- To be on the safe side, shed any assumptions about the USA and its denizens you might have gotten from the media, and interact with people with an open mind.
- Be mindful of personal space — unlike the norm in India, people prefer not to be close to each other in public spaces. Also, people are very particular about queues.
- “What’s up/How are you?” is not necessarily a serious question; it’s often just a simple greeting and acknowledgement that you can reciprocate in brief.
- Hugging people to greet them is not a big deal in most places.
- In many places, it’s not strange or uncommon to smile at people passing you by on the street.
- Staring (not looking) at people is considered very odd and rude.
- Addressing someone as “sir” or “ma’am” while talking to them can be out of place, and sometimes considered rude. Usually, it’s the police that uses those to address people. Most people, regardless of age or occupation, prefer being called by their first name, unless otherwise specified. In school, you can just address your professors using “professor” if it’s easier to get used to.
- Do not plagiarize or cheat on your work. Academic/work integrity and the honor code is a big deal in the US for the most part.
- You can be cited and fined for jaywalking if there’s a designated pedestrian crossing and traffic signal. Most places have pedestrian signals by crosswalks that you need to follow and cross streets when it’s your turn. Of course, some people jaywalk anyway.
- Tipping is pretty important — at least 10% for barbers, delivery folk etc, and 15–20% for waiters in restaurants etc.
- Taxes are added on top of the mentioned prices at most establishments and shops. If a sign says a sandwich or snack at a shop is $4.99, for instance, it will very likely have taxes added to it when you check-out.
- Try to lose the Indian head-shake/head-bob while out there, it highly confuses anyone who’s not south asian.
- If you want to go one step further in terms of language and accent, consciously work on getting rid of Indian-isms that exist in Indian English — for instance, ‘passing out’ of school, the misuse of ‘only’, ‘doubt’, and ‘crib’, using ‘v’ and ‘w’ interchangeably phonetically, etc.
Also see: Gaurav Ragtah’s answer to Which are the best ways to improve English speaking fluency? for speech tips, and
English (language): What are some English phrases and terms commonly heard in India but rarely used elsewhere?
- http://qr.ae/7Zvwgl — my addition to the list^)
- American TV shows are a pretty good source for picking up linguistic and cultural references that you’ll come across out there.
- Avoid sticking with groups of your own kind too much while out there. This is something I see often, where Indian and other Asian students stay in their own circles but don’t branch out. Put yourself out there and immerse yourself as fully as possible to get a better US cultural experience, through academic/work and social events, both in and out of school.
Most people you’ll interact with are very accepting of other cultures, and will be open to learning more about you as well as telling you more about how things work their way.
That said, the US is a bit more of a salad bowl than a melting pot, and often times, assimilating with the local culture wherever you are while you’re there tends to be advantageous. I hope I’ve given you a fair start in that direction.
Originally published at www.quora.com.