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English Language Program

About American Culture

Here are some notes on American culture to help you to adjust and function in this country.


  • PUNCTUALITY. In general, events (classes, concerts, sports events) start on time, and people are expected to be in their seats before the starting time. If you are invited to someone's house, you should try to come on time. Don't arrive early, but try not to be more than ten minutes late.


  • INFORMALITY. Compared to the culture that you come from, Americans may seem too informal in their dress or behavior. It is important to understand that this informality is the custom here; it is not considered rude.


  • EYE CONTACT. Americans like people to look them directly in the eye. Teachers expect their students to look at them. Such eye contact may be considered rude or too aggressive in your country, but here, it is seen as a sign of polite attention and also honesty.


  • HOSPITALITY. If you are invited to someone's house for dinner, it is nice, but not required, to bring a little gift. It might be candy or flowers or a little souvenir from your country. Some Americans even write a thank you note after attending a dinner party at someone's house, but most people do not. However, if you stay overnight at someone's house, you should write a note thanking them for their hospitality. If you are wondering how you should dress when you are invited to someone's house, the simplest thing is to ask, "Should I wear everyday clothes, or is it more formal?"


  • SHAKING HANDS. When Americans are first introduced, they usually shake hands. They see a firm grip as a good sign and a limp handshake as a sign of weakness or lack of character. On a daily basis, Americans do not shake hands when they first see each other in the morning.


  • CLASSROOM BEHAVIOR. During class, students are expected to pay attention. It is considered very rude for a student to talk while either the teacher or another classmate is talking. Students should not get up in the middle of class either to sharpen a pencil or go to the restroom; they should come prepared to sit through the class. It is also rude to start packing up your books before the bell has rung. Students usually address their instructors by a title (Prof., Dr., Mr., or Ms.) plus their last name. In this culture, it is considered babyish to address your instructor as "Teacher." It is not polite to take food or drink into the classroom.


  • BATHING. Americans usually bathe or shower every day, and they use deodorant every day. They are embarrassed if their body smells at all sweaty; therefore, they have a very negative opinion of anyone else who smells sweaty.


  • FISHING. It is against the law to go fishing without first buying a fishing license. You can buy one for $16 at Wal-Mart or Don Morton Sports on Tuttle Creek Boulevard . If you are caught fishing without a license, you will have to pay a fine of up to $300.


  • ALCOHOL. You must be 21 years old to consume or purchase alcohol.  If you are younger than 21, you will be arrested for “minor in possession.”  You are not allowed to have an open bottle of alcohol in public, or be drunk in public.  Do NOT drive while under the influence of alcohol.  You may hurt yourself or others.  You WILL be arrested.  Driving while drunk is a very serious crime, highly punishable by the law.


  • WEAPONS. A weapon is anything that a person wants to hurt people with e.g. guns, knives and dangerous chemicals. You MAY NOT have any of these things on the KSU campus.


  • HOLIDAYS. There are many U.S. holidays. For the majority of them, classes will be cancelled. Also, banks, post offices, and some supermarkets will be closed. In January, we celebrate New Years Eve and Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 21 st ). In February, we celebrate Valentine's Day (Feb. 14 th ). Many people exchange flowers, candies, and cards on this day of love. In March, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day (March 17 th ) by wearing the color green. In May, we celebrate Memorial Day to honor our fallen soldiers. In July, the U.S. celebrates its independence (July 4 th ) with festivals and fireworks. In September, we celebrate Labor Day. In October, we celebrate Halloween (Oct. 31 st ) by dressing in costumes. In November, we celebrate Thanksgiving. In December, many of us celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza .


  • PAYING FOR PURCHASES. There are four ways that you can typically pay for your purchases or payments: cash, check, credit card or money order. Paying in cash is not always the recommended way to pay for items anymore, because of theft and because it is easy to lose. We recommend that you set up a checking account at a local bank (there is one in the Union ). Your money is stored with them and you can retrieve it anytime you want with an ATM card or by writing a check. A credit card is a LOAN. The credit card company (Visa, Mastercard, Discover) loaning you money for you to pay for your purchases. You will have to pay the credit card company back for your purchases, plus you will be charged interest for your purchases. For example, if you spend $100 and the interest rate is 15%, you will owe $115. The fourth is a money order. A money order is essentially the same as cash. It is used if you need to make a large purchase or payment for (usually $100 or more) and you do not have a checking account. You exchange your cash for a money order of the same amount. If you lose the money order, you cannot get your cash back. But if you decide not to use the money order, you can exchange it for your cash. The most important thing for every purchase you make is always get a receipt!! If you are not given one, ask for one. We cannot stress this enough. Always get a receipt to prove you purchased or paid. Also so you can return unwanted items.