Every culture has its own unique set of social customs that are considered normal. International students often find themselves unfamiliar with these customs and can have a difficult time adjusting. The following is a list of common American social practices that, while they might not seem important to someone from away, can seem rude or inconsiderate if ignored completely.
Clean Up After Yourself at Home
If you live on campus at a dormitory or in an off-campus apartment, chances are you have a roommate. Cleaning up after you cook, picking up your dirty laundry, and being considerate of your shared living space is important. No one wants to live with a slob.
Be Kind to the Environment
Dispose of your trash and recyclables properly when you’re in public and at home. The world is not a trash can. This includes cigarette butts, fast food wrappers, and plastic water and soda bottles. Recycle what you can, and throw away the rest.
Say Thank You
It may not seem like much, but these two words can make a world of difference. Saying thank you communicates appreciation and is considered polite. If someone holds a door open for you, picks up something you dropped on the floor, or even just makes your coffee at the coffee shop, say thank you. It’s a simple way to make someone else feel appreciated.
Share Space on Your Commute
If you ride the subway, a city bus, or a campus shuttle, you know how crowded it can get. The air is stuffy, nobody’s comfortable, and every time the bus lurches, you fear you might fall in the floor. Still, it’s important to remember that everyone around you is as uncomfortable as you are. If you’re taking up two seats with your bags and there are other passengers standing, that’s considered rude. After all, the seats are made for people.
Respect Quiet Places
Libraries, computer labs, and classrooms are full of students trying to read, study, and work on homework. If you and a group of your friends are laughing, talking, and making a lot of noise, chances are you’re distracting the people around you who are trying to concentrate. If you want a place to hang out with your friends, try the Student Union, a restaurant, or somewhere outdoors. Computer labs and libraries are definite quiet zones in America.
In some parts of America, people will wonder what’s wrong with you if you aren’t smiling. When we pass strangers on the street, we often make eye contact, smile, and nod. When someone lets us out in traffic, we smile and wave. It’s considered common courtesy. Smiles are contagious. You can turn someone’s bad day around just by smiling at them. Try it!
Respect Other Cultures
The greatest part about international study is that different cultures get to come together and experience one another. Though there may be many differences between us, we are still very much the same. Be kind to one another, and respect your differences, because they’re what make you unique.