Fri, 12 Aug 2022

Courtesies to remember in the US

Posted on Monday, May 6, 2019

Indians studying in the US must remember some basic social and cultural rules needed to gel well in the American society

Moving to the United States means being a part of an entirely different culture. In order to fit in and benefit from the experience, any student in the United States would need to know about basic gestures and courtesies of their culture to blend in academic, professional and social world. Here are some of the general courtesies you must remember while in the US, to find yourself at home in a different cultural setting. 

Whether you meet a classmate or an associate, pleasantries like ‘Hey, how are you?’ are considered appropriate. An appropriate initial contact includes eye contact and a hand shake. A hand shake must be firm, but don’t squeeze to crush the other persons hand or offer a limp dead fish hand. 

When meeting someone for the first time, maintain a distance of two to three feet of personal space. You may make some small talk like the other person’s background, profession or even discuss sports, weather or popular culture to get a conversation going. 

When it comes to classroom etiquette, a student may remain seated when a professor walks into class, unlike in Asian culture. Students are expected to be punctual, maintain attendance and participate in classroom discussions. 

Remember that ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ must be used generously. Even when it is a service you are paying for. You are also expected to apologise and say ‘sorry’ for the smallest of the mistakes regardless of rank, age or status. 

There are some gestures that are considered extremely distasteful and one should avoid these under all circumstances. When interacting with peers it is very important to abstain from certain sensitive topics. These would include criticizing someone else’s religion, discussing their personal life or addressing people with a reference to their race / colour. 

Like in any other country people in the United States follow a set of dining etiquettes. When eating out at a restaurant do not forget to tip the waiter, wine steward and car attendant appropriately. When going out for a meal with friends or colleagues, the bill is divided equally amongst everyone or as per their individual orders, whichever is more appropriate. 

It is vital to follow the relevant code of conduct while availing public transport. If a pregnant lady or elderly person needs assistance when boarding or getting off a bus or someone needs help with the luggage, one may offer to help them. Always follow the queue, whether waiting for a bus, waiting to make a purchase at a store or at the movies trying to enter and exit. 

You are expected to maintain strict personal hygiene. Spitting and urinating in public, eating with your mouth open and picking your nose must be strictly avoided. 

In India we commonly use the British English. American English with its distinct accent and use of slangs and phrases might seem unfamiliar. As a student it helps to be acquainted with commonly used words and phrases so as to not to get confused with what they mean. 

With these basic and common courtesies, you will settle in faster and hopefully build valuable relationships, which will add tremendous value to your overall experience.

(The artical is authored by Rogelio Caceres, chief commercial officer, LCR, Capital Partners and Nikita Goel, author of Not Born in the USA)


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