Every country has different everyday ways and cultural mores. To get to know American life, it pays to know certain mannerisms and habits most native-born Americans share.
Greetings. Americans shake hands firmly with each other when first introduced, or when they meet again, but rarely when they part (a more European custom). Social kissing, as a greeting, accompanied by a light body hug, is also sometimes acceptable between men and women who know each other well and among women. American men rarely embrace each other or kiss on both cheeks.
Distance and Eye Contact. When two Americans are standing and talking to each other they stay at least 16 inches away from each other, farther away than is customary in many other cultures. An American may feel threatened if you come too close, even if such a distance is perfectly ordinary in your own culture. Touching is not recommended, but making full, unambiguous eye contact at the first meeting stage is essential. Americans tend to warm up to people who smile, especially when the smile is accompanied by full eye contact.
Getting to the Point. When asking an American for something, especially when dealing with sales help in stores and markets, extensive preliminary pleasantries are not required as in some other countries. A brief “excuse me” is usually sufficient to get the person’s attention, say, when asking for directions. Americans may feel threatened and become suspicious if a stranger begins with a general “hello, how are you?” sequence and does not get to the point of the encounter directly. Americans do exchange pleasantries among people they already know, but even then they are likely to get to the point relatively quickly.
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Next Section:Etiquette and Behavior Rules
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Full Chapter Outline:
Etiquette and Behavior
—Being on Time
—Formal and Informal Events
—Bringing Refreshments and Food
—Card and Game Parties
—Showers and Weddings
—Being a Good Guest
—When You Entertain
—In the American Home
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