Therese Oneill has a fun Mental Floss series of Internet-found advice from other countries on how to visit the US. Japanese, Chinese, Russian and French perspectives are covered so far. Here are a few excerpts…
5. THEY HAVE FREE TIME ALL WEEK LONG!
In America, whether you are a student, working person, or housewife, you carefully make room for leisure time, weekdays and weekends. Most people are ensured free time, always. During the week they use it for walking, jogging, bicycling, tennis, racquetball, bowling, watching movies, reading, and volunteering. On the weekend, they enjoy even more freedom, and take liberal arts courses and have sporting leisures.
In Japan we believe that there is no free time during the weekday. Only the weekend. We spend the weekend watching TV, hanging around home, working, studying, and shopping, or listening to music.
4. THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT CHINA BUT DON’T LET IT BOTHER YOU
You may encounter some Americans who know little about your country. If there is such a case, please tolerate them. Unfortunately, very few Americans are schooled on the culture and customs of other countries. America spans from one ocean to another, and all the other countries are far away. As a result, Americans are not too familiar with the cultures and different ways of working in other countries.
4. ON AMERICAN OPTIMISM
Short Version: These people do not stop smiling. Also, they don’t want to hear your problems because it interrupts their smiling. “Surviving” makes you a hero over there. Here it just means you were unlucky, but not unlucky enough to have died.
“Americans and Russians say different things when faced with the same situation. Seeing the man who had fallen in the street, an American asks, ‘Are you all right?’ Russians will inquire: ‘Are you ill?’ We see a victim of the incident; they see survivors. Survivors are perceived as heroes. Where we ‘aren’t sick,’ they ‘stay well.’ We discuss the problem. They discuss issues and items on the agenda.” (Американский речевой этикет)
“US etiquette requires that you smile in each and every situation. If you want to travel to America, be prepared to give a smile not only to friends and acquaintances, but also to all passers-by, in shops, to the staff at the hotel, police on the streets, etc.
“US etiquette also forbids lamenting the troubles of life, or sharing your problems with others. Sharing in this country can only be positive emotions—sorrows and frustrations are impermissible. In the US you only complain to acquaintances in the most extreme cases. Serious problems are for close friends and relatives only.
This post about a New York Times op-ed expands on the same theme.
And from France:
2. YOU HAVE TO HELP PEOPLE, AND LOOK LIKE YOU REALLY MEAN IT
A passerby stumbles and sprawls in the street, an old lady can barely control Brutus at the end of a leash, a small tricycle driver loses control of his vehicle. Politeness means, of course, that you come and help all these people. American culture wants you to quit all your activities and rescue the unfortunate. In America, you cannot pretend to not have noticed all these little quirks. You must rush to provide assistance to all who need it. [Source]
Whether in the street, public transport or any public place, we must adopt this reflex. Hard, tough, because it must be done without looking first to the right and left to see if someone is already trying to help the person in trouble. In short, it must be done spontaneously and with good heart. I like it when it happens: for example my keys jumped out of my bike basket when I hit a hole, and the Americans rushed at me to help. It’s cool. I smile. [Source]