AMERICAN CUSTOMS, HABITS, & TRADITIONS
When moving to another country, often it is the little things that we notice first, and that make a bigger impact on our stay. America is full of different customs, and traditions that are unlike France.
When meeting someone for the first time, it is customary to shake hands, both for men and for women. Hugs are only exchanged between close friends. Kissing is not common, and men never kiss other men. Americans will usually introduce themselves by their first name and last name (such as “Hello, I’m John Smith”), or, if the setting is very casual, by their first name only (“Hi, I’m John”). The common response when someone is introduced to you is “Pleased to meet you.” Unless someone is introduced to you with their title and last name (such as Mister Smith or Miss Johnson), you should address them by their first name. Americans normally address everyone they meet in a social or business setting by their first name. However, you should always address your college professors by their title and last name (such as Professor Jones), unless they ask you to do otherwise.
Speaking on the telephone
Americans normally answer the telephone by simply saying “Hello.” If the person you would like to speak to has answered the phone, you should say hello and state your name. If not, you should ask for that person politely: “May I please speak with Andrew Brown?”
All restaurants in America accept cash for payment, and most (even some fast food restaurants) also accept credit cards. A few restaurants also accept ATM cards for payment. You will rarely find a restaurant that accepts checks. The drinking age in America is 21. If you look young, be prepared to show proof of your age when ordering alcohol.
Tipping is expected at restaurants, since American restaurants do not add a service charge to the bill. Therefore it is expected that the customer will leave a tip for the server (as they are paid very little and depend on tips to make any money). Common practice is to leave a tip that is equal to 15% of the total bill for acceptable service, and about 20% for superior service. If the service was unusually poor, then you could leave a smaller tip, about 10%. Other professions where tipping is expected include hairdressers, taxi drivers, hotel porters, parking valets, and bartenders. The general rule is to tip approximately 15% of the bill. In situations where there is no bill (as with hotel porters and parking valets), the tip may range from $1 to $5, depending on the type of establishment and on how good the service was.
Smoking is not as common in America as in many other countries. It is a practice that is becoming less and less socially acceptable. Smoking is prohibited in many places. It is not allowed in any public buildings, on any public transportation, in shops, movie theaters, schools, and office buildings. The general rule is if you are indoors, then you probably are not allowed to smoke. Some states have exceptions for bars, nightclubs, and some restaurants, but they are very few. If a restaurant does allow smoking, it will only be in an area that is designated for smokers. If you are with someone, even outdoors, it is polite to ask if they mind before you start smoking. The legal smoking age in America is 18 or 19 (depending on the state). If you are buying cigarettes (or another tobacco product) and you look young, the store clerk is required by law to ask you for proof of legal age. You should be prepared to provide identification.
Americans are reputed to be friendly people. It is not uncommon for Americans to be informal and casual, even with perfect strangers. When in the United States, do not be surprised if somebody you do not know says "Hi!" to you for no reason, and people will quickly volunteer information about their professions, family, and other personal details. However, there is a difference between friendliness and friendships. As in any culture, it takes time for friendships and close relationships to form. Americans' friendships tend to be shorter and more casual than friendships among people from some other cultures. It is not uncommon for Americans to have few close friendships during their lifetime and to consider other friends to be merely social acquaintances. This attitude probably has something to do with American mobility and the fact that Americans do not like to be dependent on other people. They tend to compartmentalize friendships, having "friends at work," "friends on the basketball team," and "family friends," for example.