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Everyday Life in America

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

Life in the USA Home Page.

Full Chapter Outline:
Etiquette and Behavior
Being on Time
Formal and Informal Events
Bringing Gifts
Bringing Refreshments and Food
Card and Game Parties
Entertaining Outside
Showers and Weddings
Being a Good Guest
When You Entertain
Table Manners
Making Conversation
Accepting Compliments
In the American Home
Cellular Telephones

Women’s Language: A Sexist Double Bind

Sexual Harassment

Immigrants and Attitudes

Understanding the Typical Teenage Boy

Reading Groups

Uptalk, Speaking of a Cautionary Tale

Interpersonal Relationships
Getting Serious
Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Grooming and Personal Hygiene
Shaving: Men
Shaving: Women
Hair Care
Tooth and Mouth Care
Fragrances and Perfumes


Popular American Sports
Auto Racing
Skiing and Snowboarding
Ice Skating

Tailgating Parties


Health and Fitness
Fitness and Exercise

Outdoor Activities
Salt Water Fishing

Food, Diet and Nutrition

Marijuana Viewpoints

Alcohol and Attitudes

Personal Safety and Crime
Crimes Against Women
Pickpockets and Purse Snatchers
Street Crime
Self Defense
Confidence Games
Professional Beggars
Drug Abuse
If You Are Accused

Poker: An American Tradition


Other Life In The USA Subject Area Sections:
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