Confusing American Habits, Explained

By: Tiernaur Anderson, Greenheart Exchange Marketing and Outreach Intern

New experiences can be overwhelming on their own, but when they happen in a completely foreign place, you can be left with a lot of questions. Even small habits and customs can have a big impact if they are unfamiliar to you. Here is a list of five American habits and customs you may have questions about! 

  1. Get coffee to go! 
    • While in other countries, drinking coffee is more about the pleasure and the experience, American coffee drinkers usually only do so to fuel up for their day. Don’t be surprised if you order a cup of coffee and it comes in a paper to-go cup! 
  2. Blast the air conditioning. 
    • Often, once summer hits, businesses and residential buildings turn on the AC and don’t turn it off until September. Even on a cooler day, you may find the cold air cranked on high at your job or in your housing. It’s always a good idea to bring a sweater! 
  3. Say hello or smile at strangers. 
    • It’s not unusual for a passerby to smile, nod, or even say hello to you, even if you’ve never seen them before. This is especially likely to happen in smaller towns or more tight-knit community. Don’t be alarmed! Just return the gesture and carry on.  
  4. Write the date backwards! 
    • Although it is often critiqued for not making much sense, Americans write the month first, then the date, followed by the year. For example, 07/05 is July 5th, not May 7th! 
  5. Price tags that don’t include tax. 
    • When shopping, you always must be sure you have more money than the product itself costs. Because taxes vary so widely by product, state, and administration, product price tags do not include tax. When you get to the cash register, you will have to pay anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars more than the listed price. Watch out! 

You will encounter many other customs that surprise and baffle you, but don’t worry! A quick internet search can be extremely informative, and if you feel comfortable doing so, you can always just ask someone about something new or unfamiliar. You might even make a new friend that way!