15 Things To Do & Not to do In America
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The social norms of different cultures vary by country. Before you travel to any foreign country, it is good to read up on some of the cultures practiced by the locals. If you want to have a safe and enjoyable trip, consider following these 15 tips that foreigners should know before traveling to America.
Tip #1: Take out a map before planning your trip
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America is a vast place. The US is over 3 million square miles larger than the European Union. You may be able to take a trip from London to France in roughly 6 hours by car. In comparison, a trip from Los Angeles to New York would take over 48 hours. For this reason, it would help to familiarize yourself with the layout of the states and areas you plan to visit beforehand.
Choose your vacation destination carefully. There are over 50 million tourists that enter the United States every year. The rate is steadily increasing and is projected to hit record highs after 2021. While Times Square and the Hollywood sign are beautiful sights to behold, the amount of tourists that flock to these locations are astronomical. If you would like to maximize your enjoyment on your trip to America, try taking out a map and planning a getaway from the big touristy spots.
Tip #2: Reliable Transportation
Ensure you have reliable transportation to and from your destination wherever you go. Try always to have a backup ride if your original plan falls through. Don’t trap yourself by getting stuck in a location with no way to leave. Public transportation is not always reliable, so you should always be aware of the first and last departure of the day.
Tip #3: Keep an Itinerary
You may already have a basic plan of what you’d like to do on your trip. When you travel to the United States for the first time, you may be overwhelmed by all the fun activities that now surround you. You will undoubtedly experience a small amount of “fear of missing out,” and that’s okay! The best way to avoid this is to make a list of all the non-negotiable things you’d like to do. I suggest doing one significant non-negotiable activity a day, leaving time throughout the day to explore and to do whatever catches your eye without the fear of missing out!
When you visit America for the first time, it will benefit you to be spontaneous. If something comes along that seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, don’t be afraid to take it. You can reschedule a non-negotiable activity for another day or replace it with your newfound adventure.
Tip #4: Remember to take breaks
Traveling is exhausting, and you are bound to get overwhelmed at some point during your trip. Try to schedule downtime in between activities and sightseeing. Don’t be afraid to go back to your hotel and take a nap before moving on to your evening plans. If you’re traveling with a group or with a partner, be sure to take time away to be alone. You may get cranky after traveling with others for extended periods. Setting boundaries beforehand will eliminate awkward conversations later. First-time visitors to America should know that you cannot let yourself get burnt out.
Tip #5: Don’t assume anything
America is big. There’s a lot to see and do. The people that reside in the United States are just as interesting as the locations you’re exploring. While America lives up to many different cultural stereotypes, try to approach it with an open mind. Consider the social and economic reasons why someone might live up to these stereotypes before assuming anything. Suppose you are respectful and open up to an American with friendly conversation; they will be sure to engage with you. Americans are a lot more friendly than you think. All it takes is a simple “How are ya?”
Tip #6: Be respectful of cultural differences
Like the tip above, America is a large mixture of different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. Each person has their own identity, and it’s important to respect that. It is important that foreigners know not to mock another person’s food or clothing choices.
Tip #7: Practice restaurant etiquette
Dining in a restaurant in America is different from many other countries. Restaurant culture in America is constantly changing with new entertainment options and concepts. However, here are a couple of things in the restaurant industry that have not changed:
The average wage for restaurant servers is $2.13 an hour, depending on the business. During your meal, you may receive free bread and water. The service will be more attentive than in other countries. Be sure to tip your server at least 15%-20% of the bill’s price.
While in a restaurant, you also should be mindful of the server’s ability to fulfill your needs at a reasonable time.
For example, don’t stop a server while they have a tray of drinks in their hand to request multiple items at once. If you have numerous requests, wait until your server can return to your table with empty hands so they can write your order down.
Tip #8: Be aware of your surroundings
Like most countries, not every area in America is safe. You need to be aware of your surroundings while traveling to ensure that you don’t wander into restricted or dangerous areas. Try to stick to well-lit environments and mainstream locations. Be on the lookout for anyone who might seem suspicious, and try not to be conned by street vendors.
Do not give in if someone approaches you on the street and compliments you! They are trying to sell you something you do not need.
Don’t ever let someone lead you away from your current location. Any stranger that wants to take you from one place to another is not your friend.
If you are in a nice restaurant, bar, or coffee shop, try not to take a loud phone call or disrupt others with your conversation. If you’re mindful of your surroundings, you shouldn’t cause a scene that will disturb others.
Tip #9: Arrive early/on time for each engagement
You may be used to flexible time frames in your country. Depending on the person, Americans usually like to be on time. If you have a meeting with a friend or an appointment, try to arrive early or on time to confirm your booking. Arriving early or on time is a sign of respect and will only benefit you long-term.
Tip #10: Smoke only in allowed places
As more Americans learn the dangers of smoking, there are more restrictions on smoking. Therefore, in most states, it is prohibited to smoke indoors. There should be universal signs around most business locations that will tell you where the designated smoking location is.
Tip #11: Don’t try to buy alcohol or tobacco products if you are not 21 years old
Unlike most foreign countries, the sale of tobacco and alcohol is prohibited to anyone under 21. Even if you are over 21, you will still need to verify your identity. You must always carry your passport or some form of identification with you when you travel to the United States. Remember that just because you are 18 and above does not mean there are no restrictions on certain items.
Tip #12: Grocery shopping is different in America
While on vacation in the United States, eating out in restaurants is not always the most economical decision. You’ll want to hit up a grocery store to grab snacks and supplies to last during your visit.
When shopping, keep in mind that a sales tax is applied to every item. The price listed on the item is not the final price you pay. It’s wise to round up $1-3 more than the price listed or check with the state’s sales tax percentage before your trip. You will then create a budget and correctly calculate how much you’re spending on each item.
Going to a grocery store in America can be fun! There are many different food varieties that you may not be able to get in your country. If something on the shelf stands out to you, like Swedish Fish Oreos or Hot Cheetos Mac & Cheese, don’t be afraid to grab it! Keep the item that intrigues you the most and continue your shopping. At the end of your grocery store trip, ask yourself if you think you can live without it. If the answer is no, then buy it and enjoy! There’s nothing wrong with trying something outrageous once. You never know when you’ll be able to get it again!
Tip #13: Be open to new experiences
Just like trying new food combinations, you’ll face a lot of new experiences on your trip to America. While you are visiting, try to do something out of your comfort zone. You never know how much fun you might have. Go to a local sports game or visit a national park. Try to find a local festival or visit a historic landmark to tour. Each state is rich in experiences, so you will be able to see just about anything to make your visit unique.
Tip #14: Don’t take risks/get sick
While it is essential to take risks and be adventurous on your trip to the states, it is also essential to know that healthcare in America is not free. You will need to remember this if you consider doing an activity that could result in injury.
If you have any allergies, be sure to relay that information to anyone who may be handling your food. Always carry a small bag filled with medications, first aid items, and anything else you need in an emergency. Check with your destination’s local government website to be aware of any local mandates, so you are prepared when you arrive.
Tip #15: Have fun!
Traveling to another country can be stressful and a bit scary at times. You might find yourself overwhelmed by the significant differences between your country and America, which is entirely normal. There are so many different communities and subcultures that exist within America. For example, if you are interested in cosplay and anime, try to plan your trip around a Comic-Con event. By the end of the journey, you might have made friends and connections with people who share the same interests. Be sure to stay true to yourself, and you should have fun no matter what plans you make!
Traveling to the United States as a foreigner is an excellent opportunity to learn more about American culture.
There are 50 states to choose from, making the possibilities almost endless. While you are in America, it is essential not to overwhelm yourself. It is impossible to see all the sights in a singular city within one day. Therefore, do not try to see the whole country in a week. When traveling to the United States, always be aware of your surroundings. While America is not necessarily dangerous, you can put yourself in a lot of danger if you’re not paying attention. By following these 15 tips and having good street smarts, your first trip to America should be an experience to remember for a lifetime.
1. What are things foreigners should know about America?
America is a massive country with unique people in every corner of the map. It is essential to know that not everyone is the same. Just like in your country, the northerners may differ from the southerners. The pizza on the east coast is different from the pizza in the midwest. There are so many unique things about the United States. You have to come and find out for yourself!
2. Is America a safe place to visit?
Compared to other countries, America is a very safe place to visit. Like any other country, parts of cities will be more dangerous than others. However, it is essential not to get scammed. Scammers will isolate you to sell you their album/fake Chanel purse in some places like New York City. They prey on foreigners, so try to ignore them if you can.
3. What should not be done while in America?
If you are afraid of offending the locals accidentally, fear not. You will be the perfect foreign traveler if you remember to tip and respect other people’s personal space. It would be best to not mention anything about race, gender, or body size. Even if you mean no harm, saying these things could offend someone else.
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