Friday, February 19, 2016

Tipping, Compliments, and Other American Cultural Differences

By Kiran Yella
Student, International Technological University

Coming to the U.S. as an international student is the dream of many. But studying in the U.S. is not just about getting admitted to your desired university. It is also about living in a new place and learning to understand a new culture once you arrive.
As an international student from India, I have become accustomed to many cultural differences since I arrived in the U.S. Now I can share my insights with you in an effort to help you integrate well with your future peers, professors, and neighbors in America!

One beautiful tradition you will notice in the U.S. is the warmth of greetings. The moment you go to a shopping mall, visit your university for first time, or meet a new friend, the first thing someone will say is, "Hi! How are you?" The right response, I’ve learned, is to say, "Hi, I'm good, how are you?" This will become a habit after a few weeks, and then you can start greeting others the same way!

When you go to a restaurant with a friend (not fast food, but a proper restaurant), do not forget to tip your waiter between 15 and 20 percent of the total bill. You can go a little higher or lower, depending on the level of service, but 15 to 20 percent is the customary amount if you are happy with the service you received.

If you see a line in front of the admissions office or movie theater (or anywhere, really), then be sure to maintain proper distance and stand in the line, or, as we call it in India, the queue. Do not cut the line or stand too close to the person in front of you while waiting in the queue because this would be quite annoying to the person in front of you and may be considered rude.

International students in the U.S. get to celebrate not only the customs and festivals of their home countries, but also those of their new country. There is a popular saying here, "when in Rome, do as the romans do." Do not be afraid to explore these new holidays. I recommend carving a pumpkin and dressing up for Halloween, decorating a tree at Christmastime, or sharing a turkey dinner with neighbors and friends on Thanksgiving.

Last but not least, I have noticed that giving compliments is big in the U.S. Try it out for yourself. You could say, "thats a nice dress," or "I love your smile," or "you are a genius!" Of course, if helps if the comments are genuine, too!

I hope this provides some insights that will help you adjust to the cultural differences you may face once you arrive in the U.S. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors!
Kiran Yella is originally from India. She is working toward an MS in engineering management from International Technological University in San Jose, California. She holds a bachelor's degree in computer science and information technology. Kiran's interests include traveling, painting, photography, cooking, and blogging.

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