VI. American Customs and Culture

VI. AMERICAN CUSTOMS AND CULTURE

TIME
Being on time is very important in American culture. Classes, parties concerts, meetings, and other planned events all start at specific times. If you need to see someone, like a professor, you should make an appointment to see that person beforehand. Do not just appear in their office, as that can be considered rude in some cases. If you will be late to an appointment or know that you will not make it to an appointment, it is good manners to let the person know.

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INFORMALITY
American culture has a great deal of informality between people, and does not have a formal class structure. Some Americans may dress casually and act more informally in social situations that what you might be used to.

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GREETINGS, INVITATIONS, AND VISITING
The most common forms of greeting include handshakes, smiles, and phrases such as, “It’s nice to meet you.”

Professors should be addressed as Doctor or Professor followed by their last/family names, unless they ask otherwise. If not sure that prefix to use to address your professor, it might be a good tip to look at your syllabus for the class.

While most of the US has a very informal attitude, it is common for Southern American culture to address elders with respect. If you do not know somebody’s title, it is safe to use the prefix “Ms.” or “Mr.”, before the person’s name. If you do not know if somebody is married or not, “Ms.” is a safe prefix to use to address a female/woman without worrying about offending them.

if you are invited somewhere and you accept the invitation, it is very important that you appear at the event. Do not accept an invitation simply because you are afraid to say no. If you cannot or do not want to come to the event, politely decline instead of accepting, and not showing up at the event. Gifts are also not expected if you are invited, though potluck events to ask guests to bring something (usually a dish) to the event.

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TABLE MANNERS
Basic table manners include: not speaking with food in your mouth, keeping your elbows off the table, and keeping your hands in your lap while you’re not eating. A knife, fork, and spoon are used unless “finger foods” are being served. It is also considered very rude to belch after eating. After the meal is finished, the napkin should be placed beside the plate and used silverware should be placed across the top of the plate.

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RELATIONSHIPS
Most Americans have many friendly acquaintances, but just a few close friends.

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MEN AND WOMEN
Men and women are considered equals, and American women are generally independent. It is NOT appropriate to whistle at, touch, or make personal comments about women. These actions are considered very rude.

It is also common for women to live alone, with other women, or with men in apartments off campus. Do not assume that your friend or acquaintance has romantic intentions simply because you have been invited to visit their apartment.

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BATHING AND HYGIENE
Most Americans bathe or shower on a daily basis, and use deodorants or antiperspirants as well.

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RELIGIOUS LIFE
Religion is very important part of South Georgian culture. You may be invited to visit a church and to take part in church sponsored social activities. While these church services and activities can be meaningful to you, you are not obligated to join a church.

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ALCOHOL
The minimum legal age for drinking and buying alcoholic beverages (ex. Beer, wine) in the US, is 21 years old. You cannot buy or be served alcohol if you are under 21 years of age. You will be asked to present some sort of official identification with your date of birth and photograph before you can purchase alcohol from a store, bar or nightclub.

It is illegal to drive a car after drinking alcoholic beverages, regardless of age. The penalties are severe and may result in imprisonment, which can affect your non-immigrant status.

Serving alcoholic beverages to people under the age of 21 is also illegal. Under the law of the state of Georgia, the host of a party is responsible for any traffic accidents caused by guests who are intoxicated when they leave the home of the host.

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SMOKING
Starting on October 1, 2014, VSU has been a Smoke Free/Tobacco Free Campus. This means that smoking is not permitted anywhere near or oncampus. Smoking is also prohibited in hospitals, supermarkets, many restaurants and other public places.

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