Friday, February 19, 2016

Tipping, Compliments and Other American Cultural Differences

By Kiran Yella
Student Ambassador, International Technological University

Coming to the U.S. as an international student is the dream of many. But it’s not just about getting admitted into your desired American university. It’s also about living in a new place and learning to understand the cultural differences after you arrive.

As an international student from India, I’ve grown accustomed to many cultural differences since I arrived in the U.S. Now, it’s my pleasure to share with you the insights I’ve gained. I hope this will help you blend well with your future peers, professors and neighbors in America!

Greetings: 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 couple of weeks, and then you can start greeting others the same way!

Tipping: 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. You can go a little higher or lower, depending on the level of service, but 15-to-20 percent is the customary amount to tip if you're happy with the service you’ve received.

Lines: 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 go too close to the person in front of you while waiting in the queue – it would look quite annoying and rude on your part!

Holidays: International students have the responsibility of celebrating not only the customs and festivals of their home countries, but also those of the U.S. As they say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." I recommend carving a pumpkin and dressing up scary (or fancy!) for Halloween; helping to decorate a tree at Christmastime; and sharing a turkey dinner with neighbors and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Compliments: Last but not least, I’ve noticed that giving compliments is big in the U.S. Try it out for yourself. "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, originally of India, is working toward an MS in engineering management from International Technological University in San Jose, Calif. 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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