the coast. This region has probably the most variation in landscape and climate. Mountain chains run from north to south, creating temperate, wet areas to the west, and harsher, drier areas to the east. This region contains much undeveloped land which is enjoyed by the locals for recreation. The west has the most varied mixture of immigrants of all the other regions. In some areas, Mexican and Asian influences are dominant over European influences. Westerners are known as the least traditional of Americans, and the most tolerant of change and differences. California is the nation's most populous state, and is famous for its movie and high-technology industries.
ou should be prepared to provide identification.
Sometimes a bicycle may be all the transportation you need. Some school campuses, particularly in rural areas, are very large and most students will use their bicycles daily to get to and from classes. School campuses in urban areas will have numerous businesses, shops, restaurants, and entertainment options within relatively short distances which are easily traveled by bicycle. If your school is located in a suburban area, you may find that there are fewer establishments within a short bicycle ride from your school. However, if you need to travel longer distances, there are often public buses and trains that will accommodate bicycles on board. Keep in mind that if you live in a location that has snow in the winter, you may need to rely on other forms of transportation during that time of the year.
In addition to a bicycle, you will also need a strong, reliable bicycle lock. Bicycle theft is common, particularly around college campuses. Keep in mind that some states now have mandatory helmet laws for bicycles. And even if you do not live in such a state, it is an excellent idea to always wear a helmet for your safety.
Almost all cities in the United States provide very affordable bus service. Depending on the city, however, buses may or may not be very efficient and convenient. If you are living in a major city, you will be able to get anywhere within that city by bus. If you live in a small city or suburb, there will be fewer bus routes, and the service will be less frequent. Also the hours of operation may be shorter. Buses run at regular intervals according to a schedule which can be obtained from the authority that operates the service. These intervals may be as short as five minutes, or as long as 30 minutes, depending on the route and the time of day. Typically, only large cities provide 24-hour bus service. You can also get maps of all the bus routes from the operating authority.
You cannot obtain change on a bus, so you will need to have the exact amount of cash for your fare before you board. Sometimes fares are lower for students (be prepared to show a student identification card). If you will be using buses frequently, you should consider purchasing a monthly bus pass. A monthly bus pass allows you to travel as many times as you like during that month for a fixed price.
Buses do not stop at every stop. They will only stop if someone is waiting on the road at the bus stop, or if one of the passengers has requested a stop. The normal mechanism for requesting a stop is to pull on a cord that runs the length of the bus. There will then be some light or sign that indicates a stop has been requested. If you need any assistance or information while riding the bus, ask the driver.
Trains and subways
Most major cities provide public transportation in the form of train service. The trains may run above ground, below ground, or both. They are called by different names in different cities, such as metro, subway, rapid transit, and light rail. Trains will get you where you are going faster than buses, but they make fewer stops. If there is not a train station or stop close to your school, you may have to use a bus or bicycle to get there. Trains also tend to run more frequently than buses, and may have longer hours of operation. Depending on where you live, you may find them more convenient.
In most train systems you must purchase a token or card before boarding. There are usually automated machines where you can purchase your cards, as well as cashiers who can make change for you. The price of the fare usually depends on the time of day and on the distance you are traveling.
Taxis (or cabs) are normally only used for occasional, longer trips. They are much more expensive than public transportation, but also much cheaper than owning and maintaining a car. You are most likely to use them for trips to and from the airport, or for shopping trips where you may have too many items to carry conveniently on a train or bus. You may also choose to use a taxi for safety when you are going somewhere late at night.
Unless you live downtown in a major city, you will not be able to simply walk out on the street and find a taxi. You will have to call a taxi company and request that a taxi come pick you up. Depending on the time of day and where you live, this could take up to 40 minutes or more. You can also arrange to have a taxi come pick you up at a specific time by calling in advance. You can find phone numbers of taxi companies in the local telephone directory.
Taxis run on meters. The fares are regulated by the city. Do not ride in a taxi if the meter is not functioning and the driver offers you a flat rate instead. There may be additional charges for travel to or from the airport, and for large pieces of luggage. These charges are also regulated and will be posted inside the taxi. If the taxi travels on a toll road or bridge, the cost of the toll will be added to the fare. It is customary to tip a taxi driver between 10% and 20% of the cost of the fare.
You will probably not need to purchase a car while living in the United States unless you live far from campus. While very convenient, cars are expensive to maintain and only make sense financially if you use them frequently. In some cities, it can be difficult to find parking, and free parking spaces may be very limited. Consider carefully whether a car is really worthwhile before purchasing one.
You must have a valid driver's license to not only drive, but also to own, a car. Each state issues its own driver's license, although you can drive in any state with a license from any other. Most states will not allow you to drive with your own country's driver's license. Even if you have an international driver's license, which is allowed, it is a good idea to obtain a local license. That is because the driving laws and regulations in the United States are different from those in your own country, and by studying for a local driving test you will learn them well.
Almost every state requires car owners to obtain car insurance. There are minimum requirements of coverage which you must pay for. Even if you do not live in a state that requires insurance, it is an extremely good idea to purchase insurance for your protection.
Driver's licenses and car registrations are issued by the state's department of motorized vehicles. You can locate the office that is closest to you by searching for it on the internet or in the local telephone directory. Contact the office to find out the requirements for obtaining a driver's license and registering a vehicle. You may also find all the information you need in the department's web site.