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Customs & Traditions in the United States of America

Updated: May 5, 2021

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General Etiquette

  • In the US it is considered impolite to ask a direct question about someone’s salary, wealth, weight, or age.

  • People do not generally wait to be introduced and will begin speaking with strangers. Non-Americans can see this informality as too direct or even rude, but it’s simply the level of friendliness that they’re comfortable with.

  • If someone coughs while you are smoking, it is an indication that you should stop smoking in front of him.

  • It is impolite to pick food from your teeth without using a toothpick in public.

  • Americans place a big importance on time, punctuality is particularly important to them.

  • It is okay for Americans to be open and proud about their success as Americans like to focus on accomplishments and other positive things. It is part of sharing their life with others.

  • If giving advice or criticism, be sure to emphasize one’s good points before and after doing so.

  • Don't make fun of the US in front of Americans because 9 out of 10 Americans are proud of their country.

  • Americans avoid talking about topics such as gun control, the death penalty, abortion, civil rights, religion, etc, cause these topics can also be sensitive if you do not know everyone’s point of view.


  • The American family is understood as a nuclear family (husband, wife, and children) with extended family living separately, Family structures can also vary significantly between different ethnicities and races in America.

  • However, Asian, black, and Hispanic families are more likely to live in multigenerational arrangements and have larger households than non-Hispanic white Americans.

  • Individualism is prized, and this is reflected in the family unit, people are expected to be self-independent and personally responsible for their choices*, American school systems often teach children to think of themselves as ‘special’ or ‘unique’ as they grow up.

  • Many elderly Americans choose to live alone, preferring to be self-independent in their old age.

  • American dating practices are similar to those of other western cultures. It is common for couples to meet through their social circles, workplaces, or hobbies.

  • Studies show that most young American adults now cohabit with their partner and having children while still unmarried, and fewer cohabitations transition to marriage.

*However, this norm has been subjec