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American Culture: Politeness Pointers

23. November 2009 by Marie 0 Comments

If you meet the man of your dreams and go to America, do you wonder how you should act?


Manners vary from country to country. However, here are some general tips about how to get along in America:


  • If you have an appointment, show up on time. Apologize if you are more than ten minutes late. Call if you will be more than 15 minutes late.
  • Americans have a very well-defined sense of "personal space." They generally don't like people to stand closer than one meter. 
  • It is unusual to just show up at someone's house without being invited, especially for a meal.
  • Americans are usually very careful not to hurt someone's feelings, so they may not always be honest. But they appreciate honesty if it is presented in a kind and tactful way.
  • If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you will have that person to yourself without interruption, and it won't take much more than one hour.
  • If you are invited to someone's home, you are not expected to bring food or a gift. It is always appreciated, however. Common "hostess gifts" are flowers, candy, wine or store-bought pastries. It depends on how formal the event is. 
  • If you are not invited over by a neighbor, don't be insulted: Americans have much less time to socialize in a relaxed way and prefer to use that precious time alone, with close friends or family.


It can be difficult adjusting to the fast-paced American way of life. The good news is that many Americans are forgiving of newcomers -- after all, it is a national of immigrants.