Common Etiquette in the United States
Manners vary widely across the U.S. In general, here are some things to remember:
- Avoid talking about politics, religion and other controversial topics with people you don't know well.
- A firm handshake is the customary greeting for both men and women.
- The standard space between you and your conversation partner should be two feet.
- Always address someone by their title unless told otherwise by that person. For example, call someone "Mrs. Jones" until they say, "Call me Mary."
- It is appropriate to introduce yourself to someone you don't know.
- Before going to visit a friend, it is common courtesy to call ahead.
- It customary to tip a waiter at a restaurant between 15-20 percent of the total bill, if you received good service.
- If you offer to take someone on a date, you should let him or her know whether or not you will be paying. For instance, you can say, "I would like to buy you lunch." If you go out with friends, you should be prepared to pay your own way.
- It is perfectly acceptable to refuse an offer of food or drink.
- It is generally considered impolite to pick your teeth in public; swear or talk uproarishly in public; pick your nose or spit in public; and point/stare at someone.
- You should express gratitude when you receive a present by thanking the person. It is customary to follow up with a written note.
- When you are eating with others, it is proper etiquette to wait until all others have their food and have sat down. At the dinner table, put your napkin on your lap before you begin to eat your meal.